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Giving a voice to the voiceless in the conversations around housing.
The San Mateo Housing Stories Project is an ongoing project of One San Mateo.
Far too often, those affected most by changes in our communities are those who leaset have a voice in the matter. They lack a voice in the media, and they lack a voice in politics, one feeding the other in a vicious cycle.
Again and again, we hear powerful interests say that we lack the data to take action on housing. But then when we push for government to collect the relevant data, those very same powerful interests do an about-face and cynically stand in the way of the collection of data.
Only government can collect the necessary data on the full extent and nature of the housing problems we are suffering from. However, we will not standby and allow those affected by housing to be silenced by the inaction of others.
The San Mateo Housing Stories Project is aimed at gathering stories from and providing a forum for those being impacted by the continuing housing crisis. You are not alone. By raising our voices together we have power.
Residents defend recently enacted rent stabilization protections, urge voters not to sign “Landlord Profit Protection Act”
Mountain View, CA—Today 18 residents of Mountain View filed a complaint with the City Attorney alleging that a recently proposed landlord initiative is rife with misleading statements and inaccuracies. The complaint demands that the City Attorney reject the proposed initiative unless the landlord campaign corrects the falsehoods.
“They lost the election less than two years ago, and this is nothing more than an attempt at a sneaky repeal of the voters’ decision to protect the diversity of Mountain View.”
“We know that the landlord lobby will stop at nothing to protect their profits, including by lying to voters,” said Trevoli Welsh, one of the signatories of the complaint. “Our rent stabilization program is fully funded by a nominal fee on landlords and is actually expected to come in underbudget this year. Yet the landlord campaign is based on using fear-mongering about the alleged cost of the program, when the truth is that it protects over 30,000 residents at no cost to taxpayers. That’s a bargain price to ensure that teachers, nurses, first responders and our neighbors can afford to stay in our community and thrive.”
In November 2016, Mountain View voters approved Measure V, instituting one of the first new rent stabilization programs in California in over 30 years. Over 15,000 households in Mountain View have since enjoyed protections against massive rent hikes and no-cause evictions. The complaint was filed in response to an initiative submitted by landlords that seeks to upend those new protections.
“Let’s be clear, this initiative is the landlords’ attempt to kill tenant protections in Mountain View,” said Kara Sanchez, another of the signatories of the complaint. “They lost the election less than two years ago, and this is nothing more than an attempt at a sneaky repeal of the voters’ decision to protect the diversity of Mountain View.”
Depending on the outcome of the complaint, the next step for the landlord initiative is to gather the signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot.
Landlord campaigns to overturn rent control have faced widespread allegations of misconduct during signature gathering campaigns across the state in recent years. Signature-gathering drives backed by landlord trade groups like the California Apartment Association have been criticized for employing paid signature-gatherers who have misrepresented petitions in order to obtain signatures in Richmond, Santa Rosa, Pacifica, and Alameda. Just last month, the District Attorney of San Mateo County filed twenty-one felony charges against signature gatherers financed by the California Apartment Association for forging signatures in a Pacifica anti-rent control campaign.
“We want to spread the word to voters about the truth of this initiative,” said Heather Phipps, another person who signed the complaint. “We urge voters not to sign this ‘Landlord Profit Protection Act.’ Our new tenant protections are an important part of the puzzle in addressing the housing crisis in Mountain View. The landlord initiative is an attack on the people who help make our town strong, it’s an attack on Mountain View as a Human Rights City. Don’t sign the landlord petition!”
Minimum lease terms, relocation assistance to take effect January in Redwood City
In an effort to ease burdens on renters amidst the ongoing housing crisis, the Redwood City Council unanimously passed two renter protection ordinances requiring landlords to offer minimum lease terms, and in certain circumstances, help pay for the relocation of displaced low-income tenants.
“Many speaking in support of the ordinances felt they didn’t go far enough, but welcomed the ‘move in the right direction.’ Supporters recounted in detail stories of evictions, homelessness, unsafe living conditions and tenants afraid to speak up for loss of their homes.”
“Cities across the Bay Area, including Richmond, Alameda, Santa Rosa, and San Mateo, reported landlord lobbyist smear campaigns with misinformation. … Now we have a confirmed criminal case of fraud from Pacifica….”
Pacifica, CA–The San Mateo County District Attorney has filed multiple felony charges against referendum petition signature gatherers hired by the California Apartment Association (CAA). The CAA referendum overturned a temporary law passed by the Pacifica City Council that would have protected tenants from exorbitant rent increases and unjust evictions in the months leading up to the November 2017 vote on rent control. Fair Rents 4 Pacifica, a local all-volunteer community organization, filed a complaint with the District Attorney alleging that signature gatherers were misrepresenting the referendum to gain signatures.
The District Attorney filed twenty-one felony charges against two paid signature-gatherers, who were hired as part of the industry-backed referendum campaign. According to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe in an interview by the Pacifica Tribune, the pair faked at least 20 signatures, signing voters’ names and addresses without their consent. The felony charges include several counts of elections fraud, perjury, and identity theft.
In May 2017, the referendum campaign backed by the CAA and San Mateo County Association of Realtors (SAMCAR) narrowly repealed temporary tenant protections by a margin of only 63 signatures. Fair Rents 4 Pacifica gathered evidence that at least 66 Pacifica voters sought to remove their signatures, nearly all claiming that they had been misled. The District Attorney’s investigation uncovered even more egregious misconduct including the fraudulent collection of at least 20 additional signatures. The misrepresentations and fraud paid for by the CAA kept tenants in Pacifica vulnerable to rent hikes and unfair evictions for months while voters waited to weigh in on the rent control ballot measure in November. Fair Rents 4 Pacifica received reports of tenants who faced rent hikes of $600 or more, forcing many residents out of their homes.
“This prosecution should serve as a wake-up call for the California Apartment Association, San Mateo County Association of Realtors, and others who campaign on lies to smear tenants and rent control. Fraud is fraud, and it can land you in jail,” said Dean Preston, Executive Director of Tenants Together, California’s Statewide Organization for Renters’ Rights.
“Cities across the Bay Area, including Richmond, Alameda, Santa Rosa, and San Mateo, reported landlord lobbyist smear campaigns with misinformation. We are seeing a disturbing pattern. Techniques of fear-mongering, outright lies, and voter intimidation undermine the obvious fairness of tenant protections. Now we have a confirmed criminal case of fraud from Pacifica, where signature gatherers were paid by a campaign sponsored by the California Apartment Association,” says Suzanne Moore, a member of Pacifica Housing 4 All. “The Democratic process in our small community was corrupted by a half-million dollars of outside realty monies and a fraudulent petition drive. Pacifica families have been financially harmed and displaced through their efforts.”
Tenants Together is California’s only statewide renters’ rights organization. With 50 member organizations across the state, Tenants Together works to improve the lives of California’s tenants through education, organizing and advocacy. We seek to galvanize a statewide movement for renters’ rights.
Pacifica Housing 4 All is a volunteer-led project of the Pacifica Progressive Alliance. Formerly named Fair Rents 4 Pacifica, which organized the rent control measure on the ballot in November 2017.
Transportation and housing are at a crisis point in Silicon Valley, and they’re connected to another hot issue: climate change. What can we do to solve all three problems simultaneously?
We need to address the housing affordability crisis, but we don’t want to make it harder to get around town or harm the climate. Join us for this discussion to:
- Learn about the connections between housing affordability, traffic reduction, and climate change;
- Hear what neighboring communities are doing to reduce the need to drive; and
- See how you can help make your community more walkable, affordable, and transit-friendly.
- Nina Rizzo manages GreenTRIP Certifications at TransForm. The GreenTRIP program supports multi-family residential developments that implement strategies to reduce traffic, parking and greenhouse gas emissions
- Nevada Merriman of MidPen Housing is designing and developing affordable housing where residents can reduce their reliance on cars
- Elaine Breeze of SummerHill Apartments works on “smart growth” multi-family rental housing and mixed use developments
Monday, March 26 from 6-8pm
San Mateo Downtown Library
55 W 3rd Ave. San Mateo
RSVP for this event
The City of San Mateo is regularly re-examining its policies, and One San Mateo is committed to playing its part in that process, steadfastly advocating for fairness and inclusion, with a particular focus on housing.
One issue that is coming up for increased discussion is the extension Measure P (you can read Measure P in its entirety here). One San Mateo is presently undertaking a rigorous process of deliberation on Measure P, including as it relates to San Mateo’s upcoming development of a new General Plan. We hope everyone will do the same in properly informing themselves and thinking deeply about these issues.
In due course, we will arrive at an assessment as an organization and publicly add our voice to this important discussion. We thank you for patiently and attentively walking alongside us in this process.
The Steering Committee of One San Mateo
California lawmakers are rolling out a series of new bills aimed at easing the state’s housing crisis by helping renters who face eviction.
Assembly Bill 2343 was introduced by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, and co-authored by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley.
If passed, the bill would extend the period of time that tenants have to respond to eviction lawsuits so they can present a legitimate defense. It would also give them more time to pay their rent or comply with other contractual obligations in the lease.
Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, is planning to introduce legislation Friday that would extend “just cause” eviction laws like the one already in place in Oakland to the rest of the state, requiring landlords to provide a specific, valid reason before an eviction can take place.
Those include failure to pay rent, continuing to damage a rental unit after being provided with a written notice to stop or refusing to pay for the repairs, refusing to re-sign a lease after the old one expires, ongoing disturbances to other tenants and neighbors, if the owner wants to move in or if they want to take it off the rental market through the Ellis Act.
Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, introduced Assembly Bill 2364 to close loopholes that he says have allowed landlords who’ve evicted all of their tenants through the Ellis Act to return those properties to the rental market in a “piecemeal fashion.”
It would also extend the notice period for an Ellis Act eviction from 120 days to a full year, according to Bloom’s staff.
6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on February 11, 2018
The Congregational Church of San Mateo (225 Tilton Ave. near downtown San Mateo)
This is to remind you that we will be meeting again this Sunday, February 11 from 6 to 8 pm. We will meet at our customary location, which is the Congregational Church of San Mateo (CCSM) at 225 Tilton Avenue.
There are many very important things to discuss on Sunday. Among them are designing a process for reaching an organizational position on Measure P and developing a consistent set of questions to guide our upcoming meetings with council members. We will also have reports on the meeting with Sandy Council, the City Council meeting on 2/5/18, developments at 314 E. Poplar, and the nifty new ADU tool that has just been released. If there are other items that members of the group want to bring up, we will be sure to include a heading in the agenda for “other business.”
John Fyfe has agreed to facilitate the meeting, and I will be prepared with a reflection. Please come and be ready to roll up your sleeves!
The city of San Mateo is currently in the process of setting its goals for the coming year. As part of that process, individuals and organizations may write to the council suggesting priorities. The following is the letter we have sent to the council setting forth the goals we think the city should place at the tops of their agendas.
Honorable Mayor Rick Bonilla and Members of the City Council,
In its recent history, a number of forces have severely pulled at the fabric of the San Mateo community we value so highly. Foremost among them has been the housing crisis, which continues unabated. One San Mateo, a community group working for a more fair and inclusive San Mateo, is concerned with making sure that our city lives up to the basic dream we have of it as a place of, by, and for all its people. As such, we believe that the goals the council sets for itself this year and beyond must prioritize real steps to mitigate some of the damage being caused by our manmade housing crisis, and, in general, to strive for a more fair and inclusive civic community.
To that end, One San Mateo recommends that the following goals find a place on the council’s future agendas.
1. Enhanced civic engagement with underrepresented groups
Civic engagement, like the housing crisis, is a much talked about issue, and addressing both is at the heart of One San Mateo’s mission. Civic engagement is fundamental to the entire practice of a democratically representative system of governance. Yet various data show that there are shortfalls in civic engagement throughout the diverse spectrum of community stakeholders. In particular, both renters and people of color are significantly underrepresented in our civic processes. San Mateo must begin now to take concerted action to redress these disparities. This is not simply a matter of public relations or outreach. Rather, full civic engagement is a reality when there are no longer disparate positions of influence to drive disparate outcomes. It is the duty of any democratic body to take practical steps toward this guiding ideal.
2. Data collection on local rental market
Throughout the conversation around what constitutes an appropriate response to the housing crisis, various parties have lamented the lack of good data. It is only sensible that the City of San Mateo at last put in place a program geared toward the collection of essential rental market data. Such a program would gather information on (but not necessarily limited to) when and to what extent rent is increased, where and on what sort of property (neighborhood; 1br, 2br, 3br, etc.), and when and for what reasons a tenant is evicted. Landlords are already required to provide tenants with written notices of rent increases and evictions. The city could simply direct landlords to submit this same information through an electronic portal. At present, Mountain View has a similar program. We furthermore note that during the Sept. 4th discussion of the federally mandated Assessment of Fair Housing, all of the council members offering comment indicated support for data collection.
3. Relocation assistance for substandard properties
Recent developments at 314 Poplar Street brought to light the need for a comprehensive ordinance establishing property owners’ obligations with respect to tenants displaced by unsafe or substandard living conditions. The County of San Mateo developed such an ordinance and enacted it into law in February 2017. The stated purpose of that ordinance is to provide monetary relocation payments enabling displaced tenants to find safe and secure housing and to deter property owners from allowing unsafe conditions to develop in the first place. To address cases such as 314 Poplar, we believe that the City of San Mateo should commit to adopting an ordinance patterned on that adopted by the county last year.
4. Annual multifamily code enforcement inspections
In line with goals 2 and 3, it has become clear that a more robust code enforcement inspections program is needed in San Mateo. As it stands, its code enforcement program is reactive and fragmentary. It is dependent on someone, usually a tenant, who may or may not fear reprisal, coming forward and complaining about egregious conditions. While the fire department does conduct periodic multifamily inspections, their primary focus is fire code violations; they may note other code enforcement violations, but there is no systematic mechanism for involving the city’s code enforcement department in a process for follow-up. The San Mateo County inspection program provides a good model of a more adequate system. Operated out of the Environmental Health Services Division, the program conducts routine inspections of all multi-unit (4 or more) rental properties and assesses property owners annual fees to pay for the inspections. We believe the city should enact a similar program. We caution, however, that a more strenuous inspections program, which could in some cases displace tenants from substandard properties, is counterproductive unless it is coupled with an effective means of relocation assistance, as referenced in the preceding goal.
5. Source of income anti-discrimination ordinance
Under California law, it is illegal for a landlord, property agent, real estate broker or salesperson to discriminate against a person on the basis of that person’s race, religion, ancestry, disability, sex, orientation, familial status, or general source of income. It is, however, permissible to discriminate against the acceptance of Section 8 vouchers. With homelessness and underhousing on the rise as a result of the housing crisis, Section 8 vouchers represent a valuable tool for moving people off of the streets, out of shelters, and into more stable housing. Yet hundreds of vouchers go unused in San Mateo due to the difficulty of finding landlords who will accept them. A number of other localities, such as Santa Clara County and East Palo Alto, have adopted ordinances to cut down on the undue rejection of Section 8 vouchers. Once again, we note that during the council’s public response to the AFH report, all council members offering comment expressed interest in increasing Section 8 usability
6. Public lands for public benefits
As affordable housing is our region’s most pressing need, it follows that publicly owned land should be principally devoted to the development of new affordable housing. Building as near as possible to 100% affordable housing on public land provides significantly more affordable units than the 10-15% allocated as part of standard market-rate projects. Therefore, where public agencies have vacant or soon to be vacated land, that land should be made available at negligible cost for the purpose of below-market-rate housing of all ranges, from low to moderate income, and up to workforce housing. Ensuring that public land only be used in ways which have the greatest public benefit is fundamental to public officials’ roles as stewards of the public good.
The above are basic goals we urge the council to pursue, and we look forward to collaborating with them on more concrete proposals. We reiterate that several goals mentioned in this letter were already broadly assented to by the council in its response to the presentation of the AFH report, and it remains the legal obligation of the city to address the housing inequalities exposed in that report. Moreover, it is our conviction that unless the city of San Mateo earnestly dedicates itself to finding ways to address our broken housing market, and simultaneously endeavors to reduce our disparate levels of civic engagement, San Mateo will persist in its slide toward becoming a city of unequal parts instead of moving together in the direction of a shared dream of being united and whole.
Chair of One San Mateo
A Community Group Working for a More Fair and Inclusive San Mateo
We hope this letter gives you a sense of some of the practical work One San Mateo has been intimately engaged in. If you agree with us on the importance of any of our proposed goals, then it is paramount that you raise your voice alongside ours and encourage the city to turn ideas into realities.
It’s not too late to raise your voice in favor of AB1506, the California Assembly bill to repeal Costa-Hawkins. Also, consider ways to participate in tomorrow’s committee hearing and future discussions. It’s long past time to repeal this corrupt law. Now is our chance!
From Tenants Together:
The bill to repeal Costa-Hawkins and let cities choose to close the loopholes in local rent control, AB 1506, has twice the number of official supporters than opposition going into the Housing Committee hearing tomorrow morning (take a look at the committee report). We expect a big showdown between the landlord lobby on one side and tenants and their allies on the other, so that support is a big boost to our campaign.
Why is it important to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Act? Tenants Together has put together a brief explainer to read and share with friends and neighbors.
Be sure to join us tomorrow, whether in-person at the Housing Committee hearing, or online by following the hashtag #RepealCostaHawkins. That hashtag works on both Facebook and Twitter. The livestream will also be available starting at 9am on CalChannel if you will be watching from home.
No matter what happens tomorrow at the Housing Committee, we are dedicated to fight for renters rights, repeal Costa-Hawkins by any means necessary, and build tenant power for the long-term.
Half Moon Bay plans to clean up homeless encampment
By Samantha Weigel
Nestled in the brush against the Pilarcitos Creek, more than a dozen people have been residing in a homeless encampment behind a Half Moon Bay shopping center.
In the coming months, they will be forced to move as the city plans to clean up the environmentally-sensitive habitat.
Tents, wooden pallets, mattresses and even makeshift gates have been pieced together to form what the encampment’s residents say is some semblance of a home they call their own. With the region’s steep housing prices out of reach for many who’ve lived on the coast for years, as well as others who are just passing through, the encampment has been a known spot for the homeless on the coastside.
[I]t’s a diverse group and several of them even hold jobs but can’t afford the area’s high cost of living, said Bob Stebbins, leader of the Coastside Homeless Collaborative. Stebbins is working to help those at the encampment with the transition. With a dire lack of affordable units on the coast, he hopes to work with government officials to identify land or properties that can house the homeless.