Kavanagh Resigns from Rent Stabilization Board

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday February 12, 2008

Chris Kavanagh has stepped down from his seat on the Rent Stabilization Board, resigning retroactive to Feb. 1. 

An elected member of the board since 2002, Kavanagh faces charges of seven possible felonies stemming from accusations that, while serving as an elected official in Berkeley and claiming to live in Berkeley, he actually lived in Oakland. 

“It is with a profound—and simultaneous—sense of joy and regret that I am announcing my departure from the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, effective this past Feb.1,” Kavanagh wrote in a mid-afternoon e-mail Monday to the Daily Planet, before making the termination official with the Rent Stabilization Board. 

Kavanagh’s e-mail touched on his legal situation. Most of the time since his election, he said, he had two residences, one in Berkeley and one in Oakland. But, he admitted, in part of 2006 and 2007 he lived only in Oakland. 

The e-mail said: “Like scores of Berkeley homeowners who own or rent second residences outside Berkeley, since 2002, I rented two separate living spaces: one in Berkeley and a second space in Oakland (located a block from Berkeley). 

“I lived in my Berkeley unit to comply with the city’s residency requirement to hold public office. I rented my Oakland unit because I did not wish to give up a beautiful living space that I had originally acquired through a friend before I was elected to the Rent Board in 2002.” 

Kavanagh went on to say in his letter that during parts of 2006 and 2007 he had to “involuntarily” vacate his Berkeley unit “and was unable to technically comply with Berkeley’s residency requirement. This latter period of time is the reason for the current legal allegations that have been filed against me.” 

Reached Monday afternoon, Kavanagh’s attorney, James Giller, said his client will be back in court Feb. 22 and declined to comment on the case. 

Rent Stabilization Board Executive Director Jay Kelekian said he has yet to receive a formal letter of resignation from Kavanagh, but was told to expect one. He said the board would vote at either its February or its March meeting to replace him. 

Under normal circumstances, in November there would be four rent board seats up for election, but in Nov. 2008, there will be five vacancies on the board if Kavanagh resigns. The candidate receiving the fifth-highest vote will complete Kavanagh’s term, which ends in 2010. The four higher vote getters will get four-year terms. 

In his e-mail, Kavanagh apologizes, saying, “In retrospect, I should have either resigned my commissioner seat or sought to rent a new Berkeley living space as quickly as possible. Ultimately, I was able to rent a new Berkeley space but I regret my delay in doing so. For this lapse, I apologize to my Berkeley constituents and colleagues.” 

It remains to be seen whether Kavanagh’s mea culpa will make the prosecution more sympathetic to his cause. Unconfirmed reports from behind-the-scenes sources say discussions between Kavanagh’s attorney and the district attorney are ongoing.