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How big money stole Richmond’s renters’ protections in less than a month

September 10, 2015

Part 1: 7,000 signatures collected to repeal rent control

by Lynda Carson

Richmond ACCE rallies for rent control in June.

Richmond ACCE rallies for rent control in June.

Sept. 3, 2015 – According to the Contra Costa Times, the California Apartment Association announced today that they collected over 7,000 signatures from Richmond residents to repeal renters’ protections. They need 4,100 valid signatures to turn in by Sept. 4. The signatures still need to be validated and turned in before they can be used.

According to the city attorney, if 10 percent of registered voters sign the petition and the signatures are validated, the ordinance is suspended. Then the City Council could repeal the ordinance or put it on the ballot at the next regular municipal election, scheduled for Nov. 16, 2016.

During July, a majority of Richmond City Council members voted to pass an ordinance to protect renters from displacement, which included rent control and just cause eviction protections.

It was a long-term effort to stop the displacement of renters facing eviction from increasing high rents, greedy landlords and sales of rental properties by realtors displacing families in the process. Rents have increased more than 24 percent in recent years in Richmond.

During July, a majority of Richmond City Council members voted to pass an ordinance to protect renters from displacement, which included rent control and just cause eviction protections.

It was also the first time in 30 years that rent control was passed by a California city to protect vulnerable renters facing the choice of going hungry to pay the rent or being pushed out of their housing.

Many groups were behind the organizing effort to protect renters from displacement in Richmond, including AFSCME Local 3299, ACCE (Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment), Tenants Together, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Building Blocks for Kids Richmond Collaborative, California Nurses Association, Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization, Centro Latino Cuzcatian, CUIDO (Communities United in Support of Olmstead), Eviction Defense Center, EBHO (East Bay Housing Organization), Iron Triangle Neighborhood Council, Richmond Progressive Alliance, Saffron Strand, SEIU Local 1021, Urban Habitat and Urban Tilth.

Another of many rallies was held July 21. – Photo: Adam Hudson

Another of many rallies was held July 21. – Photo: Adam Hudson

On the other side, many landlords, realtors, speculators, apartment owners and the wealthy elite have been opposed. Renters’ protections prevent the maximum exploitation of renters, especially the many families with children and the elderly who are being forced out of their housing due to increasing rents or no-cause evictions.

While announcing how many signatures were collected to repeal renters’ protections in Richmond, Tom Bannon of the California Apartment Association is reported as saying, “Rent control has been a failed public policy and doesn’t do what it’s intended to do.”

Eleanor Walden, former Berkeley Rent Stabilization member, is on the other side. “I want to congratulate Gayle McLaughlin and the Richmond Progressive Alliance for their efforts to establish rent stabilization in Richmond,” she said. “Rent control is about the right for decent housing for Richmond citizens who are poor and working class.

“The greed of the landlords and the stupidity of those who accept their self-serving line of argument obscures the facts: The unspoken underlying objection to controlled rent has to do with color and class bias in America. Small landlords who supply housing at rent controlled rates get a reasonable return on their investment or they can appeal to the Board for necessary increases upon justification. It is the corporate landholders who have the resources to mount opposition to decent housing legislation for their exaggerated profits.”

Feagley Realtors involved in attack on Richmond’s rent control

Jerry Feagley, owner of Feagley Realtors in Richmond, is involved in the attack against renters’ protections, including rent control and just cause eviction protection for tenants. Feagley Realtors has three offices. Petitions have been available at his offices for landlords to sign who are involved in the attack against renters’ protections.

During a discussion with Mr. Feagley on Sept. 3, he stated that he is against renters’ protections. He also mentioned that he has spoken out against renters’ protections at Richmond’s Council meetings.

“I spoke out against renters’ protections at the Richmond Council meetings,” said Feagley. “I believe that rent control creates higher rents for tenants. The existing system works fine, so why fix it if it is not broken?”

When I asked Mr. Feagley who is behind the petition to repeal renters’ protections in Richmond, he stated: “A number of property owners have organized together to come up with the petition against renters’ protections. I do not know if it will be successful, but I understand that they are very close to having collected enough signatures to repeal renters’ protections.”

“I spoke out against renters’ protections at the Richmond Council meetings,” said Feagley. “I believe that rent control creates higher rents for tenants. The existing system works fine, so why fix it if it is not broken?”

Mr. Feagley did not mention how much money he may have chipped in for the attack against renters’ protections in Richmond. He also refused to name others involved in the attack against renters or how many property owners actually are involved in the scheme. Additionally, he did not state why as a realtor he was concerned about higher rents for Richmond’s tenants.

Generally, realtors are totally against renters’ protections and just cause eviction protections because they want a property to be emptied of its tenants when it is being sold. They make more money when selling a property emptied of its tenants.

Confusion and lack of transparency

A recent report by the Contra Costa Times stated: “The source of the petition has remained in the shadows, renewing fears about big-money interests meddling in local politics and generating claims of misinformation being spread by paid signature gatherers to secure support.”

Other newspapers reported that it was a mystery as to who is behind the petition to repeal renters’ protections in Richmond.

The victory was short-lived.

The victory was short-lived.

According to reports, one person after another has also claimed that the people gathering signatures for the petition to repeal the renters’ protections have been telling lies to the public in an effort to trick them into signing it.

Richmond Public Library assistant Stacey Agnitsch stated that she was approached twice by petition gatherers who she believed lied to her when they falsely claimed the petition would make rent control stronger. Another resident named Eli Moore reported that a petitioner came to his door and claimed that the referendum was to prevent rents from going up because the city has voted to raise rents by 40 percent, which is not true.

An email sent out by the Richmond Progressive Alliance on Aug. 27 states: “We are reaching out to notify you of a misleading petition to repeal the new rent control ordinance in Richmond, Calif. This petition is being circulated by paid professionals who are now earning $12.50 per signature, funded by an anonymous group.

“If you have been contacted by one of these circulators, please disregard their fraudulent claims that the petition will support rent control. Not all of these circulators are making misleading or fraudulent claims, but we have received dozens of reports from residents and have cause to believe that up to half of their signatures are from supporters who have been otherwise fooled.

“This petition will not support rent control, and the groups working to stabilize rents in Richmond do not endorse it. The community groups supporting rent control are listed at the bottom of this message.”

This petition if validated will SUSPEND the ordinance until November 2016. During that time landlords will be free to unfairly raise rents and evict tenants without just cause.

It is now being reported that the signature gatherers have been getting paid as much as $20 a signature to repeal rent control in Richmond.

“This petition will not support rent control, and the groups working to stabilize rents in Richmond do not endorse it.”

Lori Kossowsky, a tenant advocate said, “I know several signature gatherers who have declined to collect signatures to repeal rent control in Richmond because they believe that it is immoral to be involved in such an endeavor. I also believe that many signature gatherers lied and confused people as a way to get them to sign the petition.”

It was reported that Tom Bannon of the California Apartment Association said, “I’m disappointed if there was confusion among folks who were asked to sign, but I have not heard that this was a widespread problem.”

This part of the story was first published on Indy Bay News Wire.

Part 2: Big money stole Richmond’s renters’ protections

Sept. 5, 2015 – Big money stole renters’ protections from Richmond’s renters this past week, as the California Apartment Association brags on its website about meddling in the affairs of local government policies in Richmond with a petition to repeal renters’ protections.

Rent control in Richmond is not a lost cause so long as Richmond progressives, who have slain other Goliaths, keep fighting. Against huge odds, progressive candidates won a majority on the City Council last year, capping off a vigorous campaign by inviting Sen. Bernie Sanders to speak. Posing with him are Team Richmond candidates Eduardo Rodriguez, Gayle McLaughlin, Jovanka Beckles and Tom Butt. Unfortunately, Mayor Butt is siding with CAA over rent control. – Photo: Malaika H Kambon

Rent control in Richmond is not a lost cause so long as Richmond progressives, who have slain other Goliaths, keep fighting. Against huge odds, progressive candidates won a majority on the City Council last year, capping off a vigorous campaign by inviting Sen. Bernie Sanders to speak. Posing with him are Team Richmond candidates Eduardo Rodriguez, Gayle McLaughlin, Jovanka Beckles and Tom Butt. Unfortunately, Mayor Butt is siding with CAA over rent control. – Photo: Malaika H Kambon

According to public records, during 2013 the California Apartment Association (CAA), a so-called nonprofit organization comprised of wealthy property owners, has assets totaling $7,256,302. Their wealth has grown immensely; CAA declared that during 2011 their total assets were $5,040,048. The CAA also claims that it has 13,000 members.

Additionally, their only apparent filing in recent years reveals that during 2007, the California Apartment Association Political Action Committee had a total of $574,924 in assets.

By meddling in the affairs of Richmond’s city government, the CAA managed to block rent control and just cause eviction protections that had been set to take effect on Sept. 4, 2015.

What the CAA has done is more than meddle in the affairs of Richmond; it has become an extreme annoyance to city government. The CAA hijacked renters’ protections with BIG MONEY, by financially backing a petition intended to block rent control and just cause eviction protections from going into effect.

Many Richmond voters were tricked into signing the petition by devious signature gatherers who were being paid anywhere from $12.50 to $20.00 per signature, according to numerous reports. The signature gatherers lied to people by telling them that the petition made rent control stronger or kept rents from increasing, according to testimony from renters and media reports.

Additionally, the CAA has crushed the hopes and dreams of families with children, disabled and elderly members, including school teachers, nurses, low-wage workers and thousands of other citizens in Richmond seeking protection from greedy landlords, realtors, speculators and apartment owners. Many are long-term residents who turned to their elected officials and lobbied them for assistance to stop families from being displaced from their community.

They are seeking nothing more than a fair deal through rent control and just cause eviction protections, as a way to keep from being displaced or made homeless – a fair deal that would allow landlords a fair return on their investments while at the same time allowing renters to keep paying their rent as long as they were not in breach of their contract or in violation of just cause eviction protections.

When Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke on behalf of Team Richmond on Oct. 16, 2014, he packed the Richmond Auditorium. – Photo: Malaika H Kambon

When Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke on behalf of Team Richmond on Oct. 16, 2014, he packed the Richmond Auditorium. – Photo: Malaika H Kambon

That fair deal on renters’ protections passed into law on Aug. 5, 2015, by a majority of elected Council members in the fair city of Richmond.

Instead of allowing rent control and just cause eviction protections to go into effect and work for all parties involved, the California Apartment Association decided to wage war against local city government policy and the renters of Richmond. This was done on behalf of greedy landlords, speculators, realtors and apartment owners.

How do you explain to a 5-year-old child who is hungry and needs medical care that there is not enough money anymore to provide for his or her needs because the landlord has mercilessly jacked up the rent by $300 and made the family homeless in the process?

In the latest Form 990 filed with the IRS for 2013, the CAA describes its mission very clearly: “The organization’s mission is to represent the ethical members of the rental housing industry in all aspects of government affairs within the State of California, and to provide information, products, and services which contribute to the success of their businesses.” The CAA does not mention what happens to unethical members of the housing industry who may be part of their organization.

Is your city next?

Presently, the CAA is meddling in the affairs of the City of San Mateo, and it appears to be “deja vu” in regards to what just happened in Richmond.

A Sept. 5 posting on the California Apartment Association’s (CAA) website says: “At its 7 p.m. meeting Tuesday, Sept. 8, the City of San Mateo will consider a request from Councilman David Lim to introduce a just cause eviction emergency ordinance. If the request is approved by the City Council, the item will advance to the Sept. 21 public hearing, where the ordinance can be officially voted on.

“If agendized and approved on Sept. 21, a just cause eviction emergency ordinance could take effect immediately and will apply to ALL rental housing regardless of size, type or year built.

Tenants who live in cities with rent control passionately defend it. These are New York City residents rallying for a stronger rent control law in the capitol in Albany in 2011. – Photo: by Paul Buckowski, Times Union

Tenants who live in cities with rent control passionately defend it. These are New York City residents rallying for a stronger rent control law in the capitol in Albany in 2011. – Photo: by Paul Buckowski, Times Union

“CAA Tri-County strongly opposes Just Cause Eviction. It is not a justified response to the region’s affordable housing shortage. A Just Cause Eviction ordinance does not create or promote new housing and severely limits the property owners’ ability to keep renters safe.

Click here to read more: http://caanet.org/call-to-action-oppose-just-cause-eviction-in-san-mateo/.

The facts reveal that just cause eviction ordinances help to keep renters safely in their homes when unscrupulous landlords try to evict households with no-cause evictions, no matter how the CAA may try to spin the facts.

Can the renters of San Mateo expect the same thing that just occurred in Richmond if their council votes to pass just cause eviction protections and the CAA responds with its corrupt meddling and BIG MONEY?

Santa Rosa is also considering rent control in their lovely city. Can Santa Rosa expect the CAA’s BIG MONEY meddling?

San Jose is considering just cause eviction protections. Will BIG MONEY from a so-called nonprofit entity be used to oppose those protections in San Jose?

Residents of Mountain View are also demanding a moratorium on rent increases. They are in direct opposition to the BIG MONEY interests of CAA and its wealthy members. Additionally, there are thousands locally in San Francisco fighting back against gentrification, displacement and homelessness.

The question arises: Is it ethical for a so-called nonprofit entity with BIG MONEY to promote policies that result in tens of thousands of families becoming homeless?

Is it ethical for a so-called nonprofit entity with BIG MONEY to promote policies that result in tens of thousands of families becoming homeless?

The CAA website claims 13,000 members in California and that its lobbyists meddling in the affairs of local governments throughout the state know how to make stuff happen. Their lobbying extends to state government in Sacramento, where they sway corrupt politicians with their BIG MONEY to vote their way.

The CAA wants the public to believe that meddling in the affairs of local and state government to promote their corrupting influence throughout the state is ethical. Some may find that very hard to believe.

Rent control is not a new issue. It has been protecting tenants for generations.

Rent control is not a new issue. It has been protecting tenants for generations.

The California Apartment Association (CAA) additionally claims that it has 25 board members, including five officers, with Tom Bannon as its CEO. The CAA claims that they have been in business for more than 70 years.

It appears that the CAA, a so-called nonprofit entity, has been in business for 70 years to serve the interests of greedy corporate property owners desperate enough to pay a fortune to make sure that renters are deprived of renters’ protections, including rent control and just cause eviction protections.

According to public records, during 2013, Thomas K. Bannon, CEO of CAA, raked in $300,653, including $24,265 in other compensation.

Renter’s protections, including rent control and just cause eviction protection ordinances, have been successful in protecting renters from greedy landlords, which is why the CAA spends BIG MONEY in the effort to oppose them throughout California.

Renters throughout California are being urged to join the battle against greedy landlords and their supporters by joining the organization called Tenants Together. Tenants Together is a nonprofit organization dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of California tenants to safe, decent and affordable housing. Learn more at http://www.tenantstogether.org/.

This part of the story was first published on Indy Bay News Wire.

Part 3: A peak at CAA, the nonprofit that stole Richmond’s renters’ protections

Sept. 7, 2015 – Now that the California Apartment Association (CAA) has blocked the implementation of renters’ protections, including rent control and just cause eviction protections, in Richmond, thousands of renters are at risk of being severely exploited with massive rent increases. Additionally, thousands more are now at risk of displacement and homelessness due to no-cause evictions.

The CAA hijacked renters’ protections in Richmond with BIG MONEY by financially backing a petition intended to block rent control and just cause eviction protections from going into effect on Sept. 4, 2015 – a petition that many were tricked into signing by devious signature gatherers who were being paid anywhere from $12.50 to $20.00 per signature, according to numerous reports. They lied to people by telling them that the petition made rent control stronger or kept rents from increasing, according to testimony from renters and media reports.

Most unseemly, the CAA is bragging about the way renters’ protections have been hijacked from Richmond’s renters.

An inside look at the CAA

The CAA is listed as a nonprofit corporation , a 501(c)(6) with tax exempt status. It was formed in 1940, claims 13,000 members and is headquartered at 980 Ninth St., Suite 1430, in Sacramento.

Tenants facing eviction hold a rally outside San Francisco City Hall in November 2013. The city’s rent control law is not strong or comprehensive enough to stop unprecedented rent increases from driving all but the rich from San Francisco. – Photo: Bryan Goebel, KQED

Tenants facing eviction hold a rally outside San Francisco City Hall in November 2013. The city’s rent control law is not strong or comprehensive enough to stop unprecedented rent increases from driving all but the rich from San Francisco. – Photo: Bryan Goebel, KQED

According to public records, the CAA had $7,256,302 in assets in 2013, a sharp increase over the $5,040,048 in assets reported for 2011. Its net worth in 2013 was $6,744,247. CEO Thomas K. Bannon was paid $300,653 including $24,265 in other compensation in 2013, and all salaries, other compensation and employee benefits paid in 2013 totaled $3,671,833.

“The organization’s mission is to represent the ethical members of the rental housing industry in all aspects of government affairs within the State of California, and to provide information, products, and services which contribute to the success of their businesses,” according to its website. The CAA does not mention what happens to unethical members who may be part of their organization.

Now the CAA is doing everything possible to undermine the efforts to win a just cause eviction ordinance in San Mateo.

The political power and influence of the CAA

The CAA collects political contributions that may be used to influence the selection, nomination and election of political candidates throughout California. This is done in an effort to pursue untold riches from renters who are being ripped off by greedy landlords.

The corrupting political influence of the California Apartment Association (CAA) and its Political Action Committee in this state is widespread and unrelenting. The CAA PAC hands out the money hand over fist in an effort to influence the selection, nomination and election of political candidates at the state and local level.

Election Track reports the CAA PAC had $540, 646 cash on hand on June 30, 2015, and lists the 23,420 contributors who provided it. The CAA PAC’s contributions to political campaigns totaled $430,700 in 2012, $74,500 in 2011, $545,088 in 2010, $301,532 in 2008, $129,727 in 2007, $340,192 in 2006, $105,000 in 2005 and $364,300 in 2004.

The CAA collects political contributions that may be used to influence the selection, nomination and election of political candidates throughout California. This is done in an effort to pursue untold riches from renters who are being ripped off by greedy landlords.

For the eight years from 2004 to 2012, the grand total spent to influence politicians was a whopping $2,161,312. That is a lot of money to buy power, corrupt the system, influence elections and deprive as many renters as possible of renters’ protections throughout California.

Follow the money.org lists and links to CAA PAC political campaign contributions. Campaign contributions for 2007 are not available there, but FoundationCenter.org lists the candidates the CAA PAC supported that year.

In a story headlined “CAA-backed candidates win seats in L.A.,” CAA boasts of what its BIG MONEY can do – or buy.

CAA’s latest IRS Form 990 is available on FoundationCenter.org.

Lynda Carson may be reached at tenantsrule@yahoo.com. This story was first published on Indy Bay News Wire.

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5 thoughts on “How big money stole Richmond’s renters’ protections in less than a month

  1. Sandra Davenport

    I couldn't disagree more. Rent control will not solve our housing shortage, it will only assist the few who are lucky enough to find a rent-controlled rental.
    Let it be known that MANY of us signed the petition willingly and even sought it out to find it. The volunteer who gave me the petition was just that. A VOLUNTEER. We were not all bought out by realtors. Many of us do not want rent control in Richmond and feel our city council highjacked us all.

    Reply
  2. Mansoor Sabri

    "The CAA has crushed the hopes and dreams of families"

    Only families that are lucky enough to find and keep these rent controlled apartments. What about families from elsewhere in the Bay Area who will now have to pay more for rent in Richmond because the supply will be taken up by those lucky few who will never move?

    Rents are high in the Bay Area, it is a problem. But the solution to high rents is not to reduce the supply of apartments. In fact, this drives up the price of apartments by protecting those lucky few. Section 8 is a much better program and the RPA should focus on supporting Section 8 or model a local program off of that.

    Reply

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