March 2015 News for Berkeley Property Owners & Housing Providers
In Case you need a copy of the March Worshop
Hand-out, link Here
NEXT MEMBERS MEETING
Saturday April 4th, 2015
Topic: Do I Need a Permit for THAT?
Ellie Leard, Building Inspector and Marcia Cook, Senior Permit Specialist from the City of Berkeley Planning will be with us to explain when you need a permit and when you don't. Save time, save money and stay safe.
Meet Happy Neighbors and find out about Move Out Resources and other UC Student Community issues
with Jen, Ruben and Leona
Refreshments: 9:30am Meeting: 10:00am sharp
St. Johns Presbyterian Church
2727 College Avenue
in Berkeley, 94705.
Fireside Meeting Room
Where Does the Money Go? Part Two
I received several comments and communications in response to last month's message in the newsletter. The general sentiment was basically astonishment at the size of the Rent Board's budget when compared to their duties and tasks.
One major question that remains unanswered is the source of their extra revenue. The number of rent controlled units has not increased since at least 1999; therefore the number of units that pay the rent registration fees has not increased. The fee itself has not increased in years and these fees are the Board's sole source of income. So, where is the extra approximately $700,000 in revenue coming from?
One answer that might be proffered is that the Rent Board legally went after the fraternities and sororities that rent out rooms over the summer and negotiated that they pay a reduced registration fees. However, there is no way that those fees add up to anywhere close to the $700,000. The only other known source of income is from the City of Berkeley for services provided. I think someone should look into how much other City departments are being billed for Rent Board staff services.
When I provided the tables last month comparing budgets against the number of rent controlled apartments, I did not provide information on Santa Monica simply because it is not in our immediate geographic location. Usually, in legal or market analysis geographic area matters and is a strong consideration when trying to make fair comparisons. However, the Berkeley Rent Board does say Santa Monica has a similar proactive Rent Stabilization program, whereas other programs are not as proactive.
I recently had an opportunity to visit Santa Monica. I love Berkeley and I think it is a great place, but I am sorry, Berkeley should not be compared to Santa Monica. It may have a proactive electorate and be considered a very progressive town but that is where the comparisons should stop. That town really encourages development of property. You almost need a hard hat to walk through that Santa Monica. If the Rent Board there is as anti-development and powerful in City policy making as they are here, there is no way Santa Monica would have made so much progress.
The Berkeley Rent Board spent much of the last couple of years making the point that if the rent controlled housing stock is diminished for the sake of constructing new market rate housing, the developer must create new rent controlled units within the development-in addition to the affordable housing unit requirements. Talk about deliberately limiting development potential.
I am not saying development everywhere is a good thing, but I do think smart planning makes a lot of sense. However-smart planning should not mean diminishing the number of development opportunities by limiting the number of development sites or by creating onerous hurdles for housing projects. This just contributes to a shortage of housing.
Meanwhile a pro-development attitude in Santa Monica has allowed much construction, and 36% of all newly created units are still affordable housing that create good opportunities for moderate-income households.
Of course the owners of rent controlled properties should cheer on such policy making since they are only helping to raise the rents.
Going back to my original point about comparing Berkeley's Rent Board and its Santa Monica counterpart: Santa Monica's registration fee is $156 per unit (now it is $176 after a recent ballot measure) versus Berkeley's $194 per unit. Their annual budget is $4.7 million versus Berkeley's approximately $4.3 million and it manages about 26,500 units compared to Berkeley with 18,000 units under the program. In addition, the entire registration fee is passed through to the tenant in Santa Monica. However, due to a recent ballot measure in Santa Monica any increase in the registration fee will only result in half of the increase being passed through.
Whether it be half of the registration fee or the whole registration fee being passed through, there is something very smart in making sure the registration fee is paid for by the tenants and making sure that they know it. This way the rent board is answerable to the tenants as well as the property owners for their budget, not just the property owners as is the case in Berkeley.
Arguably Berkeley tenants do, in effect pay for the registration fees, in that their rents cover the fee-but when it is transparent as it is in Santa Monica, the government agency becomes more accountable.
In sum, my take away from my visit to Santa Monica is that Berkeley should not look south for examples of enlightened development policies. Santa Monica has a thriving economy with Google and many other large companies located there. It is driving its economy with new development, actively encourages this new development, and at the same time creates more affordable housing for moderate income households. And by being development-friendly, it substantially increases revenue at the same time.
Economic development in Santa Monica is amazing.
The New Non-Smoking Brochure and
Lease addendum are available
online for members in our
If you are not a member yet and would like to see a list of BPOA-maintained forms along with brief descriptions, you can do so here.
Too Much Stuff?
Some Tips on Helping Tenants
Low Income Landlords?
Find Eviction Help Here
New at landlording in Berkeley?
Link Here for a Guide to Fees Due
THE ALAMEDA COUNTY GRAND JURY HAS ISSUED A REPORT EXCORIATING THE BERKELEY RENT STABILIZATION BOARD
....(and the League of Women Voters Agree!)
Click for the full report:
It begins on page 63 and runs to page 74.
The Report concludes with the following recommendations:
- Recommendation 12-10:
The Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board must reduce the high rental unit registration fees.
- Recommendation 12-11:
The Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board must allow landlords to pass through a larger proportion of the registration fee to tenants.
- Recommendation 12-12:
The Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board must ask the city of Berkeley Human Resources Department for a thorough position-control audit to evaluate the number of staff, the classifications and workload.
- Recommendation 12-13:
The Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board must ask the city Human Resources department to provide more comprehensive salary comparisons regularly and use them in setting salaries and benefits, including those of the executive director and the board members.