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Sweeping Protections for Alameda Renters Likely Coming Soon

Plus Eric Swalwell will run on gun control, and Nancy Skinner chews out Xavier Beccera.

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An Alameda City Council buoyed by a November election that boosted its progressive majority while trouncing a landlord-backed ballot initiative, moved forward last week with a menu of sweeping new protections for Alameda renters.

The council directed its staff to prepare a just-cause ordinance for possible approval next month, a regulation long sought by local housing activists. In addition, it voiced strong support for a cap on annual rent increases, while approving a resolution to enact immediate restrictions on the use of the Ellis Act, a state law often used by landlords to evict entire buildings in order to exit the rental housing market.

Alameda Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft and Councilmember Malia Vella both advocated for dismantling the city's Rent Review Advisory Committee, an appointed body of renters, landlords, and homeowners tasked with mediating disputes between tenants and property owners, although their decisions are non-binding. Staff also was asked to dust off a two-year-old proposal to place regulations on Airbnb-type rentals in Alameda. The short-term rental business has been blamed for pulling rental units off the market in Alameda.

A rent cap also received support from the council, although a specific figure was not given. Alameda's current rent ordinance allows landlords to raise annual rents by up to 5 percent. Any percentage above 5 percent requires landlords petition the rent review committee. But its future also is in doubt.

The almost breathtaking number of significant rental housing protections now on the cusp of approval by the Alameda City Council is sure to rile local landlords. In the past, they have fought vigorously to maintain the status quo, spending millions since 2016 on ballot initiatives intended to thwart a push by tenants' groups to enact various forms of rent control in Alameda.

Only a few landlords attended last week's meeting on the issue. But landlords are unlikely to remain silent much longer. The Rent Stabilization Ordinance likely to soon be amended was first approved in March 2016. Later that year, landlords defeated a tenant-backed ballot measure to enact far stronger restrictions on rent increases. And when the council approved just-cause protections for renters in early 2017, landlords quickly mounted a successful petition drive to repeal the measure. Fearing another costly ballot measure campaign, the council repealed the just-cause amendment on its own.

Councilmember John Knox White called for expediency. Noting evictions without cause are on the rise in Alameda, he said, "I would like just-cause to come back as soon as humanely possible." Debbie Potter, the city's community development director, said a just-cause ordinance will be ready for the second meeting in May. The menu of additional rent protections may follow in early June, she told the council.

Swalwell Enters the Race

East Bay Rep. Eric Swalwell is running for president. After months of teasing his supporters and the political class, Swalwell made the announcement Monday night on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

After saying the words, he exclaimed, amid cheers from the studio audience in New York City, "Boy, did it feel good to say that."

He becomes the eighteenth declared candidate for the Democratic nomination and the second from the East Bay during this upcoming election cycle, joining Sen. Kamala Harris.

Look for his campaign rollout to lean heavily on gun control, based on his public comments and social media posts in recent days. Swalwell is holding a town hall event in Florida on ending gun violence on April 9, the tie-in being the Parkland shootings at Majorey Stoneman Douglas School. Demand for the event led Swalwell's campaign team to move it to a bigger venue, BB&T Center, the home of the NHL's Florida Panthers.

A chilling 47-second web video also was posted by Swalwell on social media Thursday that includes only a black screen, flashing text, and an audio recording in which an individual threatens him for his support for gun control.

In Other News ...

A state appeals court ruled that the police transparency law authored by State Sen. Nancy Skinner covers all misconduct and use-of-force investigations, not just those created after Jan. 1, 2019. ... Meanwhile, Skinner blasted Attorney General Xavier Becerra for his continued refusal to release state law enforcement investigation records. ... And the East Bay Times reported that the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department is not complying with such requests either. ... Thanks to Southwest Airlines' new daily flights from Oakland to Hawaii, ticket prices for trips between the states have declined by 17 percent, the Los Angeles Times reported. ... Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin is objecting to U.C. Berkeley boosting its enrollment numbers in a supplement environmental impact report for a student housing project on Hearst Avenue, Berkeleyside reported. ... Meanwhile, a bedbug infestation and other poor living conditions are making life difficult for residents of the all-female Stern Hall dorm at U.C. Berkeley, the Daily Cal reported. ... Nurses at Alameda Hospital and San Leandro Hospital briefly walked the picket lines Wednesday afternoon. ... Alameda voters headed to the polls to decide the fate of a senior homeless wellness center and medical respite services near Crab Cove. ... Sen. Kamala Harris missed an important Senate vote on wildfire relief for California while she was fundraising this week in Sacramento, Politico reported. ... PG&E named former TVA chief Bill Johnson as its new CEO. ... It turns out that Stephen Curry rose to the status of the greatest shooter in NBA history ... with blurry vision! He now wears contacts and his shooting has been torrid ever since.

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