Island Self-Determination at Stake

Island Self-Determination at Stake


More views on upcoming rent control ballot measures

L1 is a doctored version of the law containing an 11th-hour poison pill legal maneuver favoring real estate interests who are turning Alameda into a tourist destination, destroying our traditional family atmosphere. Major changes, like the $6 million makeover of our municipal golf course (during a drought) have been going on ever since the 2011 purchase of South Shore Center by Jamestown Properties, owners of Bay Area developments such as Ghiradelli Square. To off-island investors like Jamestown, Alameda is just another profit-making property, and Measure L1 has just enough of the right words to create an illusion of renter protection. What little protection it does provide can be snatched away with the stroke of a pen by a city council under the influence of a realty cabal of off-Island investors, property managers and realtors. 

It’s understandable how a realty cabal might consider M1 “extreme” because it is actually true rent control, not a pretense, like L1, which is a lawyer’s illusion dripping with loopholes for landlords. It’s easy for a realty cabal to label the ordinary citizens of the Alameda Renters Coalition “radicals,” but such labeling says more about the cabal than it does coalition membership. What people are doing is standing up for themselves. Yes, M1 cannot be tampered with by a Realty-influenced city council. Yes, the rent board is independent, safe from the meddling fingers of the realty cabal who tried at every turn to weaken the existing ordinance, and will continue to do so. 

You cannot blame rent control for landlord greed, for it is the primal craving for profit that drives up rental rates. Nor can rent control be blamed for landlord neglect. There are ample examples of deteriorating properties where rent control is non-existent, such as the Victorian at 1617 Central Ave. that’s been a rental for decades. Using rent control as a scapegoat is shifting blame for irresponsible behavior. What a landlord does with his or her cash is their choice, and they are responsible for the consequences.

State law exempts those properties from rent control; so rent decisions by the rent review tribunal would be unenforceable even if they were binding, which they are not. Such a hearing would be a virtual sham. What chance does a tenant have at a hearing before a tribunal staffed by political appointees beholden to a Realty-friendly mayor? In any event, most renters are afraid to use the RRAC for fear of landlord retaliation.

L1 has only the appearance of providing rent and eviction controls. It allows 5 percent increases to go unquestioned. L1 allows no-fault/no-cause evictions. Under L1, families can be tossed into homeless camps just to make more profit. L1 allows landlords and property managers to violate the sanctity of home and family just to cash in on a runaway housing market. 

Alameda is not a Monopoly board. Nonresident investors have been redefining our community to suit their profit ledgers. To off-island investors like Jamestown Properties and hedge funds in New York and Hong Kong, community is just another hurdle to leap. But to long-time residents, community is what we have invested our lives in. Community is family and social connectedness. Community is who we are.
Measure L1 is a bait-and-switch poison pill designed not to protect renters but to defeat rent control. If L1 becomes law the city can change any part of it overnight or eliminate it entirely. It expires in 2019. L1 is a shape-shifting illusion designed to placate an aroused public until the storm blows over. 

M1 is the real McCoy. It may not do everything for everyone, but it is an effective and practical solution that cannot be meddled with by a City Hall that’s become an extension of a cabal of off-island realty interests who treat citizens like sheep to shear and slaughter as they transform Alameda into a tourist destination to fill their pockets. 

What’s been happening to Alameda is a repeat of the 1950s when developers stole Alameda’s beach and left future generations with a stagnant lagoon that has to be chemically sterilized to control the algae, creating an ecological wasteland. How can a city hall under the influence of a realty cabal be trusted to look out for the public interest?



Monty J Heying is a 16-year Alameda resident.