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Only in Berkeley • November 15, 2005

Another Attack on the Ellis Act

Editor's Note: The following is the letter sent by BPOA to the Mayor and Council regarding the Rent Board Proposal to further expand the "mitigation payments" required when a property owner wants to reside in a unit which is occupied by an existing tenant.

The Berkeley Property Owners Association

2005 Hopkins St. • Berkeley, CA 94707 • (510) 525-3666

bpoa@bpoa.org

Re: November 15, 2005 Agenda Item #11

Dear Mayor and City Council:

Agenda Item #11 is the latest of several measures showing the Rent Board's continuing hostility to any measure designed to relieve the current shortage of affordable owner-occupied housing in this City. 

Current law requires property owners to pay $7000 in “mitigation” to  tenants who are low-income, or disabled, or over sixty years of age whenever the owner wants to occupy his or her own property. Item #11 would add a requirement to pay $4500 to tenants who are neither disabled nor senior citizens, and whose income is adequate. Such a payment, where there is no demonstrated damage to the tenant, is a simple windfall, and most likely violates state law.

A close reading of the Rent Board memorandum (“Board Memo”) accompanying Agenda Item #11 shows that:

  -As admitted by the Board Memo (page 5), Ellis Act evictions in Berkeley are a rare thing:  fewer than fifteen units per year since 1985 have been impacted by the state law which guarantees owners the right to live in their own property.  The Board seems to fear a rash of  TIC conversions, but there is no proof that this has occurred.

  -Existing law already guarantees that “mitigation” of $7000 be paid to tenants who are over 60, or who are disabled, or who are “low income”.  The Board Memo concedes (page 2) that 60% of Berkeley's tenants are “low income.[1]  BPOA disagrees with the Board's inclusion of the student population (who are about half of Berkeley's tenants) in the “low income” category, since most students have unreported sources of income.  Nonetheless as  interpreted by the City the current law provides for a one time payment to these as well as other “low income” tenants.

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