Tag Archives: Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board

Real estate

Berkeley council votes to crack down on short-term rentals of multiple units by same owner

There are hundreds of rooms and units available to rent on Airbnb even though short-term rentals are currently illegal in Berkeley. Image: Airbnb
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Prompted by concern that too many units are being taken off Berkeley’s long-term housing market for short-term uses such as Airbnb, the City Council voted Thursday to penalize landlords who rent out multiple properties for less than two weeks.

In a unanimous vote, following a motion by Councilman Kriss Worthington, officials asked staff to initiate an enforcement process after the city gets at least three verified complaints about property owners, individuals or companies that rent out multiple units on a short-term basis. It’s the first time council has given direction to staff to enforce the rules about short-term rentals that are already on the books, according to the city attorney.

Short-term rentals — those less than 14 consecutive days — have always been illegal in Berkeley. Council has been working since 2014 to come up with rules to regulate them as the practice has become increasingly popular through sites such as Airbnb, VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner) and HomeAway. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley City Council OKs spare bedrooms, but not backyard cottages, for short-term rentals

The owners of this rent-controlled apartment complex at 3100 College Ave. are renting out three of its apartments on Airbnb. Berkeley law does not allow rentals shorter than 14 days. Photo: Melati
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The City Council adopted strict new laws on short-term rentals on May 31 that would allow homeowners to rent out spare bedrooms, but not their backyard cottages.

The new rules also make it clear that owners of multi-unit apartment buildings cannot rent their apartments for less than 14 days. Hundreds of these kinds of units are listed for rent on short-term rental sites like Airbnb, Home Away, FlipKey, Craig’s List, SabbaticalHomes.com and VRBO. Many believe that those kinds of rentals have contributed to the housing shortage.

“We’ve gone years letting large landlords take entire buildings and a sizable number of rental units off the market,” said City Councilman Kriss Worthington.… “We need to start enforcement on large landowners who are constantly breaking the law and raking in lots of money… We need to stop that as fast as we can.” … Continue reading »

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Tenants struggle after fire at Chandler building

The Chandler building fire in Southside Berkeley. Photo: Ted Friedman
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When a fire tore through 2449 Dwight Way the Sunday before Thanksgiving, about 30 tenants were displaced and the property owner was saddled with around $1 million in damages. The Nov. 22 disaster has brought to light what can happen in Berkeley in the aftermath of a destructive fire.

The displaced tenants describe two weeks dominated by confusion and uncertainty. After fleeing the building, which is known as the Chandler, the residents scattered, finding refuge in friends’ homes and at the Durant Hotel. The Red Cross provided some immediate financial assistance.

”Things were happening in a whirlwind,” said tenant Owen Hill. “Many of us went to a hotel because we expected it to be covered. We didn’t get solid information because we were in a panic.”

The tenants say they received conflicting information from the Rent Board about what kind of assistance they were entitled to immediately and in the long run, causing uncertainty about what kind of housing to seek. (A crowd-funding campaign set up to help the displaced has so far raised just $65.) … Continue reading »

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$20K a month for Berkeley house? Skyrocketing rental prices draw crowd to housing affordability ‘teach-in’

About 180 people attended a "teach-in" about Berkeley's housing affordability crisis on Sunday. Photo: Kathleen Costanza
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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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Lush Berkeley garden at center of tenant-landlord dispute

A Berkeley police officer monitors the scene at 2401/2403 Virginia St. on Nov. 10. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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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 »

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Suit against zoning board’s Tregub resolved after apology

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The president of the Berkeley Property Owners Alliance has dropped a libel lawsuit against Igor Tregub, a former candidate for the Rent Stabilization Board and a current Zoning Adjustments Board commissioner, ending three years of controversy.

Sid Lakireddy and Tregub resolved the lawsuit after Tregub agreed to apologize for sending out an inflammatory email during the 2012 election linking Lakireddy to crimes committed by his uncle, Lakireddy Bali Reddy.

Tregub recently emailed the apology to his mailing list — to the same people who received the controversial email during the election.

“On October 18, 2012, I made a fateful mistake,” Tregub wrote. “The intent of this email is to apologize to a valued member of the Berkeley community who was rightly upset by my printed words.

“In the midst of a heated campaign for reelection, I mistakenly made inaccurate accusations about the President of the Berkeley Property Owners Association, Sid Lakireddy. I wrongly connected him to crimes committed in the 1990’s by one of his uncles, Lakireddy Balireddy, that had absolutely nothing to do with Sid.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley rental rates skyrocket, causing headaches for students and those on middle incomes

An apartment for rent on Spruce Street. Photo by Melati Citrawireja
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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 »

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Short-term rentals are squeezing out Berkeley renters

The owners of this rent-controlled apartment complex at 3100 College Ave. are renting out three of its apartments on Airbnb. Berkeley law does not allow rentals shorter than 14 days. Photo: Melati
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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 »

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Rent Board commissioner Alejandro Soto-Vigil challenges 22-year incumbent Linda Maio in Berkeley’s District 1

alejandro Soto-Vigil
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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 »

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Is the tech boom putting pressure on Berkeley rents?

Rents have been going up at 1450 Fourth St., a complex of live-work spaces and some tenants believe the tech boom is putting pressure on prices. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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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 »

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Sid Lakireddy sues rent board candidates for libel

Lakireddy Bali Reddy leaves court in 2000. Photo: Examiner Collection, Bancroft Library
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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 »

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Landlord-backed group fined for campaign violations

The FCPC commissioners review their papers in a fall meeting. (Note: Some of these commissioners are no longer serving.)  Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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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 »

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Opinionator

Op-Ed: Rent Board Commissioner Tregub: ‘More work to do’

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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 »

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