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Meeting Attendance an Issue in Rent Board Race

By Rob Wrenn
Friday October 19, 2012 - 02:44:00 PM

All four of the incumbent members of the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board whose four-year terms are up this year are seeking re-election. One of them, Nicole Drake, has a very poor attendance record.

The other three are running on the “Affordable Housing” slate selected at a convention of rent control supporters this summer. They are Asa Dodsworth, Judy Shelton, and Igor Tregub. They are joined on the Affordable Housing slate by Alejandro Soto-Vigil, vice chair of the City’s Housing Advisory Commission and a legislative aide to Councilmember Kriss Worthington.

The Committee for a Progressive Berkeley, an independent expenditure committee supporting the Affordable Housing slate, raised the issue of Nicole Drake's attendance in one of their mailers..What are the facts?

Here are the absentee rates for the four commissioners seeking reelection for the period beginning after the last election in 2010. The first table is for full Board meetings, both regularly scheduled and special meetings. The second is for attendance at meetings of the various committees that commissioners serve on, currently totaling nine.

Absentee Rates

Incumbent Rent Board Candidates

Regular and Special Board Meetings
Candidate Meetings Absent
Igor Tregub (AH) 0%
Asa Dodsworth (AH) 4%
Judy Shelton (AH) 4%
Nicole Drake (TUFF) 41%

Based on attendance at meetings from Dec. 2010 - Sept. 2012.
AH = “Affordable Housing” Slate; TUFF = “Tenants United For Fairness” Slate
Source: Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board,

Absentee Rates

Incumbent Rent Board Candidates

Committee Meetings
Candidate Meetings Absent
Igor Tregub (AH) 0%
Judy Shelton (AH) 0%
Asa Dodsworth (AH) 7%
Nicole Drake (TUFF) 64%

Based on attendance at meetings from Jan. 2011 – June 2012, the latest available online; does not include meetings with no minutes available
AH = “Affordable Housing” Slate; Tuff = “Tenants United For Fairness” Slate
Commissioners typically serve on 3 or 4 committees;
Source: Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board,

Nicole Drake, a legislative aide to Vice-Mayor Linda Maio, is running on a slate calling itself Tenants United for Fairness. Other slate members are Kiran Shenoy, an attorney and police review commissioner; Judy J. Hunt, a commissioner on the Alameda County Commission on Aging, and an owner of rental property; and Jay James, a mechanical engineer with no prior record of public service. The TUFF Web site, as of today, provides no information about how this slate was formed. 

Unlike members of other boards and commissions in the city, rent board commissioners are elected rather than appointed, and they receive stipends of $500 a month. Commissioners, not surprisingly, are expected to attend regular and special full Board meetings and meetings of various board committees. 

In October 2011, Attorney Anna DeLeon, on behalf of Patti Dacey, had filed a complaint with the Rent Board director, City Attorney and City Clerk, arguing that Nicole Drake had effectively abandoned her office by not attending meetings for at least three consecutive months. Drake missed a majority of meetings in 2011 and also has the worst attendance record in 2012. 

After this complaint was made, the Rent Board voted to publish attendance records. Nicole Drake was the only commissioner to vote against the proposal. 


Conventions to select a slate of Rent Board candidates, open to anyone who supports rent control, have taken place every election year since 1994. In 1994 and 1998, slates selected at these conventions were challenged by slates that drew support from many landlords as well as from then-Mayor Shirley Dean and her political allies. The convention-nominated slates, with backing from most student and tenant voters along with a sizable chunk of homeowner voters, prevailed, and since 1998, have faced no significant challenge at the polls until this year. 

The Costa Hawkins bill, which passed in 1995, had taken full effect by the beginning of the 2000s. It ended Berkeley’s strong rent control law, allowing landlords to raise rents to market rate upon vacancy. Berkeley landlords apparently lost interest in financing electoral challenges to the convention-endorsed tenant-backed slates every two years. 

This year, however, the president of the Berkeley Property Owners Association, Sid Lakireddy, is urging landlords to contribute money to the TUFF slate. A Form 401 (Slate Mailer Organization Campaign Statement) filed with the City Clerk on October 5, shows that all but one of the donors of $100 or more to the TUFF slate are connected with property management firms in the Bay Area. 

All members of the new TUFF slate are endorsed by Councilmembers Moore, Capitelli, Wengraf and Wozniak. Mayor Tom Bates has endorsed Nicole Drake, as has Linda Maio, who has also endorsed candidates Shenoy and James. Members of the Affordable Housing slate are endorsed by Councilmembers Anderson, Arreguin and Worthington. 

All members of the Affordable Housing slate and three out of four members of the TUFF slate are Democrats. Igor Tregub was a delegate to this year’s Democratic Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Berkeley Democratic Club (BDC), the city’s more conservative Democratic club is backing the 3 Democrats on the TUFF slate, while other more liberal and progressive Democratic Clubs, including the Cal Berkeley Democrats, the John George Democratic Club, and the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club are backing the Affordable Housing slate. The BDC has a history of backing the landlord-financed slates that have run since Rent Stabilization Board commissioner became an elective office in 1984. 

The Affordable Housing slate is also endorsed by the Sierra Club (candidate Igor Tregub is part of the club’s Northern Alameda County Executive Committee), the Green Party and Berkeley Citizen’s Action, and SEIU Local 1021, the public sector union that represents city employees. The TUFF slate does not have organizational endorsements, other than BDC, as of this writing. 

The TUFF slate is making an issue of the 2011-2012 Alameda County Grand Jury Report , which made recommendations related to personnel procedures, the evaluation and salary of the Board’s director, and rental unit registration fees. 

The Rent Stabilization Board’s detailed 29-page response to the Grand Jury recommendations can be found here:  





Rob Wrenn, a former chair of the Planning and Transportation Commissions, helped organize the first open convention of rent control supporters that selected a slate of candidates in 1994.