TOM BUTT E-FORUM: Rent Control Comes to Richmond


Last night, on a 4-1 vote (with Nat Bates voting no and Pimple and me absent), the Richmond City Council became the first California City in 30 years to adopt rent control. Click on Rent Control and Just Cause for Evictions Ordinance for a copy of the final version of the ordinance. I continue to maintain that this is a colossal mistake for Richmond  and that the unintended consequences will be significant. A recent example of unintended consequences is when the same four City Council members (McLaughlin, Beckles, Martinez and Myrick) passed the “Space Weapons” resolution that resulted in the Richmond Police Department being inundated with calls from people around the world under attack from space-based weaponry seeking relief.

The rent control and just cause ordinance is ridden with errors and omissions that even its proponents concede will have to be corrected by multiple amendments in the future in order to function.

The legal requirements related to implementation also remain murky. If you have questions, contact the City Attorney’s Office at 510-620-6509.

Even though I did not support the ordinance, it is my job as mayor to appoint the Rent Board members, subject to City Council approval. Applications for Rent Board are now being accepted. You can download a form at, complete it and file it with the city clerk.

There are no prerequisites, qualifications or other requirements or restrictions for serving on the Rent Board. You don’t have to reside in Richmond or even be a U.S. citizen. You can be any age, live anywhere, be a landlord, renter, or neither.

Meanwhile, the city manager will start assembling a multi-million dollar bureaucracy and hiring employees to run the rent control and just cause operation, all this in the face of yet another downgrade in Richmond’s credit rating by Moody’s because of “inadequate steps to address its long-term structural imbalance in FYs 2015 and 2016, extremely narrow liquidity, significant General Fund support of poorly performing cost recovery and enterprise funds, and the risks associated with its high level of exposure to variable rate debt and derivatives. Depletion of its cash position over the last seven years has left the City with very little flexibility to sustain its operations when faced with economic or fiscal challenges.”

The cost of operating the rent control and just cause apparatus is intended to be a “cost recovery” operation funded by fees on landlords. “Poorly performing cost recovery funds” is one of the reasons cited by Moody’s for the credit rating reduction, which will cost Richmond dearly as the cost of borrowing goes up. Cost recovery is never 100% because full recovery is not possible. The City will end up funding substantial costs related to rent control from the general fund, including the high cost of multiple elections that probably will not be recoverable. City staff has already spent and will continue to spend an inordinate amount of time implanting rent control to the detriment of other City projects and programs.


Reposted from Mayor Tom Butt's "E-Forum"

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