The Richmond Progressive Alliance Newsletter #174 dated August 7, 2015, (See story copied below) celebrated the victory of rent control in Richmond, noting that “the City Council has made it clear that stability, something every human being deserves, is worth preserving in Richmond in the face of ever-increasing Bay Area housing costs.”
The “City Council?” Well, not quite. To be precise, it was 57.14% of the City Council. On a final 4-1 vote, the measure won by a single vote, and it could go away instantly any time in the future by a single vote. The victory was neither decisive nor a mandate; it was, and remains, fragile.
In order for the proposed elected Rent Board to be formed, a Charter amendment must be adopted at the General Election of 2016, not exactly a slam dunk certainty. And there are also rumblings of a referendum to take the measure down.
Even in his endorsement of the measure’s passage, outspoken Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson conceded, “His [Butt’s] biggest complaint is what he called a “blind obsession” to support a rent-control ordinance with little data to show that such policies were effective anywhere else. I am well aware of what’s bugging him — and it drives me crazy as well. It’s the lemming-like behavior of uber-liberals who jump on the bandwagon for any and all policies that carry the “progressive” stamp of approval.
This was truly an obsession of the Richmond Progressive Alliance to the exclusion of any other issue in Richmond. Crime is up; the unemployment rate has a slight uptick and Moody’s has axed he City’s credit rating, yet not a peep from the RPA about any of this. Already warned by Moody’s in May, when the City’s budget was presented in June, the RPA City Council members added even more spending to it.
What the RPA also succeeded in was a division of the City Council aggravated by Brown Act violations, deceit and heavy-handed tactics such as shutting down debate by opposing City Council members. While this won the battle, it may have lost the war.
Had they supported it, the RPA could probably have gotten a unanimous vote for Option B, but instead they went for the prize with a one-vote margin of victory, not a good way to build a public consensus for the first major expansion of Richmond municipal government in decades.
Rent Control and Just Cause for Eviction passed by Council
Richmond: First CA city to adopt in 30+ years
On August 5, in a hard-won battle, Richmond successfully adopted its Rent Control and Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance. As a result, many renters in our City will be protected against skyrocketing rents and unjust evictions. By way of this ordinance, the City Council has made it clear that stability, something every human being deserves, is worth preserving in Richmond in the face of ever-increasing Bay Area housing costs.
I am proud to be among 4 councilmembers who supported this ordinance. Thank you to Councilmembers Beckles, Martinez, and Myrick for your show of courage and conviction in adopting this tool. A special thank-you goes out to the Richmond Coalition for Fair Rent and Just Cause for your undaunted advocacy, hard work, and social justice commitment on behalf of the many struggling renters in Richmond. This coalition consists of the following organizations: AFSCME Local 3299, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, Tenants Together, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Building Blocks for Kids Richmond Collaborative, California Nurses Association, CCISCO (Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization), Centro Latino Cuzcatian, CUIDO (Communities United in Support of Olmstead), Eviction Defense Center, EBHO (East Bay Housing Organization), Iron Triangle Neighborhood Council, Richmond Progressive Alliance, Saffron Strand, SEIU Local 1021, Urban Habitat, and Urban Tilth.
Thank you one and all! Once more, as always, we have seen that change comes about when people organize and unite.
The ordinance will go into full effect September 4th, 2015. At that time rents will roll back to the amount charged on July 21st, 2015, and tenants will not be able to be evicted without a "just cause."
Tenants Together, California's Statewide Organization for Renters' Rights, has put together a fact sheetthat provides more information on the ordinance.
Until the Rent Board is up and running, the following are resources for assistance:
- Tenants Together, Tenants Rights Hotline: 888-495-8020
- Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Richmond office: 925-348-9165
On a final note: It bears repeating that this is but one tool in our toolbox for addressing the housing crisis and economic needs of our community. We need to build more affordable housing, bring in more jobs and job training, enhance education, and increase wages so that low to middle income people can truly make ends meet. While passing this ordinance is a fantastic victory, we have much more work to do. I look forward to working with each and every one of my colleagues on the City Council and with our great community on the many important challenges that persist in Richmond. As we all know, Richmond is seen as a beacon for urban transformation....let's keep that beacon shining bright!
--Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin
There will also be a monthly clinic hosted by ACCE and Tenants Together on the Second Wednesday of each month at the ACCE offices in Richmond. For more info call ACCE at 925-348-9165.
The SF Chronicle's August 6th column by Chip Johnson (available to subscribers here, as premium content) carries this headline: "Richmond's rent-control battle was brutal, but right choice made."