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Mountain View Residents Block Rent Control Repeal

“Sneaky Repeal” Attack on Rent Protections Fails to Qualify for November 2018 Ballot

Supporters of Mountain View’s 2016 Measure V rally to protect rent control.

The proposed ballot measure to modify and effectively kill Mountain View’s rent stabilization program failed to qualify for the November ballot, because its proponents did not submit their petition signatures in time for city officials to verify them. Supporters of the measure may submit their petition signatures to the city during the upcoming months if they wish to qualify for a future ballot, (such as the 2020 primary), but those signatures must be submitted by mid-October 2018.

The ballot measure, dubbed “The Mountain View Homeowner, Renter, and Taxpayer Protection Initiative,” and backed by landlord group the California Apartment Association (CAA), would almost certainly have halted the provisions of the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act (CSFRA), better known as Measure V, which was passed by voters in 2016.

Among other things, the CAA-backed measure suspends the use of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) as the baseline for determining citywide rent increases on eligible apartments if more than 3% of the city’s 15,000-plus units are vacant. Mountain View’s vacancy rate hasn’t dipped below 3% in decades, which is why tenant advocates are calling the measure a “sneaky repeal” designed to stop rent stabilization under the guise of reforming it.

The landlord group waged an aggressive signature gathering campaign to get the measure on the ballot, but was countered by many volunteers, who educated and informed Mountain View voters about the true nature of the ballot measure. Hard working volunteers from the Mountain View Tenants Coalition joined forces with the Mountain View Mobile Home Alliance and the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), often going door-to-door throughout the city. Many residents who learned they had been tricked into signing a petition to repeal rent stabilization sought to recall their signatures. According to the City Clerk, nearly 300 people filed signed signature withdrawal forms with the city.

Some of the paid signature gatherers, who reportedly received up to $40 per signature, used deceptive tactics to trick voters into signing. Several local mobile home park residents said they were told the petition would “add rent control for the mobile homes,” which was not true.

“Now that the CAA has failed to meet their deadline for the November ballot,” said Trey Bornmann, spokesperson for the Mountain View Mobile Home Alliance, “we will focus and increase our efforts to restore the Measure V coverage for mobile homes that was illegally taken away by the Rental Housing Committee!”

Landlord campaigns to overturn rent control have faced widespread allegations of misconduct during signature gathering campaigns across the state in recent years. Signature gathering drives backed by landlord trade groups like the CAA have been criticized for employing paid signature gatherers who misrepresent petitions to obtain signatures in Richmond, Santa Rosa, Pacifica, and Alameda. In March 2018, the District Attorney of San Mateo County filed 21 felony charges against signature gatherers financed by the CAA for forging signatures in a Pacifica anti-rent-control campaign.

“Speaking for myself, it’s clear that Mountain View voters were not fooled by the apartment owners’ deceptive campaign to place the sneaky repeal on the ballot,” said Mountain View Mayor Lenny Siegel. “I urge the landlords to work with city leaders on both sides of the rent control debate to find permanent solutions to our housing crisis.”

This article was written by the Mountain View Tenants Coalition and published on the group’s Facebook page on July 9.