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Voters to consider conflicting rent control measures

By Zoe Moore

Measures L1 and M1 are part of one of the most hotly-debated issues in Alameda on the upcoming Nov. 8  ballot. These contradictory measures hold dramatic influence on many Alamedan residents’ home lives, as they each lay out different boundaries for rent control in Alameda.

Because of the huge increases in rent that the Bay Area has seen in recent years, some landlords have recently evicted tenants so that they can rent to new tenants and raise the rent drastically. Previously, Alameda did not have rent control laws, so the renters coalition and city council members each responded with rent control measures that will be on the Alamedan November ballot.

The city council measure, L1, was voted for by many city council members. The Alameda Renters’ Coalition presented their own measure, M1, because they felt L1 didn’t provide enough control. Both measures require a majority to pass. L1 affirms Ordinance 3148, which was implemented by the city council in March, while M1 differs from Ordinance 3148.

On this issue, many people in Alameda feel the same way as senior Sara Hadden, who said the community “should have more control” when asked her opinion about rent control. Presenting more power to the tenants is exactly why M1 was proposed.

L1 allows rent control increases up to 5% once a year, and requires homeowners who want to increase the rent by more than 5% to submit an application to the city. M1 only allows for 65% of the CPI (Consumer Price Index). For example, for the most recent annual CPI, which shows a 1.5% increase, homeowners would only be able to increase their rent by .975%.

For example, a house with a prior rent of $4,000 a month, that would mean an increase of $200 for L1, and only $39 for M1.

History teacher Mike O’Malley, a homeowner who doesn’t rent out property, thinks that it is unreasonable for landlords to have to pay for their tenants to move out, a component of both measures. In some cases, tenants’ moving costs would be paid for by the person who owns their property if either measure passes. O’Malley thinks both measures are “a little too hard on the local mom and pop who own a house and they’re renting the basement or they own a duplex and they’re renting the other side.”

O’Malley and senior Haris Terovic foresee that many homeowners will actually raise the rent if these initiatives pass. They think that homeowners, faced with moving costs from their tenants and little room to raise the rent from starting rent price, will up the price to begin with and rents will be higher than they were before the initiatives. Terovic sees this as a result to M1 only, while O’Malley views this as a result to both.

If homeowners do indeed raise starting rent prices, it will become even more pricey to rent a house in Alameda. To O’Malley, Alameda will actually be even harder to move into if either initiate passes. He thinks either measure would backfire to raise rent and decrease diversity.

“I think it will have an unintended consequence of making it less of the Alameda we like,” he said. O’Malley sees very little differences between the two and doesn’t agree with either of them. He would like for Alamedans to vote them both down to come up with an alternative initiative.

Terovic, whose family has rental property in Alameda, thinks that homeowners will be much more reasonable with monthly rent if L1 passes than if M1 passes. M1 is too restrictive in his opinion, as it prohibits rent increases more than 1%, with few exceptions. “If M1 passes, starting rent price will be super high just because the homeowner will know they won’t be able to increase it that much, so they’ll just want to find a price that is super high that they don’t have to play around with too much,” he said.

He also brings up the point that the predicted rise of rent will make it hard to move from one property to another. “If you’re renting out a current property it’s gonna make it extremely hard to move into another one in Alameda because…a lot of the rent prices will go up,” he said. For Tevoric and families like his, these measures greatly impact their financial state at home.

Carl Howell, a junior, thinks L1 will make owners want to sell houses instead of rent them because of the limits the measures present on raising the rent. He also says that M1 allows tenants to rent out the place they’re renting without consulting their landlords and prevents landowners from background-checking tenants. Howell further went on to express that, like O’Malley, he doesn’t like either measure. “M1 is proposed by tenant extremists and L1 is compromised but still doesn’t make any sense so no one vote is my answer,” he said.

One interesting difference between the two measures is that L1 can be changed by the city council while M1 cannot. M1’s inflexibility is seen as a strength by some as this means the city council couldn’t weaken it, but is also seen as a weakness by others as future change would be hard to implement. The renters’ coalition measure also presents a rent control board. The board would have great influence and monitor many aspects of Alameda renting; its members would be elected by Alamedans.    

Both measures’ opponents claim that the other one doesn’t benefit Alameda renters as a whole. According to opponents of L1, L1 would have different levels of benefits for different renters while M1’s opponents say that 28% of renters won’t even be protected at all.

If both measures fail, then Ordinance 3148 stays in effect. This is the same outcome as if L1 passes and M1 fails or if both pass but L1 has more votes. If they both pass and L1 has less votes, Ordinance 3148 will be altered to accommodate the parts of M1 that are directly different from the original ordinance, but parts of it will stay intact. If M1 passes and L1 fails, then Ordinance 3148 will be scratched completely.

This feud is one that will have many Alamedans biting their nails on Nov. 8, the day that this dispute will be resolved.

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The Oak Leaf, a product of the journalism class, is a vehicle of student expression and a public forum for the Alameda High School community.