Big Money Spends a Fortune to Fight Rent Control

Wealthy landlords, realtors and developers have teamed up and are spending a fortune to fight the efforts of renters to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Act, the law that severely limits the rent control options of California cities. Tenants have also launched rent control campaigns in 10 California cities.

by Lynda Carson

With so much at stake for renters campaigning to repeal the notorious Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, it should be no surprise that wealthy landlords and property owners are already spending a fortune to fight back against the efforts to repeal it. Costa-Hawkins is the 1995 law that severely limits the rent control options of California cities.

Rent control and just cause eviction protections are the most effective ways for tenants to band together to slow down unbearable rent hikes, gentrification and evictions for profits.

In late April of 2018, the campaign to repeal Costa-Hawkins submitted over 565,000 signatures to place the Affordable Housing Act on the November 2018 ballot, which, if passed, would repeal the draconian Costa-Hawkins Act. Only 365,880 valid signatures were needed.

Wealthy landlords, realtors and developers have teamed up against renters, and the competing campaigns are gearing up for a huge battle to come.

The California Apartment Association (CAA) created the committee known as Californians for Responsible Housing for their campaign to fight back against repeal of the Costa-Hawkins Act. According to BallotPedia, $4,039,279 has been contributed to the CAA-backed committee, including $165,803 as in-kind services.

In contrast, the campaign to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Act has received contributions of only $2,095,000 and $70,491 as in-kind services, a total of $2,165,491 in campaign contributions.

These are the top five donors to the CAA-backed Californians for Responsible Housing:

  1. As of May 9, 2018, Essex Property Trust Inc. and affiliated entities contributed $2,267,330. In recent years, Essex also made a $100,000 donation to CAA to fight rent control ballot measures in California.
  2. Equity Residential contributed $429,900 and also donated $100,000 against rent control measures in California. Equity is a wealthy Chicago firm owned by billionaire Sam Zell. Zell contributed $100,000 to the failed Prop 98 initiative in 2008 that would have ended rent control in California.
  3. Avalonbay Communities, Inc., contributed $356,880.
  4. Prometheus Real Estate Group contributed $196,800 and an additional $150,000 to fight rent control. Prometheus is owned by a billionaire family.
  5. And the Spieker Companies, Inc., owned by 69-year-old Tod Spieker of Atherton, contributed $189,950. The wealthy landlord resides in a home valued at $12,587,532, and opposes protection of renters by rent control or just cause eviction ordinances.

During 2016, Essex Property Trust gave $100,000 to the CAA to suppress the vote against rent control ballot measures in Bay Area cities. Essex has been accused of illegal payroll practices and has been sued in a class action lawsuit at a number of properties in Fremont in recent years that resulted in a $650,000 settlement. Additionally, Essex and its subsidiaries have been sued for personal injury and property damage due to mold problems in their apartments and other properties.

The Prometheus Real Estate Group, owned by Jackie Diller Salfier and the Diller family, contributed $150,000 or more to the CAA for its campaigns against rent control ballot measures. Prometheus has also allegedly exposed residents to asbestos without warning them, in violation of Prop 65. The big landlord also displaced 400 people at a mobile home park and has been sued for exposing people to bed bugs, raw sewage and other habitability hazards in their apartments.

Richard “Tod” Spieker contributed $50,000 to the CAA and campaigns against rent control ballot measures in the Bay Area in recent years. Spieker has allegedly been involved in mass evictions and has been in trouble with HUD over habitability issues in some of his apartments.

In recent years, Woodmont Real Estate Services contributed $85,000 to the CAA in opposition to local rent control measures, and G.W. Williams Co. contributed $45,000. Both were involved in the mass evictions that occurred at the 73-unit Park Royal apartments in San Mateo. Woodmont is listed among contributors to the CAA-backed Californians for Responsible Housing.

Some of the California Apartment Association’s officers and directors are deeply involved in the campaign against the tenant activists campaigning to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Act, including the companies they are involved with that are contributors to the CAA-backed Californians for Responsible Housing.

According to their latest 2016 990 tax filing, the California Apartment Association (CAA) had gross receipts of $7,911,623. After subtracting their liabilities from their assets, the CAA had a fund balance or net assets of $5,870,158. In 2016, Thomas K. Bannon, CEO of the CAA, raked in $326,212, plus an additional $26,062 in other compensation from the organization.

Although the CAA claims to represent the ethical members of the rental housing industry, it appears that many of its members are ethically challenged.

In addition to the huge political battle building toward a showdown on the November ballot over repeal of the Costa-Hawkins Act, there are now rent control campaigns underway in 10 California cities.

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Activists all over California are working for rent control and eviction protections.


Rent Control Campaigns Have Been Launched in Ten California Cities

by Lynda Carson

Efforts to stabilize communities in California with much-needed rent control measures and just cause eviction protections are currently taking place in 10 cities throughout the state.

Rent control and just cause eviction protections are the only fair and humane ways to slow down greedy landlords and profiteering realtors from gouging renters with never-ending rent increases and unjust evictions. Landlords are displacing renters from their communities, and adding to the already dire affordable housing crisis in California.

Tenant activists now have ten rent control campaigns under way in California cities, including Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Santa Ana, Sacramento, Pomona, Pasadena, National City, Long Beach, Inglewood, and Glendale.

On May 9, activists in Inglewood filed more than 14,000 signatures with the city clerk; the coalition of activists needed around 10,000 valid signatures for the initiative to be placed on the ballot.

On May 11, the Movement for Housing Justice in Santa Cruz submitted more than 10,000 signatures in support of rent control — many more signatures than the 5,600 valid signatures that were needed to get on the November ballot.

Also, tenant activists are currently collecting signatures in Pomona to place a rent control measure on the ballot.

Additionally, the Affordable Housing Act should appear on the California ballot for people to vote for on November 6, 2018, to repeal the draconian Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act.

Oakland has the fastest pace for gentrification in the Bay Area, and repealing the Costa-Hawkins Act would stabilize communities, help to slow down the process of gentrification and evictions, and halt the exodus of people being forced out of their housing.

Rent control is already successfully protecting renters in the cities of Berkeley, Beverly Hills, Campbell, East Palo Alto, Fremont, Hayward, Los Angeles, Los Gatos, Oakland, Palm Springs, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Monica, Thousand Oaks and West Hollywood.

For those needing help in the Oakland area to fight an eviction, contact the Eviction Defense Center at 510/452-4541, East Bay Community Law Center 510/548-4040, or Bay Area Legal Aid 1-800-551-5554.

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