Public Comment

A Strong Rent Board for a Berkeley We Can All Call Home

By Nicole Drake, Jack Harrison, Judy Shelton, Jesse Townley and Igor Tregub
Monday November 03, 2008 - 01:28:00 PM

You might be a tenant who has discovered mold in her kitchen. Your landlord is being dismissive of this grave impact on your habitability. Whom can you turn to? Since you reside in this city, you call 510-981-RENT, get in touch with a case counselor, and, if this does not resolve the issue, take your case to the nine elected Rent Stabilization Board commissioners. The landlord complies, and your faith in the rule of law is restored. 

You might be a homeowner struggling to pay down the mortgage on your house. With a rising cost of living and no sign of increases in your wage, staying one step ahead of the bill collectors is quickly becoming a full-time occupation. Whom can you turn to? You contact Rent Board commissioners, who can either walk you through the kinds of rights you possess when threatened with a foreclosure or can refer you to agencies which help you set things right again.  

The Berkeley Rent Board is the last bastion of progressive policymaking in Berkeley. Its power to provide housing and rental policy guidance to the Berkeley City Council, resolve tenant-landlord disputes, and inform tenants of their rights and responsibilities makes it continuously relevant to all of Berkeley. 

This year, we face unique challenges on several fronts. It is incumbent upon Rent Board commissioners and staff to educate the most vulnerable groups of tenants—students, new Berkeley residents, and senior citizens—about their rights and the Rent Board’s ability to fight for them. It is crucial that we work across the county and the state to create long-term solutions to the foreclosure crisis that has gripped the Bay Area with an iron fist. It is necessary to travel to Sacramento and develop connections with Sacramento legislators until housing is viewed as a fundamental right throughout California. 

The progressive slate of Rent Board candidates—Nicole Drake, Jack Harrison, Judy Shelton, Jesse Townley, and Igor Tregub—pledge to roll up our sleeves and meet these challenges head on. For these reasons, we were selected by nearly 200 tenants, activists, and students at last August’s convention held by the Committee to Defend Affordable Housing. To these ends, we were endorsed by Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, four Berkeley Council Members, Berkeley Citizens Action, and dozens of other clubs, organizations, and individuals. 

The five of us bring numerous attributes that are unique among the candidates. Nicole Drake is a Berkeley City Council legislative aide and the Co-Chair of the Housing Advisory Commission. Jack Harrison is an incumbent and current Vice-Chair of the Rent Board as well as a lifelong housing rights attorney. Judy Shelton coordinated volunteers in last spring’s campaign to defeat Proposition 98, which would have taken thousands of affordable housing units off the market. Jesse Townley is the appointee of the late and irreplaceable Council Member Dona Spring to the Fire and Disaster Preparedness Commission and its former Chair, as well as a neighborhood and arts advocate. Igor Tregub is Dona Spring’s appointee and Chair of the Labor Commission, a Cal alum, and former UC student government senator and city affairs advisor. We have among us more than 50 years of experience in advocating for Berkeleyans like you. 

The five of us will use our expertise and passion to help ensure that the progressive housing policies we develop will receive the support of a broad coalition of city, county, and state lawmakers. We will work tirelessly to stop the loss of diversity that occurs every time another resident is priced out of Berkeley. We will defend the right of every tenant to live in seismically safe units yet ensure that the costs of retrofitting will not be passed on to tenants. We will work with the Mayor and City Council to promote affordable and green technology in buildings, such as solar panels and composting. 

Just like the Rent Board, our progressive slate indeed offers something to every Berkeley resident. If you have suggestions, please let us know by visiting For a Berkeley we can all call home, please support Nicole Drake, Jack Harrison, Judy Shelton, Jesse Townley, and Igor Tregub. 

Nicole Drake, Jack Harrison, Judy Shelton, Jesse Townley, and Igor Tregub are candidates for the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board.