Tenants protest rent control initiative
November 15, 2007 9:23 AM
Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) hosted a rally in front of City Hall today, denouncing a potential ballot initiative that would eliminate rent control throughout the state.
The measure, sponsored the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, a conservative property rights group, is an attempt to reform the state constitution around eminent domain issues, but contains language that would phase out statewide affordable housing laws. According to Leno, the measure has been written to deliberately mislead the public.
“We’re here to oppose a hidden agenda scheme dressed up as a reform to eminent domain,” Leno said.
SF State student, Joana Allis, 21, a senior social work major, said rent control is a necessary part of living in San Francisco. She was at the rally with the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, collecting signatures for a different measure that would reform eminent domain laws without abolishing rent control.
“For students that are living off student loans or their part-time jobs, it's impossible to pay market rate rent within San Francicso without rent control,” Allis said.
Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Foundation said the initiative is intended to protect the property of citizens from being seized by the government and given to “big-box” chain stores, or to build sports stadiums or hotels.
He said the foundation’s initiative plans to phase out rent control regulations, allowing current tenants to stay in rent-controlled units until they voluntarily vacate.
“Once a [tenant] vacates, the unit will permanently go off rent control,” said Coupal, “Nobody in San Francisco is going to be tossed out of their apartments because of these initiatives.”
Coupal added that landlord groups did not think the initiative went far enough, complaining it did not immediately end rent control regulations. However, Coupal said the intent was to gradually end the price-fixing over a period as a many as 30 years.
According to the San Francisco Rent Board, most residential rental units in buildings that were constructed before 1979 are covered by rent control. City law also requires 12 percent of units in newly constructed developments be made available at below-market rates.
Tenant's rights advocates argued that the rent-control clause would only exacerbate the gap between wealthy and poor and create a bigger homelessness problem in San Francisco.
“It’s a battle of education and letting people know what’s up.” said Powell DeGange, 22, a counselor at the Housing Rights Committee. “Eminent domain has nothing to do with rent control.”
The Howard Jarvis foundation is known for spearheading the campaign for the 1978 California ballot initiative Proposition 13, which put a cap on the rate in which local governments could tax properties.
Leno said the foundation’s new measure was “the son” of Proposition 90, a similar eminent domain ballot initiative narrowly defeated by voters in 2006.
In his speech before the crowd gathered at the civic center, Leno said the Jarvis initiative also presented a danger to environmental and fiscal stability of California by redefining how local and city governments can identify projects for public use.
“It’s a taking of our home and welfare from California citizens,” Leno said.
Coupal said his organization is very close to reaching the required number of signatures required to move the initiative forward and fully anticipates it being on the June 2008 ballot.
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