A change to the city’s rent ordinance aimed at giving tenants protection from unfair evictions is now on hold after landlords submitted a petition to the City Clerk that supports putting the issue on the ballot.
A total of 4,808 of the approximately 7,300 signatures on the petition must be verified as from registered Alameda voters before the City Council can opt to remove the amendment, or ask voters to decide whether it should remain.
The review of the signatures by the Alameda County Registrar of Voters should happen within 60 days, said Irma Glidden, assistant city clerk.
The council adopted the rent stabilization ordinance in March 2016 to protect tenants who could be vulnerable to losing their homes due to the Bay Area’s high housing costs.
The ordinance does not limit the amount that a landlord can raise rent. But it does require a landlord to notify the city’s Rent Review Advisory Committee, which mediates disputes between tenants and landlords, if the rent will increase more than 5 percent.
While the council adopted the ordinance, it also placed the ordinance on the ballot in November, when Alameda voters supported it over a tougher rent control measure.
The council added “just cause” protections, or preventing landlords from evicting someone without specific grounds, during an annual review of the ordinance in May, when it also clarified some of the ordinance’s language.
The amendments show “the city council ignored the will of the voters and now the voters will respond to reject those actions,” said Joe LoParo of Alamedans in Charge, which circulated the petition.
LoParo submitted the petition calling for a possible referendum to the city clerk Monday.
“I guess passing an ordinance wasn’t enough,” LoParo said about the measure that Alameda voters backed in November. “Now we need to put it in the City Charter.”
Landords say the changes to the ordinance will prevent them from having flexibility when dealing with problem tenants. Supporters say the “just cause” provision gives renters security from landlords who might otherwise evict them with little notice, including to possibly get substantially more money out of a unit from a future tenant.
“I want to reassure the families facing ‘no-cause’ evictions that our support and commitment have not wavered,” said Mari Perez-Ruiz of the Alameda Renters Coalition, which has been campaigning for rent control and supports the protections. “If anything, we have grown stronger as we stand shoulder to shoulder as part of a larger movement for tenant rights and housing for all. This is the fight that will determine what kind of people and what kind of community we want to become. And we are working for an Alameda where everybody truly belongs.”
City Attorney Janet Kern said that if the landlords’ petition fails to meet the threshold of 4,808 valid signatures, then the council’s amendments will kick in.
If enough signatures are valid and the council opts to have voters to decide whether the changes to the ordinance should remain, the council could call a special election or place an item on the November 2018 ballot, Kern said.