The City Council is poised to place a renter protection measure on the November ballot, but housing advocates and community members are unsure what the measure will look like and if it is going to be significantly watered down by council members before going on the ballot.
There are currently three renter protection measures under discussion by City Councilmembers, one of which was reworked by Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan and has the support of the tenants’ rights activists, labor unions and the renter protection coalition who submitted the original version.
Her proposal will be voted to go onto the ballot in the July 19 City Council meeting.
“My proposal was written in collaboration with a wide coalition of community groups and experts, and has the support of a large number of people and community based groups, including SEIU Local 1021, ACCE, and many more,” said Kaplan.
Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney has also drafted her own renter protection measure, which will come before the City Council on July 19.
Members of the Coalition to Protect Oakland Renters, which drafted the original ballot initiative, are pushing for Kaplan’s version of the measure since it incorporates their main concerns.
These include requiring landlords to petition to increase rents over the annual consumer price index;
Reducing the number of renters who lack the protections of Just Cause for Eviction;
Increasing the powers of the current Oakland rent board and the underfunded rent adjustment program;
And proposing solutions that are going to “stem the wave of displacement that is changing the face of Oakland’s historic, cultural and racial diversity,” according to organizers with the coalition.
Housing rights advocates are concerned that McElhaney’s version of the renter protection measure may be too weak to protect tenants at risk of displacement.
Little is currently known about McElhaney’s draft of the measure, and by press time, she had not responded to questions from the Post.
From public statements, it appears that parts of her version might be passed directly by the City Council while other parts would go to the November ballot.
According to Kaplan, one large difference between the two proposals is that “my proposal puts the improvements in place immediately, (McElhaney’s) proposal delays putting their proposal in place for a year or two, so it would not respond to the displacement crisis facing Oakland renters now.”
Items passed by ballot cannot be changed unless they are voted on by Oakland residents again. Items passed by the council can be changed at the council’s will.
Housing activists fear this will give the council too much power over the rent laws, especially since councilmembers are sometimes lobbied by outof-town developers who have an interest in increasing housing prices.
“The coalition is standing firm behind Rebecca (Kaplan’s) proposal,” said James Vann of the Post Salon Community Assembly.
“We also urge (Council) to continue the housing moratorium until sufficient policies are in place to protect tenants, who represent 60 percent of Oakland residents, from huge rent increases and increased evictions” said Vann.
(In an email to the Post, Council President McElhaney said that the Post mistakenly said that she authored a rent proposal. In her clarification, she wrote that the proposal in question is authored by Councilmember Dan Kalb, to which she has made significant amendments.
The Post has asked McElhaney to submit a column explaining what she is proposing for rent protection.)