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Tenants rally in Concord, opposing referendum on new rent stabilization, just cause ordinance

Dozens of renters and advocates gathered in Concord Sunday to voice their opposition to a challenge of the city’s new rent stabilization and just cause ordinance.

This comes as an ordinance passed by the Concord City Council is on hold — and now may go up for a vote in November.

Sunday, renters and members from groups like East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), Monument Impact, and Todos Santos Tenants Union gathered at Todos Santos Plaza. They carried out a rally at the park and caravaned nearby in their cars voicing their opposition to a recent referendum on new renter protections passed by the city council.

“We want rent control! We want rent control!” chanted renters at the rally Sunday.

In a press release about this rally, EBASE said, “Waiting for this ordinance to reach the ballot means renters remain susceptible to steep rent hikes and unjust evictions until November, despite having secured a policy intended to safeguard them starting in April, which is inherently unfair.”

Betty Gabaldon with the Todos Santos Tenants Union said one reason she participated in this rally was to help educate the community about the ordinance in question.

“I want them to know that this was approved by the city council 4 to 1,” she said.

Last month, the city council passed a rent stabilization and just cause ordinance.

Among other things, the ordinance caps annual rent increases at 3% or 60% of the Consumer Price Index, whichever is less. This cap applies to multifamily complexes built before February of 1995.

It also requires landlords to cover moving expenses in some cases for no-fault evictions.

But a few days after the council passed this ordinance, a group submitted a proposed referendum petition to the city. So the ordinance has not gone into effect, it is suspended for the time being.

“Under the law, we have to freeze everything until that is resolved and we either know we’re going to have a referendum and it’s going to be on the ballot in November, or we don’t, and that’s what we’re waiting for,” explained Concord Mayor Edi Birsan.

Birsan expects the public will know in a couple of weeks whether the group gathered the more than 7,200 signatures over 30 days required to bring this to a vote.

Jo Sciarroni, a Concord resident real estate broker who opposed the ordinance, believes the ordinance should go before voters.

“Let the citizens of Concord, which includes everybody, vote on the ordinance, that’s all we ask, and that’s what the referendum is about,” Sciarroni said.

Real estate professionals, property owners, and groups like the California Apartment Association expressed their opposition to the ordinance.

“The California Apartment Association opposes rent control ordinances, including the one recently passed by the Concord City Council and subject to a referendum,” said Mike Nemeth with the California Apartment Association in a statement.

Nemeth noted, however, that CAA is not involved in sponsoring or coordinating the referendum.

“We believe in addressing California’s housing challenges through increasing affordable housing supply and educating both housing providers and renters about the robust tenant protections already in place,” Nemeth continued.

Mayor Edi Birsan, who is one of the four council members who voted for the ordinance, believes it is an important safeguard for renters in the city.

“I didn’t vote for it and fight for it not to happen,” he emphasized, noting that he’s spoken with many renters throughout the city who’ve seen significant rent increases.

Under current California law, landlords cannot raise rent by more than 10% total or 5% plus the percentage change in the cost of living, whichever is lower, over the course of a 12 month period. Under state law, municipalities are allowed to further restrict how much landlords can raise rent each year.

The tenants organized in Concord Sunday want to see the ordinance go into effect as soon as possible. They plan to speak up to make sure their voices aren’t ignored.

“Because, by preventing high rent increases, renters will be able to save money for other needs like groceries and medicine,” Betty Gabaldon said to attendees at the rally.

Source: NBC Bay Area

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