By James Vann
After weeks of testimony at City Council meetings of exorbitant rent increases, cruel evictions, and neighborhood disrupting displacement, on April 5, with over 600 residents crowding City Hall, Oakland’s City Council finally adopted a 90- day moratorium.
The moratorium requires the city to enact programs and policies that will reduce the displacement crisis. However, the moratorium has now ended, and Oakland tenants are again facing the brunt of the crisis without lasting and strong protections.
The crisis is not confined to lower-income residents, but extends to working families, students, teachers, firefighters, union members and postal workers.
Oakland’s prized diversity is being dismantled. Between 2000 and 2010, over 25,000 Black residents of Oakland were pushed out, dropping from 42 percent to less than 22 percent of the city’s population.
In addition, over 17 percent of school-age children and their families also left the city. While the hemorrhaging continues, the disregard of city council to the displacement crisis is painfully apparent.
As the moratorium ends, only one of the community’s 13 proposed actions – to require owners, not tenants, to file petitions to increase rent above the inflation rate – is under discussion. But nothing has been adopted. It is long past time that City Council make the displacement crisis a priority and install real, lasting, and permanent tenant protections.
To protect Oakland’s workforce and the many residents who help make Oakland the beloved city that it is, the City Council must approve for the November ballot Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan’s Renter Protection Act of 2016.
Councilmember Kaplan’s proposed measure includes real tenant protections, while also assuring rental owners a fair and decent profit.
Every other city in California with a rent control program requires landlords to petition if they can justify increasing rents above the inflation threshold. These cities see only a fraction of the petition filings Oakland receives, and their systems work much more efficiently.
Example: in 2015, Berkeley received only 28 landlord petitions, while the number of tenant petitions in Oakland exceeded 900. It is past time for Oakland to correct this wrong-way process.
In the continuing hot Bay Area real estate market, Oakland tenants also need protections against owners who use arbitrary evictions as a tactic to empty rental units to make way for new tenants escaping San Francisco who can pay much higher rent.
Extending “Just Cause” eviction protection to all tenants, or as many as politically possible, is only right, and will help assure that more residents will not be unfairly thrown from their homes.
The moratorium on rents and arbitrary evictions ended July 5. The City Council must uphold its promise to the people to put permanent tenant protections in place. Councilmember Kaplan has worked closely with the Protect Oakland Renters Coalition to include the Coalition’s priorities in a measure that should now go to the voters.
It is the people that make Oakland creative, unique, and much beloved. The City Council must not allow the “soul” of our city to be displaced.
The message that must be shouted – loud and clear – to the City Council is: “Let the Voters Decide.”
Please the attend the council meeting, Tuesday, July 19, to convince policymakers that they must approve the Kaplan proposal for the November ballot.