The Oakland City Council this week passed an emergency renter protection ordinance and voted to make Dec. 2 an annual Remembrance Day for the victims of the Ghost Ship fire.
The renter protection ordinance, introduced by Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, increases relocation payments for tenants who are displaced as a result of building code compliance repairs, regardless of whether the living space is permitted.
Property owners whose tenants are forced to vacate a unit due to building code renovations are required to pay the tenants the cost of moving based on market rate prices of relocation units.
This rule only applies if the code violations were not caused by the tenant.
“This does not apply only to artists or to warehouses,” said Kaplan on Monday night.
“This is an ordinance that was being worked on before the fire. Communities of color all over Oakland have been displaced due to code enforcement, whether it’s for lead paint or other repairs,” she said.
Tenants rights advocates pointed out, however, that if the city doesn’t allocate money in its budget to implement the law, there may be several scenarios where landlords are unable to pay the relocation fees and the city won’t be able to help.
With available funds from the city, the ordinance has more strength.
Following the Ghost Ship fire, the city’s warehouse residents, Black community leaders and local policymakers quickly began putting together solutions for the housing affordability crisis.
Mayor Libby Schaaf earlier this month issued a temporary executive order that requires property owners to enter into a 60-day compliance plan if their buildings are found to be unpermitted for living.
The city’s move was intended to prevent tenants living in those spaces from being evicted by offering to work with landlords to bring their buildings up to code.
The Post, in conjunction with Councilmember Kaplan, also held a special Town Hall meeting to hear community speakers and offer solutions to the city’s homelessness, housing affordability crisis and joblessness.
At Monday’s City Council meeting, Post publisher Paul Cobb noted that while city officials are quickly addressing renter protection, there has not been the same level of urgency with regards to jobs and the lack of economic opportunities, particularly for the city’s Black residents.
“The quick responses gotten from the city, including an executive action from the mayor, show your attentiveness to the public,” Cobb said to the council.
“We hope that the council will also include emergency response needs to resources for employment because tenants have to be able to afford to live in affordable housing.”
Kaplan assured those at the council meeting that she intends to bring solutions to joblessness to the City Council.
“Tonight is not the end. I intend to work on some of the other issues to promote economic justice and access to jobs in the community,” Kaplan said.
The Oakland Warehouse Coalition and Land Action have drafted an emergency tenant protection ordinance that places a moratorium on evictions from commercially zoned properties, unless there are immediate life-threatening conditions.
The emergency ordinance has not yet been scheduled to come before the City Council but is expected to soon.
Tulio Ospina is the assistant editor of the Oakland Post and editor-in-chief of El Mundo.