An overview of the rent control measures that passed or failed in Bay Area counties

After months of hard work, and with the support of countless people, we in San Francisco were able to pass Proposition C, a measure that will double funding for homeless folks and bring us closer to ending the crisis of homelessness in our city. But another initiative that San Franciscans fought hard for was Prop. 10, a statewide rent-control ballot measure that, if passed, would have repealed the Costa-Hawkins Act, allowing cities to impose their own rent control measures.  Unfortunately, the ballot measure failed with just under 60 percent of people voting “no”. The only two counties with a majority that supported the repeal were San Francisco and Alameda, as both face skyrocketing rents and gentrification.


But Prop. 10 wasn’t the only ballot measure on rent control. Throughout the Bay Area, there were several other local ballot measures related to rent control. Some passed, some didn’t, and some never made it past the petition stage.


Alameda voted on Measure K, which aimed to amend the city’s rent increase law, Ordinance 3148, by incorporating it into the city’s charter, removing the city council’s authority to change the ordinance and requiring voter approval instead. Measure K would also eliminate the December 31, 2019, sunset clause from the ordinance, making the ordinance permanent.


The person who petitioned for Measure K in the first place was Don Lindsey, an influential and prominent landlord in Alameda and co-founder of the property management firm Gallagher & Lindsey. Proponents of the measure claimed that incorporating the ordinance into the charter would help renters by enshrining the rent control ordinance into permanent law and by preventing corrupt politicians from amending it, as it could only be amended by popular vote in an election.


But opposing Measure K was the Alameda Justice Alliance (AJA), a coalition of Alameda-based social justice advocacy groups including Alameda for Black Lives, Alameda Labor Council, Alameda Progressives, and the Alameda Renters Coalition. The AJA argued that Ordinance 3148 is not really rent control. Under the ordinance, a 5 percent rent increase triggers a mediation process through the Rent Review Advisory Committee (RRAC), which is not real rent control as it takes no steps to cap rent increases. The ordinance essentially allows 5 percent annual rent increases, and since wages don’t rise at this rate, tenants are eventually evicted from their properties. Seniors living on fixed incomes are even more vulnerable to this effect. Lastly, opponents of Measure K argue that making the ordinance only able to be amended during an election actually puts the law further away from the people’s hands. They cited the fact that if Measure K passed, it would cost the city of Alameda anywhere from $188,000 to $500,000 to hold a special election. Opponents want to keep Ordinance 3148 as it is, allowing it to phase out in 2019, and keep rent control laws more flexible to meet the needs of the community. Ultimately, Measure K failed with just over 59 percent of voters voting “no”.


In Oakland, there was a rent control measure called Measure Y, which proposed two things: to remove exemptions for owner-occupied duplexes and triplexes, and to allow the city council to add limitations to the law without an election. The measure concerns the Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance, which prohibits landlords from evicting tenants from residential rental units without just cause. But owner-occupied properties where the owner at least a one-third interest in the property are exempt from these rental protections, enabling landlords to evict tenants freely.


The group who championed Measure Y was Protect Oakland Renters (PRO), a coalition of grassroots organizations who advocate for dignified, safe, and truly affordable housing for Oakland residents.  The PRO argued that Measure Y would extend just cause eviction protection to 8,000 Oakland residents who live in duplexes and triplexes with their landlords, which is important while there is a homelessness crisis in Oakland. Furthermore, they argued that the measure is fair to landlords since it preserves just cause eviction rights for those living in duplexes and triplexes.


Meanwhile, opponents argued that Measure Y hurts small homeowners and creates more problems for Oakland’s housing crisis. Specifically, anti-Y folks asserted that extending just cause protections to smaller properties discourages landlords from building in-laws or granny homes, and reduce the amount of available affordable housing. They also argued that the measure could push landlords to take units off the market, leading to fewer available units and higher rents in the city. Measure Y passed with 56 percent of voters voting “yes”.


There were several other ballot measures related to rent control throughout the Bay Area, and results were mixed. One thing is clear: There is still much that needs to be changed before housing and homelessness crises are eradicated from the Bay Area.