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Mountain View Rent Control Makes Its Way to November Ballot

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From 2011 to 2015, the average monthly rent in Mountain View, home to Google and the heart of Silicon Valley, rose by more than 52 percent.

Sourced from the REAL Facts July 2015 Trends Report, this is the first fact listed on the proposed rent stabilization and just cause eviction charter amendment, drafted earlier this year by the Mountain View Tenants Coalition (MVTC). After collecting and submitting 7,311 signatures this month, the organization succeeded at getting its proposal on the November ballot.

According to the coalition's website, the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act, as the proposal is named, would limit rent increases to between 2 and 5 percent a year. Landlords would also be limited to one rent increase a year. Under current California law, landlords can increase a tenant’s rent well above 10 percent with a 60-day advance notice.

The amendment would also protect tenants from evictions that are not for just cause — meaning that tenants can be evicted only if the landlord has a valid reason, including failure to pay rent, breach of lease agreement or criminal activity. If proved not to be at fault for eviction, tenants would be eligible for relocation assistance.

In an effort to address rising rents, the Mountain View City Council passed an ordinance in April that provides two mandatory dispute resolution programs if a tenant's rent increases by more than 7.2 percent in a year. The Mountain View Tenants Coalition didn’t feel the measure was enough, and immediately drafted its proposed amendment with help from experts at Tenants Together and the Stanford Community Law Clinic.


“Over the past year, [Mountain View tenants] have seen rent increase over $1,000 a month,” said Evan Ortiz, a volunteer with the Mountain View Tenants Coalition. “We’ve seen a spike in displacement, homelessness, and we feel like this rent stabilization charter amendment will nourish and sustain families in Mountain View.”

Lourdes Rangel (left) and Evan Ortiz hold a banner for the Mountain View Tenants Coalition.
Lourdes Rangel (left) and Evan Ortiz hold a banner for the Mountain View Tenants Coalition. (Nailah Morgan/KQED)

The Mountain View Tenants Coalition formed last year when rents spiked to new heights in a town where renters constitute 60 percent of the population, according to the organization. The group is made up of tech employees, lawyers, teachers, landlords and day laborers. Ortiz is a Google employee. He and hundreds of volunteers attended numerous City Council meetings over the past year pushing for rent control and just cause eviction.

“I’ve met families where the husband is a software engineer, the wife is a medical professional, and even they are facing displacement,” Ortiz added. “This is an issue that affects all families, not just working-class or low-income families. It’s the entirety of Mountain View.”

Tech worker and single mother Stacy Dow moved to Mountain View right before Google did in 1999. Dow was an artist when she migrated from San Diego to the Bay Area. She started working in the tech sector in order to afford rent, care for her infant daughters and continue living in Mountain View. The median house value in Mountain View doubled between 2000 and 2013.

“At first, it was exciting having Google here,” Dow said. “But at some point it kind of shifted, and it felt like Google was really gobbling up the city. Everything in the city became impacted by their presence.”

Opponents of the amendment argue that rent control causes tenants to stay in places they wouldn’t stay otherwise. Tenants who can afford higher rents stay in rent-controlled apartments longer because they’re stabilized.

Marie, a Mountain View landlord who requested her last name not to used, believes rent control stagnates the housing market. “In the long run it ends up taking units off the market, which basically creates an issue with supply and demand,” she said. “It makes it harder for people to find housing that are relocating to the area.”

According to Mountain View Councilman Michael Kasperzak, the majority of the council doesn't agree with the principle of rent control and is opposed to the coalition's proposal.

“They’re using a jackhammer to swat a fly,” said Kasperzak. “There are a lot of ways to deal with tenant displacement issues rather than doing something as serious as amending the city’s charter.”

Unlike city ordinances, which can be changed by a council vote, charter amendments require the approval of city voters. If this amendment is passed, it could then be altered only by another citywide election, a prospect that worries Kasperzak.

Soon after the coalition's proposal qualified for the ballot, the City Council announced its own plan to draft an alternate rent control measure for the November ballot. According to a recent Mountain View Tenants Coalition press release, Councilmen Kasperzak, John McAlister and Chris Clark supported the drafting of a second rent control ballot measure, though they’ve opposed rent control in the past.

The ordinance will be reviewed Aug. 9 for a final decision on its fate. If the second measure is placed on the ballot, Mountain View voters will have to decide on two different rent control measures this November.

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