City of Richmond passes rent control

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by Tony Roshan Samara, Urban Habitat

By a 4-1 vote, the City of Richmond passed a rent control and just cause eviction law on Tuesday, July 21. This is a watershed moment for renters throughout the region and the state, as it’s the first new rent control law in California in decades.

Richmond turned out in force to rally for rent control. – Photo: Adam Hudson
Richmond turned out in force to rally for rent control. – Photo: Adam Hudson

A broad coalition of tenants, labor allies, homeowners and progressive community groups packed the hearing chambers as Vice Mayor Jael Myrick joined Councilmembers Jovanka Beckles, Eduardo Martinez and Gayle McLaughlin in casting the votes to pass rent control. These councilmembers withstood an aggressive and well-funded lobbying effort by real estate industry representatives that tried in vain to persuade the Council that rent control was the wrong answer to rising rents and displacement.

Councilmember Nathaniel Bates cast the lone vote against the measure in the end. Mayor Thomas Butt and Councilmember Vinay Pimple were vehemently opposed but did not cast votes. In a dramatic moment just before the vote when it became clear that Vice Mayor Myrick was going to support rent control, Mayor Butt stated: “I’m leaving. I can’t deal with this,” at which point he stood up and left the meeting, followed by Councilmember Pimple. Moments later, by a 4-1 vote, the Council passed rent control.

The Richmond Coalition for Fair Rents and Just Cause included AFSCME Local 3299, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, California Nurses Association, CCISCO (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, Tenants Together, Urban Habitat and Urban Tilth.

A broad coalition of tenants, labor allies, homeowners and progressive community groups packed the hearing chambers as Vice Mayor Jael Myrick joined Councilmembers Jovanka Beckles, Eduardo Martinez and Gayle McLaughlin in casting the votes to pass rent control.

Rent control ordinances are critical to help stabilize communities in the face of tremendous real estate speculation. For example, despite the Silicon Valley economic boom, communities with rent control ordinances, such as East Palo Alto, have been able to prevent the displacement that usually results from increased housing prices. It is for this reason that more and more communities around the region are mobilizing for renters’ rights!

Now more than ever we need to build on this momentum and make sure that all tenants are protected against unfair rent increases and arbitrary evictions.

Tony Roshan Samara of Urban Habitat can be reached at tony@urbanhabitat.org.

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