City Seeking Applicants Tenant Protections Task Force

El Cerrito Progressives encourages resident tenant and landlords to consider applying for a temporary task force to advise the city on tenant protections.   What policies can be put into place to prevent the displacement of our residents, many of whom are with limited income or fixed income and others who are of moderate income but are now reaching their limit of affordability, paying over 35%-50% of their monthly income toward rent?

Continue reading “City Seeking Applicants Tenant Protections Task Force”

How to Expunge Your Signature From the CAA Petition

ECP is learning of more reports from residents who are having interactions with CAA signature gatherers.   Thus far residents have been told to sign to 1) get rent control on the ballot in El Cerrito, 2) get Just Cause for Eviction on the ballot, 3) keep criminals from moving into El Cerrito and 4) stop crime.  What voters are not being told is simply the truth.  Signature gatherers fail to read the name of the ordinance which simple states:  REFERENDUM AGAINST AN ORDINANCE PASSED BY THE CITY COUNCIL

The California Elections Code Section 9602 specifically allows people who have signed a petition to submit a request to have their signature removed. The effect of a withdrawal request, if properly submitted, is that it will be subtracted from the count of signatures on the petition. For example, if CAA submits a petition with 1600 valid signatures, and 50 people who validly signed the petition submit withdrawal requests, the final count of valid signatures would be 1550.

For a withdrawal request to be valid, it must be in writing and include the person’s signature so that it can be matched to the one on the referendum petition. Additionally, it must be submitted to the City Clerk prior to the referendum proponents submitting the petition. People desiring to have their signatures removed should therefore do so as quickly as possible.

Requests postmarked prior to but received after the petition is filed will not be accepted. b. Scanned/emailed or faxed copies of the signed statement are acceptable, electronic signatures are not.

Sample letter to Request removal of name:

Dear City Clerk of El Cerrito,

My name is _______and I live at ___________in El Cerrito.  Please withdraw my signature from the petition about the referendum against the Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance signed on ____________.

Sincerely,

(Your name as it appears on your voter registration)

 

 

Tenant Protections Under Attack in El Cerrito – Update

petitionOn May 21st, after several public meetings and months of back and forth of proposals between City Council and staff, Mayor Pardue-Okimoto and Council members Fadelli and Lyman voted in favor of a Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance and a Rent Registry Ordinance.  The text of both these ordinances can be found here as well as historical background:El Cerrito New Tenant Protections Continue reading “Tenant Protections Under Attack in El Cerrito – Update”

Stop Plastic Pollution — Start Being Part of the Solution

The Environmental Justice Committee of El Cerrito Progressives is showing the movie A Plastic Ocean Saturday, June 1, 2019 at 2:30 pm at the Berkeley Zion Presbyterian Church, 545 Ashbury Ave in  El Cerrito.

 

A Plastic Ocean is an award-winning feature length documentary by a group of dedicated scientists, film-makers, social entrepreneurs, scholars, environmentalists and journalists, that explores the fragile state of our oceans and uncovers alarming truths about the consequences of our disposable lifestyle.

The film documents the global effects of plastic pollution and highlights workable technologies and innovative solutions that everyone – from governments to individuals – can do, to create a cleaner and greener ocean.

 

After the film we will have a group discussion about, in particular, pollution from single use plastics, as well as an update on the state of the El Cerrito Recycling Center now that China has stopped taking plastic trash from the United States for recycling.

Rights for Tenants Critical in El Cerrito-Council Inches Forward

For the last two years, members of El Cerrito Progressives have been advocating for tenant protections to the City Council.  On Tuesday, May 7th, the City Council finally voted with a 3-2 split for a Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance. (Mayor Pardue-Okimoto, Fadelli, Lyman -for/ Abelson, Quinto-against. Continue reading “Rights for Tenants Critical in El Cerrito-Council Inches Forward”

Opponents of tenant protections use misleading survey to collect data

If you recently received an email or text from a coalition of “concerned El Cerrito community members” asking you to complete a survey, please be wary.  The unidentified group commissioned Voxloca, a Bay Area data collection company, to solicit resident views about tenant protections.

The problem with the survey is that it’s full is misleading and inaccurate information about the current discussion happening in El Cerrito around how to protect renters from price gauging, excessive rent increases and no-cause evictions.

Below are examples of some of the misleading questions.

What should be the TOP PRIORITY for El Cerrito?

1 – Ensuring the city has enough police officers
2 – Passing new laws to address tenant-landlord issues
3 – Balancing the budget for essential city services
4 – Repairing local streets and roads
5 – Improving our library and parks
6 – None of these

This type of question pits tenant-landlord issues against community resources like libraries, parks and public safety, when it’s not an either-or choice.  By passing tenant protections we don’t take anything away from public safety, roads and any other services, but only improve the quality of life for many.

The survey then launches into a false assertion that a database to track rent and evictions, part of the Rent Registry Ordinance that will be discussed by the Council on May 7th will cost $50,000.

What should the City Council SPEND $50,000 of the city’s budget on?

1 – A database to track rent and evictions
2 – New equipment at neighborhood park
3 – Additional training for police officers
4 – Tree trimming program to prevent fires
5 – Emergency housing programs for renters
6 – None of these

To be clear, the Rent Registry is not funded through the general fund and its cost does not diminish revenues for parks or fires.  It is based on fees. But without having a fuller context of why we need to track rent and evictions, most respondents would obviously not mark this as their number one priority.  A better question may be something like this:

The city is concerned that high rents may be displacing long term residents and that some tenants are facing evictions, but has no data.  Should the city create a Rent Registry that would be funded through a small registration fee from each rental unit?

The Voxloca Survey uses a similar tactic of pitting services against tenant protection by asking “If the City Council RAISES NEW TAXES where should it be spent?”

1 – New library
2 – More police officers
3 – New city employees to regulate landlords
4 – An affordable housing fund
5 – None — Don’t raise taxes

Again, any program that might regulate rents and/or landlords would be fee based and generate funds through registration of eligible rental units. The survey continues to ask vague questions related to Just Cause for Eviction, such as if they council should pass a new law that would “make it MORE DIFFICULT to evict problem tenants who deal drugs or are disruptive?

The question assumes that the “new law” would make it more difficult to evict problem tenants. Instead, a better question to ask El Cerrito voters might be:

The law currently allows landlords to evict any tenant without giving a cause. Do you think the city should enact a law that requires the landlord to give a reason for an eviction?

At first blush, it’s easy to think that an entity like the California Apartment Association is behind the effort.  After all, the CAA is a powerful lobbying group representing more than 50,000 landlords throughout the state has the money and experience fighting tenant protections. But the truth is that we can’t make any assumptions. It could be CAA, a local landlord or perhaps the Chamber of Commerce. What is clear is that Voxloca is willing to push out surveys full of bias and based on false assertions that are clearly intended to collect data to use to discredit efforts to strengthen tenant protections in El Cerrito.

Another misleading question in the survey is whether the City Council should “create a new housing department” with power to create a city database of all El Cerrito renters. If you’ve been following the City Council meetings and the narrative coming from the opponents of tenant protections, you know that there are some who love to mention Richmond and Berkeley as a scare tactic.  I won’t name names here, but one prominent developer likes to suggest that any type of rent stabilization program will result in a huge bureaucracy, and cost a million dollars. The truth of the matter is that the City Council is not discussing a new housing department nor have they spoken about registering renters. Instead, it appears to be a scare tactic for people who might be afraid of big government.

Other questions in the survey allege that the city is considering a new law to “force a landlord to subsidize a tenant’s rent, even though with good paying jobs.” This is entirely false. There is no such law being considered. Instead, the council is discussing a relocation allowance for tenants forced to move due to demolition. Council member Lyman had proposed a policy that would require landlords to pay a tenant who was forced to move if they could not afford a rent increase of more than 10% per year, but this motion did not garner enough votes.

To put the question on its head, one could argue that there are many current renters subsidizing landlords by paying excessive rents. These subsidies are helping landlords pay for their children’s college education, paying for expensive vacations, luxury homes and much more. Tenant protections are for all tenants, not just those who are low income, although tenants who are low income or on fixed income are most vulnerable to displacement within our current housing market.

In summary, it’s unfortunate that Voxloca can access our emails and phone numbers and send out a misleading survey to collect data that will used to fight against tenant protections.  What the company is doing is not illegal, but it’s wrong and should be called out.  Shame on you Voxloca for sending out a survey so misrepresentative of the issues at hand.  Our city residents deserve better, and we are too smart to fall for your shenanigans. And shame on the “concerned community members” who don’t have the courage to put their names on the survey.

Please let your City Council know that you are concerned about the misleading and inaccurate survey being conducted by Voxloca.  Come to the May 7th City Council meeting and join us in calling for an end to rent gouging in El Cerrito!

U.S. Foreign Policy in Part Responsible for Influx of Refugees

HarvestofEmpire1According to latest reports, our border crossings are taking on a new challenge with more families coming to seek asylum than ever before. Families at the border

The current Trump administration is determined to not only purge the United States of undocumented community members, many who have now lived in this country for decades, they are hoping to close down the borders by refusing our Central American neighbors an internationally recognized right to seek asylum. What is asylum

Just recently, the new Attorney General, William Barr, announced that people caught crossing the border illegally will be jailed and can be detained indefinitely without bond or a hearing.  This decision effectively hands all authority over to ICE, bypassing the judicial system.  The policies put in place are increasingly criminalizing families who are fleeing violence (best described in the stories of Human Rights and Wrongs)Human Rights and Wrongs.

Join us on Saturday, April 27th at 3:00 P.M. for a viewing of Harvest of Empire, a very interesting and thorough historical review of U.S. policy in the region of Central America.  If you already understand the strong link between destabilizing policies and today’s outcome,  come join us and discuss how we are responding today in our local community.

The event is free and wheel chair accessible.