In last Tuesday’s elections, voters in Richmond and Mountain View approved ballot measures to stabilize rents on older apartment units, while rent control ballot measures in Alameda, San Mateo, and Burligame failed. Voters in Oakland approved Measure JJ, which strengthens the city’s existing rent stabilization ordinance.
All six measures faced strong opposition from their respective city councils, which refused to implement even weak versions of rent control, such as San Jose’s ordinance that allows rent hikes higher than annual inflation. Volunteer groups collected thousands of voter signatures in all six cities to qualify the measures for their respective city ballots.
In Richmond, 64 percent of voters approved Measure L on Tuesday, establishing maximum allowable rent increases on apartment units built before 1995 equal the to local rate of inflation, similar to existing rent stabilization measures in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and East Palo Alto.
Mountain View was somewhat more skeptical of rent control, passing Measure V with 53 percent YES votes. Like in Richmond, local community organizations had worked for over a year to build support with public outreach, including large rallies and packing city council meetings with supporters when tenant’s issues made it onto the agenda.
The city councils of both Mountain View and Alameda voted to place their own renter-focused ballot initiatives on the ballot to weaken or avoid annual rent caps from being established. In Mountain View, the city council ordinance Measure W failed by a 51-49 margin. But in Alameda, voters passed on the city council ordinance Measure L (56-44) and rejected the voter initiative Measure M1 (34-66) that would have established rent control.
In Oakland, Measure JJ (74-26) strengthens the city’s existing rent stabilization ordinance by extending its Just Cause eviction provisions from apartment units built by 1980 to all those built by 1995, the latest year allowed by state law.
Voter initiatives to establish rent control in San Mateo and Burlingame failed by large margins. San Mateo’s Measure Q garnered only 39 percent YES vote, while Burlingame’s Measure R attracted even less support, with 31 percent YES votes.
Local mainstream media happily repeats the anti-tenant propaganda promulgated by the California Apartment Association, the statewide lobbying group representing landlords, and the Coalition for Housing Equity, a campaign committee set up by the San Mateo County Association of Realtors to kill the San Mateo and Burlingame measures. The San Francisco Chronicle attacked the voter initiatives in a September 10 article featuring the headline “Rent control spreading to Bay Area suburbs, to economists’ dismay.”
Special interests representing apartment building owners and developers outspent grassroots rent control advocates by a margin of 10-to-1 on the ballot measures, a testament to the legalized corruption allowed of our local elections.