Measure K (Alameda), Measure Q (Berkeley), and Measures W and Y (Oakland) were on the ballot in the recent election. A look into the results and what that means for landlords in the Bay Area.
Measure K (Alameda) - DEFEATED
Shall the Charter be amended by incorporating Ordinance 3148, the City's Rent Review, Rent Stabilization and Limitations on Evictions law, with the following modifications: (a) preclude City Council from amending the law in response to changing conditions and concerns, and require voter approval instead, and (b) eliminate the December 31, 2019 sunset clause?
The current Alameda City rent control ordinance was designed as a temporary measure and will sunset (automatically repeal itself) on December 31, 2019, unless the Alameda City Council votes to retain it in effect. Measure K would have added the rent control ordinance into the Alameda City charter, making it permanent, and restricted the Alameda City Council’s ability to amend it. Measure K failed, meaning that the City Council can still modify the ordinance, and the ordinance itself may still expire if not extended by the City Council.
Measure Q (Berkeley) - PASSED
Shall the ordinance amending the Rent Stabilization Ordinance to: account for potential repeal of the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act by preserving vacancy rent adjustments; update the new construction exemption from rent stabilization to a 20-year rolling period; and exempt all lawfully permitted Accessory Dwelling Units from rent stabilization and eviction for good cause protections, be adopted?
Berkeley’s rent control ordinance was passed before the statewide Costa-Hawkins law was passed, so Berkeley’s law was not designed with Costa-Hawkins in mind. If Proposition 10 had passed, Berkeley’s older rent control law would have rolled back existing rents to levels that existed over 20 years ago. To avoid such severe disruption of the market, Measure Q was intended to maintain rent increases imposed during Costa-Hawkins, in case Costa-Hawkins was repealed. Since Costa-Hawkins was not repealed by Proposition 10, Measure Q’s Costa-Hawkins “fix” will only take effect if Costa-Hawkins is repealed at some future date.
Measure Q also has a separate purpose of maintaining the rent control exemption of single-family homes if the resident homeowner constructed an “accessory dwelling unit” on the property (i.e. “granny” or “in-law” unit.) This was offered as an incentive to homeowners to increase the supply of housing stock in Berkeley. This exemption did not depend on the repeal of Costa-Hawkins and will still go into effect because Measure Q passed.
Measure W (Oakland) - PASSED
Shall the Measure, to fund homeless services and resources to address illegal dumping, and discourage vacant properties, by enacting a Vacant Property Tax on parcels used less than 50 days per year, at annual rates of $6,000 per parcel, $3,000 for condominium units, and other specified rates; raising about $10,000,000 annually for 20 years; with community oversight and exemptions for very low income, low-income seniors and hardship, be adopted?
Oakland Measure W does not directly alter the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants to each other. However, it does alter the relationship with the landlord and their property by imposing either a $3,000 or $6,000 additional parcel tax on properties considered to be “vacant” to encourage property to be rented or otherwise occupied and used. Government-owned land and properties are of course exempt from the tax.
The definition of “vacant” is key for the purposes of the tax. Measure W defines “vacant” as property not “in use” for at least 50 days of the calendar year. What “in use” means is left up to the Oakland City Council to determine by passage of a future ordinance. The tax itself will expire 20 years after it is first levied, unless amended by popular vote for either a longer or shorter term.
Measure Y (Oakland) - PASSED
Shall the Measure amending Oakland's Just Yes Cause for Eviction Ordinance ("Ordinance") to: (1) remove the exemption for owner occupied duplexes and triplexes; and (2) allow the City Council, without returning to the voters, to add limitations on a landlord's right to evict under the Ordinance, be adopted?
Oakland’s Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance, passed as Measure EE in 2003, contained two special exemptions from eviction control: For homes subdivided into 3 units or less, where the landlord resides in one unit, or homes where the landlord shares kitchen or bath facilities with their tenants. In effect, this exempted duplexes and triplexes from eviction control so long as the owner lived in one of the units. Measure Y removed this exemption for owner-occupied duplexes and triplexes. Because Measure Y passed, now only landlords who share kitchen or bath facilities with their tenants are exempt from eviction control (i.e. roommates or housemates.)
Measure EE was an ordinance passed by popular vote in the City of Oakland. Because it was imposed by popular vote, it could only be modified by popular vote, i.e. Measure Y. Measure Y amends the Just Cause for Eviction law by allowing the City Council to add additional restrictions on the grounds to for eviction. While Measure Y does not change any ground for eviction on its own, the Oakland City Council may remove certain grounds for eviction, impose additional requirements, or make other changes at a future date. However, the City Council could not eliminate or modify existing exemptions from eviction control and cannot add additional ground for eviction. Therefore, rental units currently subject to eviction control may have additional eviction control imposed upon them, but currently exempt units will not be affected.
Measure Y also updated the language of certain portions of the Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance to comply with various court rulings that were issued since the law went into effect. In principle this should make the Ordinance clearer and more consistent.
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© 2018 by Fried & Williams LLP. All Rights Reserved. The information contained in this article is general in nature. For advice on any particular matter, please consult with our attorneys because the facts of your situation may be unique and the law changes from time to time.