Tag Archives: Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board
$20K a month for Berkeley house? Skyrocketing rental prices draw crowd to housing affordability ‘teach-in’
About 180 people packed into Berkeley Arts Festival, a performance space in Downtown Berkeley, on Sunday to hear housing experts and advocates discuss the city’s housing affordability crisis and what can be done to make Berkeley a more affordable place to live.
Audience members lined the walls, balcony and sat on the floor for the “teach-in,” organized by the Ad Hoc Committee for a Progressive Berkeley in conjunction with eight other advocacy and tenants’ rights organizations.
Housing experts say there’s a rental affordability crisis across the country, and the Bay Area continues to be one of the most extreme cases in the nation. In 2014, median rent in Berkeley reached just over $1,300 for a one-bedroom or studio apartment, according to the American Community Survey. (The national median rent for a one-bedroom or studio is $796, according to the survey.) And Zillow, an online real estate database, currently estimates the median rent for all units and homes in Berkeley is $3,584.
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For the past 36 years, Wally Gorell has been tending a garden outside his apartment at 2401/2403 Virginia St. just north of the UC Berkeley campus. During that time he transformed barren beds into a space many neighbors call “magical,” with fragrant bushes, tall palms and exotic greenery that forms a canopy over the sidewalk.
But on Tuesday, Gorell and some of his neighbors stood outside the building near Scenic Avenue, ready to defend the garden from a crew from Donado Tree Service, which had been ordered by the owner to chop the greenery back four feet from the white-stucco building. The owners of the property, the Anderson family, want to paint the structure, one of three they own in the immediate vicinity, on Nov. 16. To do so, they say they need to clear space to set up scaffolding – even though it is only a one-story building.
“In order for the painter to paint the building, all ground plants must sit at least four feet away from the sides of every building structure,” Daniel Bornstein, of the law firm Bornstein and Bornstein, wrote in a certified letter to Gorell. “If this landscaping work is not completed prior to November 9, 2015, the property’s owner group will contract to have the work performed by a tree and or landscaping contractor.”
Gorell believes the painting can be done without removing large portions of his garden. A painting company he consulted with told him that the painting could be accomplished without removing the plants, he said. … Continue reading »
This is the second in a Berkeleyside series on housing. Read our first story on short term rentals.
The heated economy has pushed Berkeley rental rates significantly higher this past year, a jump of anywhere from 10% to 30.9%, depending on which study you look at, forcing some students to double and triple up in mini-dorm-like situations, and middle-class workers to stretch to meet their rents.
At the same time, technology workers and those in finance or other well-paying professions are snapping up luxury apartments that can cost from $2,500 a month for a studio to $5,400 for a three-bedroom, two-bath pad.
“The problem is that we are an extremely desirable community,” said Mayor Tom Bates. “With high rents in San Francisco a lot of people choose to be here. As a consequence we have huge demand.” … Continue reading »
This is the first story in a Berkeleyside series on housing. Read the second story on rental rate increases here.
In late January, Daniel Moore came home to his apartment in a 12-unit complex on College Avenue to find there was a new keypad lock on the front gate.
Moore, who had been living at 3100 College for 12 years, didn’t have the combination to the keypad. He was locked out of his own building.
That was just the first of a series of mysterious changes to the apartment complex, alterations that his landlords never told him about. Suddenly, washer and dryer units were installed on every landing. New couches appeared in the hallways.
Then Moore started hearing loud noises from the unit above him. It appeared as if a family of five had moved in suddenly and the kids were stomping on the new stone kitchen floor. That family moved out, but was replaced by others, people who stayed up until 3 a.m.
It turns out that three units in Moore’s rent-controlled building had been converted into short-term rentals through online rental company Airbnb.
“Airbnb has replaced our quiet environment with noise, anxiety and the nuisance of a steady flow of transients who have no investment in living here,” Moore wrote in a letter he sent to the City Council and the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board.” … Continue reading »
Rent Board commissioner Alejandro Soto-Vigil challenges 22-year incumbent Linda Maio in Berkeley’s District 1
Alejandro Soto-Vigil, city Rent Board commissioner and aide to Councilman Kriss Worthington, has filed to run for Berkeley City Council in District 1. He is the sole challenger to incumbent Linda Maio, who has occupied the seat since 1992.
Soto-Vigil said he is running to burst what he calls the “bubble” of the current council.
“I think I could take the bubble out, and bridge people who are on the ground to council,” said Soto-Vigil, who grew up in Richmond and graduated from UC Berkeley and the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law in Washington, D.C. “I want to know what the pulse is of the people.” … Continue reading »
Artist Leigh Wells still hasn’t gotten accustomed to the constant noise from the trains that run right behind her West Berkeley live-work space. And she tries not to think about the toxic emissions from the neighboring steel manufacturing plant. In fact, if it weren’t for the affordable rent, and the close-knit artist community at the 1450 Fourth St. complex, she’d never dream of living there.
But when the rent in a unit in Wells’ building went for $300 a month above asking price — and her own rent was given a $450 hike — she quickly realized that times are changing. … Continue reading »
The nephew of a notorious landlord who was sent to prison for transporting minors from India for the purpose of illegal sexual activity has filed a defamation lawsuit against four former Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board candidates.
Sid Lakireddy, president of the Berkeley Property Owners Association, said that Igor Tregub, Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Asa Dodsworth and Judy Shelton libeled him when they sent an email to supporters that overtly suggested Lakireddy was involved in the criminal case brought against his uncle, Lakireddy Bali Reddy. … Continue reading »
The Fair Campaign Practices Commission on Thursday levied its second heaviest fine in 20 years on a landlord-backed group that spent more than $42,500 during the 2012 election.
The FCPC approved a stipulation agreement worked out between city staff and the people behind a Slate Mailer Organization that sent out five campaign mailers in support of the TUFF (Tenants United for Fairness) Rent Board slate. … Continue reading »
Rent Board Commissioner Igor Tregub delivered this farewell address to a November board meeting:
It’s difficult for me to evoke my feelings about the orderly transition of policy-making authority that I am about to pass on. Some transitions can be planned for over the course of months or even years; in my case, I had less than two weeks to take the projects I planned to undertake and pass them off to the next board. As unexpected as this shift … Continue reading »
A candidate for the Berkeley Rent Board, who is also an aide to City Councilman Kriss Worthington, filed a police complaint Monday charging that the aide to City Councilman Laurie Capitelli trespassed on his property.
Alejandro Soto-Vigil said that his wife saw Capitelli’s aide and campaign manager, Pamela Gray, walk onto his property on Berkeley Way around 3:20 p.m. to look at a recycling bin that was stuffed with campaign signs.
“Pam apparently had gone onto our doorstep and porch looking at things and then she went to the recycling area and pulled out some signs and started taking photos,” said Soto-Vigil.
Capitelli told Berkeleyside that he and Gray were delivering campaign material to Soto-Vigil’s neighbor when they saw that the recycling bin contained campaign signs. Since so many of Capitelli’s signs have been torn up or taken during the election, he wanted to see if any of them were in there. They were not. … Continue reading »
A June 2012 grand jury report that slams the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board is at the center of the two-slate race for four seats on the board that oversees the city’s rent control law.
Berkeley Tenants United for Fairness, TUFF, joined forces over support for the report’s conclusions that the board “lacks oversight and accountability,” and that it’s up to Berkeley voters to “change the direction of the BRSB.”
The Tenant Convention Slate, TCS, chosen by a nominating convention in July, blasts the report, saying it “relies on inaccuracies, half-truths and innuendo,” and is based on policy concerns rather than evaluating the board’s implementation of the rent control law. … Continue reading »
In response to a critical report by the Alameda County Grand Jury, the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board will commission an outside expert to review the appropriateness of the program’s workload and staffing.
And while the board will not consider reducing the director’s $183,000 salary, it will conduct an annual assessment of his performance in addition to the full-scale review it now does every three years.
Despite agreeing to those changes, the Rent Stabilization Board took issue with the tone and conclusions of the Grand Jury Report, which was released in June and stated the board was a “self-sustaining bureaucracy that operates without effective oversight and accountability.” … Continue reading »
The citizen committee behind the Berkeley Sunshine Ordinance on the November ballot has sent city officials a lawyer’s letter threatening a lawsuit unless changes are made to the wording of both the ballot question and the city attorney’s published analysis.
The proposed Sunshine Ordinance establishes new meeting and agenda requirements for the Berkeley City Council, the Rent Stabilization Board and the city’s many commissions. It also creates increased disclosure requirements and creates a new Sunshine Commission to monitor and enforce the ordinance. Among the issues in contention between the current wording and the committee’s desires is whether the cost — estimated by the city at $1.5 million annually — can or should be included, and whether the new commission’s authority to sue the city should be specified in the ballot question.
Bradley Hertz at The Sutton Law Firm writes, “In order to avoid litigation, we demand that the ballot question and City Attorney’s Analysis be amended forthwith to cure the fatal flaws that now exist.” … Continue reading »