Name: Igor Tregub
Job: Safety engineer, U.S. Department of Energy
What office are you are running for? Berkeley Rent Board
What is the main reason you are running? I first ran for the Berkeley Rent Board out of my deeply rooted experiences as an immigrant and a nearly life-long renter. A sense of place started for me with a roof over my head. At several times in my life, my family and I had to make hard choices about moving away from the community in which we were hoping to settle. At a time when we are facing an unprecedented housing crisis and eviction epidemic, many community members asked me to run again, given my experience and passion to work towards a Berkeley we can all call home.
Why are you qualified for the position? In my four years on the Rent Board, I successfully worked to pass a Relocation Ordinance with vastly improved tenant protections, expand the Board’s education initiatives for tenants and property owners alike, and craft a mandatory seismic retrofitting requirement (while providing financial incentives to property owners). As Housing Advisory Commission Vice Chair, I successfully helped secure millions of dollars of affordable housing funding, increase impact fees on market-rate developers, and implement a Tenant Protection Ordinance. As Zoning Adjustments Board Vice Chair, I approved thousands of rental housing units – many of them reserved for lower-income families – while stopping the demolition of rent-controlled housing.
Earlier this year, my efforts were instrumental in getting the City Council to double the percentage of inclusionary housing that is affordable to lower-households and increase the Affordable Housing Mitigation Fee to, at least, $30,500 per unit at issuance of first construction document and $34,000 per unit is paid at Certificate of Occupancy.
I’ve effectively and successfully assisted dozens of tenants, property owners, and homeowners with the various housing, zoning, and land use challenges. I’ll bring accessibility, accountability, and acceptance of differing points of view to the Board.
What sets you apart from other candidates? The approach I take to governance is very similar to the one I take to my everyday job duties around safety oversight and nonproliferation. I spend at least 10 hours per week going through agenda packets, researching issues, and consulting with stakeholders prior to each meeting. While I have a lot of respect for the professional judgment of staff, I am independent in my conclusions; If I feel that there is a better solution, I try to develop an alternative.
I have a collaborative working style and believe that the best decisions can only come from community input. While I may not agree 100% of the time with my colleagues, I have amassed a respect among them for doing my due diligence in researching each issue – earning me the Vice-Chairmanship of two commissions.
As a Berkeley community servant-leader, I’ve distinguished myself as being extremely accessible to members of the public and other elected and appointed officials throughout the region. I spend a great deal of time researching best practices from across the nation. For example, as former California delegation chair of the Young Elected Officials Network, I worked to develop a database of such best practices on various policy matters.
How did you end up in Berkeley? I came here to attend college, graduating from UC Berkeley with degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Political Science. Upon graduation, I was fortunate enough to accept a position with the Department of Energy, allowing me to stay in Berkeley and serve our local community at the same time as I am serving our nation. Berkeley’s amazing neighbors welcomed me and my partner – the current Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women – with open arms. We will fight for a Berkeley that people like us can afford and in which we can all raise our children and grandchildren.
What are the three biggest challenges Berkeley faces in the near future?
– An affordability crisis of unprecedented proportions
– A huge increase in the number of actual and attempted evictions
– Concerns around seismic safety, habitability, and reductions in habitable space
The Board has numerous tools available at its disposal to support its mission. The most important powers in its possession are its quasi-judicial authority to make determinations in landlord-tenant disputes, the power to provide influence on housing policy to the City Council and other entities in the City of Berkeley, and to educate and outreach to tenants and property owners on their rights and responsibilities.
Aside from their authority around regulation of rents, enforcement of the minimum warranty of habitability, promulgation of just-cause eviction protections, and resolution of hearing appeals, Rent Board commissioners have a second power and charge.
When we negotiate with due diligence and an understanding of the other stakeholders, we, the Rent Board Commissioners, can have a great deal of influence in areas where the Berkeley City Council is the final decision-making body, such as around seismic retrofitting and the Soft-Story Ordinance, recycling and composting in multi-family units, expanding energy efficiency and water conservation measures, and strengthening the Relocation and Demolition Ordinances.
If elected, intend to continue my work to advance the production and financing of new and rehabilitated affordable housing, preserving rent control, and ensuring that the units in which Berkeley’s tenants reside in are both habitable and seismically safe.
I also have championed, along with Councilmember Jesse Arreguin and several Rent Board commissioners, an effort to pass a Tenant Protection Ordinance, which is patterned after San Francisco and other municipalities. It would ensure additional protection from unlawful evictions for long-term tenants (who are often on a limited income).
What are your ideas to solve them?
Active outreach and education to all Berkeley tenants and property owners. Historically, the Rent Board has been on the front lines of educating thousands of Berkeley tenants and property owners on their rights and responsibilities and providing legal advice or dispute mediation in the unfortunate events when this becomes necessary. Over the past eight years, I have worked collaboratively with Rent Board commissioners and staff to deploy a set of information tools that are more responsive than ever to the varying levels of familiarity with and interest in the ordinance. This will again be a focus for my work.
Seismic safety. Many rent-controlled buildings in Berkeley are incapable of withstanding a magnitude 6.7 earthquake, predicted along Hayward Fault in the next 20 years. Soft-story buildings, many of which house students, pose an additional risk of total collapse in the event of seismic activity. I worked with the City Council to push for a strong ordinance that would begin to enforce Phase I (engineering study and tenant notification) and pass Phase II (mandatory seismic retrofitting) of the Soft-Story Ordinance. If elected, I will continue efforts to ensure that this and other seismic safety ordinances are being enforced, and that the vast majority of property owners who wish to do the right thing have sufficient financing options to comply with them.
A Board that’s Accountable to and Provides a Quality Service for All. When I chaired the Rent Board Budget and Personnel Committee, the registration fee only went up by $24 in four years. The registration fee – the only means that finances the agency – must be periodically assessed to ensure that hardworking Rent Board staff have the tools to provide quality services to tenants and property owners, but is not out of reach for Berkeley’s small landlords.
What is your most inspired/unique idea for Berkeley? A cost-efficient way to help property owners retrofit their garages and drives with electric vehicle chargers. For those owners and tenants who don’t own a vehicle, making it easier to convert unused garages (or other storage spaces) into accessory dwelling units to incentivize the generation of new housing opportunities.
How will you be accessible to constituents? I can be reached at 510-295-8798 or email@example.com day or night. I’ve fielded hundreds of requests for information. I’ll also maintain a website and mailing list to educate the Berkeley community about goings-on related to housing. I’ll continue the practice of being available to meet one-on-one with members of the public or attend community and organizational meetings. I can often be found at community events or chatting it up with proprietors of Berkeley’s small businesses (while helping support the local tax base), and will simply continue making myself accessible to the Berkeley community.
How much money do you expect to spend on your campaign? $5,000-$8,000
A final thought? Please see www.berkeleyrentboard.org or email CALISlate4RentBoard@gmail.com for more information about me or our progressive CALI slate, endorsed by Senator Bernie Sanders, the Sierra Club, the Alameda Democratic Party, the Alameda Labor Council, the Berkeley Tenants Union, Alameda County Supervisors Keith Carson and Richard Valle, Democracy for America, and many others. My endorsers include Assemblymember Tony Thurmond, California State Controller Betty Yee, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, Congressman Eric Swalwell, a majority of the Berkeley City Council, and all four school board members endorsing in the race. I would be honored to earn your vote.