Rent, Housing, Beverage Taxes on Alameda County Ballot

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Monday October 24, 2016 - 03:51:00 PM

Rent stabilization, renter protection, housing and beverage taxes are some of the biggest issues being considered by voters around Alameda County on Nov. 8. 

One of the most contested issues in Berkeley is business taxes, with two competing measures on the ballot. 

Measure U1, which was placed on the ballot by the City Council, would raise the business tax license fee on revenue for landlords with more than five rental units from 1.081 percent to 2.8 percent. 

Measure DD, which was placed on the ballot by the Berkeley Property Owners, would raise the business tax on all rentals by a smaller amount, from 1.081 percent to 1.5 percent. 

Measure U1 would exempt large new apartment complexes for the first 12 years of occupancy and affordable housing units run by nonprofits, but Measure DD would treat all landlords equally. 

Measure U1 supporters say it would raise up to $3.45 million a year for the city and Measure DD backers said their measure would raise $1.4 million annually. 

If both measures pass, the measure with the most votes will take effect. 

There also are two competing minimum wage measures on the Berkeley ballot, but in a strange twist the Berkeley City Council and labor leaders are urging citizens to vote against both of them. 

That's because the council, which previously hadn't been able to reach a consensus on the issue, voted unanimously at a special meeting in late August to raise the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour by Oct. 1, 2018. But by that time it was too late to take the two measures off of the ballot. 

Measure BB, which was put on the ballot by the council's majority earlier this year, would have raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2019, a slightly less aggressive timeline. 

Measure CC, which was supported by labor groups, was more aggressive and would have called for reaching $15 an hour in 2017. 

If both measures pass, the one with the most votes wins. 

Measure Y1 in Berkeley would allow youths ages 16 and 17 to vote in school board elections. 

Supporters say that by lowering the voting age, the city will increase voter turnout and give young adults the ability to influence the direction of their local schools. 

They say only two other cities in the U.S. allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote "and the results are very encouraging." 

No argument was submitted against the measure. 

Measure T1 in Berkeley is a $100 million infrastructure bond to repair, renovate, replace and reconstruct the city's aging infrastructure and facilities, including sidewalks, storm drains, parks, streets and senior centers. 

The city says the average annual cost over the 40-year period the bonds are outstanding would be $90 for homes assessed at $425,000 and $128 for homes assessed at $600,000. 

No argument was submitted against the measure. 


Oakland's Measure JJ would expand eviction protections under the city's existing Just Cause for Eviction ordinance so that the rules would apply to virtually all apartments. 

Currently, apartment units built after 1983 don't fall under the city's eviction protections so landlords can evict tenants for almost any reason in those building when their leases expire, according to Measure JJ supporters, including City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan. 

Community leaders say the displacement crisis is forcing out long-time residents and destroying the city's unique communities. 

Opponents, including Jill Broadhurst, the executive director of the East Bay Rental Housing Association, say Measure JJ would negatively impact both property owners and renters because it would make it more difficult to remove drug dealers and individuals causing a nuisance in neighborhoods. 

They also allege that Oakland's "just cause" eviction ordinance already "has come at extreme cost to renters overall" because the scarcity of housing it has created has driven rents in Oakland well above the national average "and made it extremely difficult for lower-income residents to compete for scarce housing." 

The city of Alameda's Measure L1 would affirm the rent stabilization ordinance approved by the City Council in March that requires mediation for rent increases above 5 percent, prohibits mass evictions of entire buildings and requires landlords to pay relocation fees when terminating certain tenancies. 

Supporters say Alameda is facing an affordability crisis and must take action to protect affordable housing options for families, seniors and children. 

A competing measure, Measure M1, which was placed on the ballot by the Alameda County Labor Council, teachers and firefighters, would limit annual rent increases to 65 percent of the consumer price index, prohibit "no cause" evictions and require landlords to pay evicting relocation fees ranging from $7,300 to $18,300 when ending certain tenancies. 

It also would create a rent board. 

Measure M1 opponents, including several City Council members and Kathleen Schumacher of the Alameda Citizens Task Force, alleged that "it was pushed on the ballot by out-of-town interests and creates an unproven, massive new bureaucracy that will cost residents $3.7 million per year and may not solve the affordability problem. 

The opponents say M1 is inflexible and not easily amendable and they don't think strict rent control will work, pointing to steep rent increases in San Francisco since a rent control ordinance was implemented in 1979. 

Broadhurst from the East Bay Rental Housing Association opposes both Alameda rental measures. She said L1 "will lead to owners selling their buildings because of the layers of red tape and higher city-created fees." 

If L1 and M1 both pass, the measure that gets the most votes wins. 

Countywide Measure A1, which was placed on the ballot by a unanimous vote of the county Board of Supervisors, would raise up to $580 million in general obligation bonds to provide affordable housing and prevent displacement of vulnerable populations such as low-income households, veterans and seniors. 

The money, which would last for 23 years, would pay for acquiring or improving properties, up to 8,500 units of affordable rental housing, supportive housing for homeless people and helping low- and middle-income households buy homes. 

For the owner of a home with an assessed value of $430,000, the tax would average about $50 a year with a top rate of $60 in 2023. 

Proponents say the measure is needed because there's a housing crisis in Alameda County in which many working families spend more than half their income on housing and housing has become expensive and hard to find. 

No argument against the measure was submitted. 

Another housing-related measure is Oakland's Measure KK, which is a bond measure that would raise $600 million to repair streets and sidewalks and repair and improved city-owned facilities such as libraries, parks, recreational facilities and police buildings would account for $150 million of the bond proceeds. 

It would also include $100 million for affordable housing to prevent displacing current residents who can't afford the city's rising housing costs. 

The bond measure would add about $60 to the annual property tax bill of a home assessed at $250,000, which is the median in Oakland. 

Supporters, including Mayor Libby Schaaf and several City Council members, say the measure "takes a major step toward keeping Oakland, Oakland" because it will allow the city to protect residents from being forced to move out of affordable housing and keep long-term residents in the city. 

Opponents, including Broadhurst, say, "How can the proponents say that this measure will protect Oaklanders when they add costs to all residents? All residents matter and all will feel this enormous tax increase." 

Measure O1 in Albany and Measure HH in Oakland would both impose a one-cent-per-ounce general tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. 

"Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that consumption of sugary drinks causes widespread health problems starting in childhood," supporters of both measures say in identical ballot arguments. 

Among the illnesses linked to sugary drink consumption are diabetes, obesity, tooth decay, heart disease and strokes, according to the measures' supporters. 

Measure O1 opponents, including Sanjeev Dhungel, the owner of Everest Kitchen restaurant on Solano Avenue, say "The key problem with Measure O1 is that it is not a tax on sodas but a tax placed on local grocers and restaurant owners" and nothing in the measure prevents all of the tax from being passed onto consumers across any food or grocery item. 

Opponents of Measure HH, including Bishop Robert Jackson, the senior pastor of Acts Full Baptist Church, say, "Oakland has so many pressing problems and higher priorities that the last thing we need is a tax on groceries." 

Oakland's Measure LL would establish a police commission to oversee the city's Police Department. 

Supporters, including City Council members Noel Gallo and Dan Kalb, say, "Serious police misconduct impedes effective policing. We need improved oversight and effective discipline in order to better focus our police force on the things we want our officers doing: community policing in our neighborhoods, responding to 911 calls and investigating serious crimes." No argument against the measure was submitted. 

Oakland's Measure G1 would raise $12.4 million annually to give teachers a salary increase to try to retain them in Oakland. It also would pay for enhanced middle school art, music and language programs. 

Supporters, including school board vice president Nina Senn, say Oakland's teachers are among the lowest paid in the Bay Area, the school district is experiencing the worst teacher shortage in the state and it's important to recruit and retain quality teachers and provide middle school enrichment.