Rent and Eviction Controls on the November Ballot in Six Bay Area Cities

Voters in six Bay Area cities in four Bay Area counties will determine the outcome of eight ballot measures on rent and eviction control. Two of the cities will have city council-sponsored measures competing against voter initiatives.

2 minute read

September 16, 2016, 7:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

Tenants' Rights

a katz / Shutterstock

From an economist's perspective, rent control is a loser. That's the thrust of a comprehensive piece on Bay Area rent and eviction control ballot measures by Kathleen Pender, San Francisco Chronicle business columnist (as well as a Planetizen blog post last year by Michael Lewyn).

Pender presents surveys and studies that back-up that perspective. The onus of maintaining affordability for regulated buildings is placed on landlords and newer tenants without doing anything to address the greater problem, lack of housing supply.

At the same time, it's easy to understand why these measures get on the ballot in the Bay Area.

Since 2010, the average asking rent for units of all sizes in the nine-county Bay Area has risen by roughly $1,000, or 66 percent, to $2,504, according to Novato research firm Real Answers.

And then there are the egregious examples of rent increases and evictions that occur in many of the region's communities. For example, the plight of a 97-year-old Burlingame resident (see 'Measure R' below) served a 60-day eviction notice after living in her rental for 66 years was reported in the Daily Mail (United Kingdom) on Feb. 24. On March 6, the paper reported she died.

What's particularly helpful is that Pender explains California legislation that places limits on the protections that ballot measures can seek. 

For example, renters living in 21-year old or newer apartment buildings "and all single-family home and condos" can not be protected by rent control measures per the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act [PDF-Calif. Apartment Association].

It also said that when tenants voluntarily vacate a rent-controlled unit, owners can charge the next tenant market rates, but after that it becomes subject to the annual rent control limit.

However, all rentals, regardless of age and building type, are not exempt from eviction control measures placed on the ballot, allowing "cities to limit evictions to specified just causes, including those allowed under a 1985 law known as the Ellis Act," writes Pender, though some of the below measures "also exempt single-family homes and newer condos from eviction controls."

  • Alameda County [PDF]Alameda: Measures L1, a city council initiative and M1, a voter initiative
            • Oakland — Measure JJ, a city council initiative
  • Contra Costa County [PDF]Richmond — Measure L, a city council initiative
  • San Mateo CountyBurlingame — Measure R, voter initiative
          •  San Mateo — Measure Q, voter initiative
  • Santa Clara County [PDF]Mountain View — Measures V, a voter initiative, and W, a city council initiative

Pender describes the basics of each of the above ballot measures.

Related Planetizen posts:

Saturday, September 10, 2016 in San Francisco Chronicle

Chicago Intercity Rail

Amtrak Ramping Up Infrastructure Projects

Thanks to federal funding from the 2021 infrastructure act, the agency plans to triple its investment in infrastructure improvements and new routes in the next two years.

September 25, 2023 - Smart Cities Dive

Google maps street view of San Francisco alleyway.

Ending Downtown San Francisco’s ‘Doom Loop’

A new public space project offers an ambitious vision—so why is the city implementing it at such a small scale?

September 26, 2023 - Fast Company

Google street view of yellow "End Freeway 1/4 mile" sign on 90 freeway in Los Angeles, California.

Proposal Would Transform L.A.’s ‘Freeway to Nowhere’ Into Park, Housing

A never-completed freeway segment could see new life as a mixed-use development with housing, commercial space, and one of the county’s largest parks.

September 26, 2023 - Los Angeles Times

Blue and green city bus blurred in transit on New York City street.

How to Measure Transit Equity

A new report highlights the need to go beyond traditional equity metrics to assess how public transit systems are serving the lowest-income and most disadvantaged riders.

48 minutes ago - Mineta Institute

Sketch of proposed city with buildings, trees, and people.

Why Brand New Cities Won’t Solve Our Urban Problems

Building cities takes time and resources. Why not spend them on fixing the ones we have?

1 hour ago - The Atlantic

Historic brick sugar refinery building redeveloped with glass office tower inside and yellow Domino Sugar sign

Former Brooklyn Sugar Refinery Reopens as All-Electric Office Tower

A historic building was reimagined as a 15-story office tower powered by renewable energy.

2 hours ago - Untapped Cities

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.