Page One

Tenant law at top of council agenda

By John Geluardi Daily Planet staff
Tuesday May 15, 2001


The City Council will consider amending the Berkeley Municipal Ordinance to require landlords, who are evicting tenants under the Ellis Act, to offer displaced tenants available units in other properties they own. 

In February the council asked the city attorney to draft an ordinance that would help protect tenants being evicted under the Ellis Act. The council requested the ordinance to protect tenants in three ways. It would require landlords to offer tenants available units in other residential property they owned, require that those units be offered at the same monthly rent as the “Ellised” unit and it would also require landlords own rental property for a specified amount of time before using the Ellis Act to evict tenants. 

The Ellis Act is a state law that allows landlords to evict tenants provided they take the property off the rental market for at least three years. 

But the city attorney wrote in her report to council that the city can only require landlords to offer tenants available space. According to the report, it would be illegal, under the Costa Hawkin’s Act, to require the monthly rent to stay the same if a tenant decided to take an available unit.  

Also requiring landlords to own a property for a specified time before evicting tenants would be unenforceable under the Ellis Act. 

Moratorium in the MULI 

Another issue will be a moratorium on new office development in west Berkeley. The Planning Commission recommended the council enact a one-year moratorium on office development in the Mixed Use-Light Industrial District, also known as the MULI, in west Berkeley. 

The staff report on the recommendation states the moratorium should remain in effect until the impact of the growing number of offices on blue-collar jobs and artists can be determined. 

Another concern is increased traffic congestion posed by more offices. The council report, approved by Planning Commission Chair Rob Wrenn, said that about 349,000-square feet of office space has been developed in the MULI in the last three years. 

This item has been on the council’s agenda for the last three meetings.  

Sunshine Ordinance 

The Sunshine Ordinance is back on the agenda after being pulled from the consent calendar on March 27. The ordinance will make it easier for the public to obtain city government information. 

The recommendation, sponsored by Councilmember Kriss Worthington, would set a timeline to establish an index of city records on the Web. The records would include all public records, documents and digital files including e-mails. 

The ordinance would also encourage law enforcement agencies to make police logs and records available to the public and the press. 

The recommendation was pulled from the consent calendar by Councilmember Polly Armstrong because she wanted to make sure the ordinance was needed. She said implementing the ordinance could be an expensive project and provide services that already exist. 

Closed session meeting 

The council will also hold a closed session meeting at 5:30 p.m. at 2180 Milvia St. in the sixth floor conference room.  

City officials are negotiating a new contract with the police department that will include a “3 percent at 50” clause that will allow police officers to retire at 50 years old with a pension that adds up to 3 percent of their current salary for every year they have worked. 

Once the plan is approved, it is expected that nearly 40 percent of the current police department will retire, leaving Berkeley to compete with other cities in the state for qualified police officers.  

The city is also negotiating an improved health benefits package for all emergency workers.