The Alameda City Council has imposed a temporary limit on rent increases and "no cause" evictions while it considers stronger measures to aid tenants.
The seven-hour meeting drew a big, emotional crowd of renters and landlords. Property owners managed to grab virtually all of the seats in the council chamber before the meeting began, leading to angry chants from tenants forced to stand in a hallway outside or follow the session on a TV set up in the City Hall lobby.
Alameda police arrested two men, including one -- pictured above -- who suffered a bloody nose as officers tried to detain him.
In the end, the council adopted an urgency ordinance that would bar rent increases of 8 percent or more for the next 65 days. Landlords will also be prohibited from evicting tenants without cause during that time.
In the meantime, the council will consider changes to Alameda's mild tenant protections. Under the current system, tenants can appeal rent increases to the city's Rent Review Advisory Committee. The panel can mediate between the parties and issue a recommendation after hearing from both sides, but landlords are not required to comply.
The issue has come to a head for several reasons, including the city's strict (and now rescinded) limits on developing multifamily housing. As in cities throughout the central Bay Area, Alameda is also seeing rent increases that far outstrip tenants' incomes. An outside consultant's report found that the median income for tenant households has grown 29 percent since 2000, while rents have increased by 54 percent.
The City Council is considering a range of actions, including imposing some form of rent control and ending evictions without cause. Here are highlights of Wednesday's debate, by way of Peter Hegarty of the Bay Area News Group:
Councilman Frank Matarrese wanted the moratorium, which will take effect immediately, to cover all rent increases. But Councilman Tony Daysog said that would hurt landlords who treat tenants fairly.
"I see no reason to penalize the small 'mom and pop' landlords who have done their part to make Alameda great," Daysog said. "And I think tenants see that, too." ...
... "There is an economic expulsion happening here," said Laura Thomas of Renewed Hope Housing Advocates, which promotes the development of affordable housing in the Bay Area. "It's probably one of the most serious things that has happened in the 30 years that I have lived here."
Restricting rent increases will protect renters from predatory landlords, Duane Moles said.
Karen Bey has been a landlord for 35 years. "Rent control does not work," said Bey, who noted rents are climbing in Oakland and San Francisco, despite restrictions in place.
"I don't want to see the moratorium or any rent control," said Karin Lucas, a landlord in Alameda for 40 years who keeps her rents below market-rate. "I feel that it would interfere with my relationships with my tenants."