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Oakland City Council Will Vote Tuesday on Renter Protection, Police Commission Ballot Measures




The Tuesday, July 19 Oakland City Council meeting is one of the last chances for council members to place progressive measures on the November ballot.


The council is scheduled to decide whether to place measures on the ballot for renter protection to curb Oakland’s displacement crisis and a proposal for an independent police oversight commission for better accountability of police misconduct.


Housing activists are asking community members to show up to Tuesday’s meeting to make their opinions known to council members.


“This isn’t about us asking the council to pass renter protection on our behalf,” said James Vann of the Post Salon Community Assembly. “We are simply asking you to put it on the ballot and let the voters decide.”


On Tuesday, the Council will be considering two separate renter protection proposals.


The Protect Oakland Renters Act, drafted by Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, is a reworked version of the original renter protection initiative that was written by a coalition of several housing organizations and anti-displacement activists.


Kaplan’s proposal, which would go onto the November ballot if it gains five votes, has wide support from community, labor organizations, interfaith leaders and housing advocates.


The proposal would require landlords to petition through the Rent Board if they wish to increase tenants’ rents above the annual consumer price index, whereas tenants are currently responsible for petitioning to oppose rent increases over a legal amount.


The measure would also extend Just Cause protections to buildings built up to 1995. Currently, buildings are only covered if they were built before 1984.


Another major feature is that it limits rent increases to 5 percent per year unless a landlord can prove they are losing money managing their property.


But most importantly for many housing activists, the changes would go into effect by Jan. 1, 2017 if approved by the voters in November.


In order to support small property landlords, owner-occupied duplexes and triplexes would be exempt from the renter protections.


The second ordinance was drafted by Councilmembers Dan Kalb, Abel Guillén and Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney.


Some of the elements of this proposal would not go into effect until as late as 2018, such as limiting rent increases to 30 percent over a five-year period.


This ordinance would not go on the November ballot but could be passed Tuesday at the council meeting.


“We have a housing crisis right now,” said Councilmember Kaplan in an interview with the Post.


“Everybody has acknowledged that the crisis is now and to say that we will take action in a year or two, I disagree with that,” Kaplan said.


Both proposals will need five votes to pass.


On Thursday, dozens of supporters of Kaplan’s Protect Oakland Renters Act, including Councilmembers Kaplan, Guillén, and Noel Gallo, members of the Protect Oakland Renters Coalition, and labor and interfaith leaders, held a press conference in front of City Council announcing the City Council vote coming up on July 19 at 5 p.m.


Another initiative being decided on is placing a civilian-run police oversight commission on the November ballot.


The measure would create a commission with the power of overseeing and imposing discipline on officers found to be participating in misconduct. The commission would also have a say in best policing practices and who gets hired in the Oakland Police Department.


The issue facing the council Tuesday is not only whether the measure will go on the ballot but also whether the ballot proposal will create a commission that will be sufficiently independent of the influence of the police union and the city administration, which have been accused of undermining police discipline and accountability for many years.