Who’s Who on the Tenant Protection Task Force?

 Last week the El Cerrito City Council repealed ordinance 2019-04, which included Just Cause for eviction and other tenant protections. Multiple council members expressed hopes that the ordinance will be replaced with something stronger and more comprehensive. This new, stronger ordinance is to be developed by the new Tenant Protections Task Force.

According to the city of El Cerrito website, “the purpose of the Task Force is to bring together landlords and tenants to find common ground in order to make policy recommendations to the City Council for their consideration”

However, the purpose of the task force is still in question, according to ECP members.  If the task force is to come to a consensus on the difficult and highly emotional issue of rent control, how will an equal number of landlords and tenants every reach a consensus? And is rent stabilization really on the table?  Or is the task force another vehicle to rehash the non-binding rent mediation program favored by CAA, but proven to be lacking in real protections for tenants?  

During last week’s meeting the City Council also announced the four tenants and four landlords that now serve on the task force. Councilman Gabe Quinto lead with personal attacks in his objections to two of the tenants on the task force. Others council members had preferences without clearly stated reasons.

Landlords:

Norman LaForce

LaForce has been a resident of El Cerrito for 36 years and owns two rental units in El Cerrito as part of a duplex. LaForce is a retired lawyer of the Law Offices of Christian Green, and served on the City Council from 1991-1999. In addition to his experience as a lawyer and landlord, LaForce taught Land Use and Property Law at Golden Gate University Law School from 2004-2014. In his application LaForce expressed interest in developing “fair and appropriate regulations and laws that protect both tenants and landlords, especially small landlords.”

(So does this mean fair and reasonable for the landlord and tenant, or simply the landlord?)

Peter Pan

A resident of El Cerrito for 22 years, Pan owns two rental units in a duplex in El Cerrito. He is a Real Estate Broker with a BS in Computer Science. Pan noted on his application his experience “over 25 years working with local real estate customers”. 

Tyra Wright

Wright has lived in El Cerrito for 32 years and owns one single-family rental unit in El Cerrito. Wright is a Real Estate Agent and Property Management Assistant, and is also an active member of the National Association of Realtors, California Association of Realtors, and Contra Costa Association of Realtors. On her profile at Feagley Realtors, Wright says she advocates “to protect private property rights and home ownership.” In her application to the task force, Wright noted she wishes to “help find a balance and reasonable resolution to tenant/landlord issues.”  Again, what is “reasonable” and to whose standard?

Elizabeth (BJ) Thorsnes

Thorsnes has lived in El Cerrito for 39 years and owns four rental units in a quadruplex in El Cerrito. Thorsnes is a retired lecturer and editor of the Consortium on Reading Excellence in Berkeley. In her application, Thorsnes cited her knowledge of landlord-tenant laws in addition to her 44 years of experience as a landlord in El Cerrito as reasons she can help sort out these issues. She also noted in her application that she “..view[s] being a landlord not as an investment but as part of a service industry. As such, [she] expect[s] things from landlords, [herself] included, and from tenants.”

Tenants:

George Gager

Gager has lived in El Cerrito for 13 years and works as a consultant to HUD and housing agencies nationwide. Gager notes that sustainable and affordable housing is “the single greatest passion” in his life, and sees The Tenant Protections Task Force as a “unique opportunity to deliver affordable housing solutions for families close to home.” Despite working in affordable housing marketplace, Gager acknowledges that he has not worked locally during the last 8 years. In addition to the task force, Gager also serves on the El Cerrito Arts and Culture Commission and the Economic Development Committee.

Buddy Akacic

Akacic has lived in El Cerrito for 7 years and has been a tenant all his life. Akacic is retired and previously worked at Buckelew Programs. In his application, Akacic noted his belief that tenant-landlord relationships are “critical” and that the city is best served when “competing interests are resolved to everyone’s satisfaction” 

Isis Bastet

Bastet has lived in El Cerrito for 8 years and is the Assistant Vice President of Procurement Contracts at East West Bank. She cites solving issues through “community collaboration” so that residents can enjoy the “gifts our community offers”. 

Richard Bell

Bell has been a resident of El Cerrito for 10 years and is a retired social worker and manager. Bell applied to the task force because of his “longstanding interest in housing issues” and a desire to help maintain a “stable, sustainable El Cerrito community”

When the City Council voted on this configuration for the Task Force, ECP members raised opposition, noting the potential of a stalemate.  ECP suggested bringing on more homeowners without a vested interest, but the city nixed the idea. Will the task force be another distraction or excuse for delaying action on this urgent issue? 

The City has repeatedly vowed to create a stronger ordinance, when will we see it?  Will the task force honor the sentiments stated in their applications?

You can stay updated on the Tenant Protection Task Force meetings and agenda items here.  The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, September 23rd at 6:30pm at City Hall in the Creekside Room. The public is welcome.

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3 thoughts on “Who’s Who on the Tenant Protection Task Force?”

  1. This effort seems to be Lucy setting the football for Charlie Brown with the added agenda of building rhetoric to rebrand unfettered exploitation of tenants for greater profit margins as “protections for landlords”.

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  2. Thanks, EC Progressives, for being so positive and helpful. It was great to see so many of you at the meeting! I think that, with all the help we are getting from the Progressives, we cannot fail to make some headway across this “Great Divide.” Positive and supportive attitudes are axiomatic for the Progressives!
    Sorry to be so sassy about this, but I am sick of the negative output, like Joe Christen above, and I don’t see how it helps anything or anyone. This is not a war! How about you Progressives trying to step up (and maybe even grow up) and help! (And I’ll catch hell for this post, for sure! But I cannot stay silent! We need help from everybody in this community.) And I would like to know how you got the specific details of our applications to serve on this task force.

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    1. The Tenant Protection Task Force is a City Council appointed body and subject to the Brown Act. “In enacting this chapter, the Legislature finds and declares that the public commissions, boards and councils and the other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly.” The applications of the Task Force Members can be obtained through the City Clerk. The intent of our coverage of the Tenant Protection Task Force is to keep the community informed about the important discussions among the residents. Of course, there will be a range of opinions about the effectiveness of this effort.

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