Rents Blog: Head of rent review committee forced to move

Rents Blog: Head of rent review committee forced to move

Michele Ellson

Updated ay 10:35 a.m. and 2:46 p.m. Thursday, April 23 in BOLD

David Perry was busy when a reporter called him this past Saturday afternoon. He was packing boxes for a move from the Paru Street apartment where he has lived for the past seven years.

In early March, Perry, a mediator and attorney by trade, received a legal notice from an attorney working for his landlord stating that he had 60 days to move out. No explanation was given for the termination of his tenancy, but none is required.

“I made a phone call (to ask), but it wasn’t returned,” Perry said.

The landlord’s attorney could not be reached by a reporter for comment this week, and the owner listed in county assessor’s records did not answer a reporter’s call to his listed telephone number seeking comment.

Perry and others said they believe local landlords’ use of the 60-day notices to get rid of tenants is on the rise. And while he said his receipt of a notice doesn’t make him special, Perry isn’t just another tenant, either: He’s the president of Alameda’s Rent Review Advisory Committee, which hears rent disputes between landlords and tenants.

“I’m absolutely certain the (committee) only sees a small fraction of rent increases. It only sees a small fraction of what’s happening to people,” said Perry, who fears landlords are using the notices to avoid the bad publicity that rent hikes brought to the committee could generate.

Perry, who received a 20 percent rent hike in 2014 after years without an increase, said that with rents reaching new heights, he understands a landlord’s motivation to issue a notice: His apartment, he said, could be rented on the current market for $800 to $1,000 a month more than he’s paying.

Angela Hockabout of the Alameda Renters Coalition said the coalition has been hearing fewer stories about rent increases and more about renters receiving notices to leave. The coalition is conducting a survey to gather data on both increases and termination notices given over the past three years.

“We haven't received many calls to our crisis line in the last month, perhaps because folks know there is little that they can do to fight a 60-day notice, whereas renters can fight rent increases,” Hockabout said.

Don Lindsey, a local property owner who has been working with a community group of property owners, tenants and other stakeholders to address the impacts of rising rents, said property owners have been waiting years for the right time to sell. A representative for the Alameda Association of Realtors, who declined to comment for this piece, said in an earlier interview that homes prices in Alameda are exceeding their 2004 height.

Lindsey said he’s not hearing that the notices are forcing people to leave the Island and that it’s “rare” that renters asked to leave can’t find another home in Alameda.

“In my experience owners and renters here have been able to work things out if they try, and there is housing available,” Lindsey said. “I believe it is a rare situation where someone's rights have been taken advantage of especially, if they were truly in a situation of need.”

State law requires landlords to provide renters who have lived in a home or apartment for more than a year with 60 days’ notice if they want the tenant to move. The notice doesn’t have to offer a reason why the landlord wants the tenant to leave.

While some cities have “just cause” rules that only permit landlords to ask tenants to leave under certain circumstances, Alameda does not – giving renters who can’t convince their landlords to let them stay little choice but to move.

Lindsey said that owners have a right to occupy and use their property as they desire, and that renters know that renting carries risks.

But one renter who recently received a 60-day notice detailed the stress, anxiety and expense the notice – and the way it was handled – have caused him and his family.

Kyle Hansen said he had lived in the same Victorian home for 11 years when he found a 60-day notice taped to his door, in mid-March. He said he had a tough time getting answers about the reason for the notice.

“The owners as well as the property management company refused to give a reason for the notice,” said Hansen, who said the landlords lived downstairs from Hansen and his family for several years before moving out of state. “No one will just look us in the eye and tell us the truth. It’s all very impersonal.”

Hansen, a self-employed IT technician who runs his business out of his home, is also coping with the recent deaths of his father and his day care provider in addition to a move.

“The stress this has caused my family is immeasurable,” he said of the forced move, adding that he is seeing a psychiatrist and taking medication as a result.

The owners listed in county assessor’s records don’t have a listed telephone number and couldn’t be reached for comment. But Victor Jin, whose company manages the property, said the landlords are planning to move back into the property with an eye toward selling. He said aging property owners who are close to retirement often seek to exit the landlord business by selling.

Jin said his assistant personally spoke with Hansen's wife before issuing the notice to give the family a head's up that it was coming and that when the owners learned about the death of Hansen's father, they offered to allow him to postpone his move.

"It's not like we are not sensitive or we don't have a social conscience," Jin said. "(The owners) felt really bad about this."

Hansen said his wife did receive a phone call - an hour before the notice was posted - and that he was only able to get a straight answer on the reason for it after posting his story to the Alameda Parents Network, a popular local listserv.

Hansen said a friend helped him find another place to live in Alameda, but it’s more expensive than where he’s living now.

“Sure, we may be lucky,” Hansen said. “We are able to stay in Alameda, albeit at greater expense for a fraction of the space.”

“Something has to be done,” he added.

Hockabout said that property managers and landlords have “stepped up” to help renters who reach out to the coalition find new housing. Still, she said that landlords issuing the notices should do more to help renters relocate.

“Landlords should consider offering renters moving assistance and full return of their deposits, as well as good referrals to other rentals so that these folks, who are suddenly without housing in the middle of a housing crisis can have even the hope of finding a new home in the Bay Area,” she said.

Perry said he’s staying in Alameda “by the skin of my teeth and with the help of a very good friend.” But others, he said, have not been so lucky, including a 30-year Island resident who was forced to leave Alameda after receiving her own 60-day notice.

Perry said he’s seeking the same “huge population turnover” here that San Francisco experienced during the 1990s dot-com boom. He said the neighbors who once occupied the building next door to his have all been replaced by new residents.

“All the people who once lived there, Alameda folks – they’re all gone, and sort of techy types are moving in,” he said.

While Lindsey said the committee Perry heads has been successful in resolving landlord-tenant disputes and that efforts are being made to strengthen it in order to curtail excessive rent increases, Perry said he’s not sure what, if anything, can be done for renters who receive a notice their tenancy has been terminated.

“I don’t know that there’s any stopping it,” he said. “That’s the world. Sometimes it’s really cruel and sad.”

Comments

Submitted by b. (not verified) on Thu, Apr 23, 2015

There should be an Alameda City Ordinance which requires landlords/owners who are doing these kind of inhuman (and inhumane) "evictions" to long-term tenants (who have never been late or caused any problems) to provide the people being displaced with assistance in finding another home ON THE ISLAND, as well as a lump sum of cash equal to two months' rent and deposit.

What Mr. Perry said is the saddest truth: "Alameda folks" are being replaced by people who have no connection to The Island, and who don't really care about Alameda, or fit into The Island "life"...they just want something "convenient to SF".

If this sort of thing is allowed to continue, Alameda will become nothing more than just another "bedroom suburb" of SF.

Are the people of Alameda and the City Council going to sit back and just let this happen?

Alameda has always been a very special place. If these evictions (which are due SOLELY TO LANDLORD/OWNER GREED) are allowed to continue, Alameda as we know it will CEASE TO EXIST.

Submitted by Mike Henneberry (not verified) on Thu, Apr 23, 2015

If this story isn't an indictment of the current state of affairs in the Alameda rental market I don't know what is. Obscenely high rents and then evictions with 60 days notice? Isn't life stressful enough without having that hanging over one's head constantly?
On Tuesday the City Council came together to pass an ordinance that requires employers to keep grocery workers on staff for 90 days after a change in ownership. It seems to me that displacement from a job and displacement from a house or apartment are traumatic life events. Evictions and outrageous increases in rent that result in families leaving Alameda are happening with increasing frequency.
It's time for our city leaders and citizens to get together and act on this. The results of inaction will be too devastating for too many people.

Submitted by Angela Hockabout (not verified) on Thu, Apr 23, 2015

If Alamedans are serious about pursuing new ordinances to halt the flow of 60 day notices, I urge them to complete our survey if they have been displaced in the last 3 years. The city council is unlikely to take action unless we provide them with physical proof of the problem. Plus many more folks will have to begin demanding for these rights at city council at every meeting. The more renters use their voices, the more the city will have to do to address the problem.

Submitted by Angela Hockabout (not verified) on Thu, Apr 23, 2015

Here is a direct link to the Alameda Renters Coalition Renter Displacement survey: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1XPzOiocP8NPr7_nZQDJkc6QQAYt_dDNcB8QyPre...

Send it to your friends. The more information we get the more powerful our voices become!

Submitted by trent (not verified) on Thu, Apr 23, 2015

I'm not a renter (I was until recently) and has never been a landlord. But Alameda is not a city in outer space , its part of bay area. All I can say is fairness is based on the relative status-quo on the bay area. If we enforce too much contingencies for landlord to evict a tenant, then there will be less landlord to rent or higher price to start the rent with to cover the potential hassle. Eventually no one wins. After all we are part of bay area, a single spot rules cannot control a wider area. From this story, Perry did not get a rental raise for years until last year, while the market has changed so much, it is a sad thing personally have to me moved but lump sum the past few years to look back, he is treated fairly and overall he spent less than market price to rent for years. Emotion reasoning may not get what you envisioned.

Submitted by Catherine Pauling (not verified) on Thu, Apr 23, 2015

We are part of a larger area. SF to the west, Oakland and Berkeley to the east all have rent control with rules for eviction. Hayward has eviction control and other cities are responding to the same housing crises. Also, this is impacting schools with higher turnover in students. clear guidelines will stabilize our community benefiting all of us.

Submitted by b. (not verified) on Thu, Apr 23, 2015

re: trent.

Alameda may not be in "outer space" but it has always had a uniqueness that held it apart from the general madness of SF and the surrounding suburbs...a "small town" atmosphere where people cared about the town, and about each other.

If these sorts of evictions (which destroy the very fabric of the community itself) are allowed to continue, there will be no more Alameda.

Submitted by Mairead (not verified) on Fri, Apr 24, 2015

I moved to alameda 12 years ago and loved it. Last year I lost my place (totally fair, landlord needed guest house for expanding family :) and prices in alameda were double what they were 4yrs before when I last looked. I am now living in east Oakland and working in Alameda. However it's not just people losing their places to raised rent. Pagannos on lincoln is being forced out after 60+years! Alameda had lost it's community it's sad :(.

Submitted by New to the Island (not verified) on Fri, Apr 24, 2015

There is so much romanticism about this Alameda that existed in the past and how it's being destroyed by all these "techy types" that are moving into the city and displacing long time residents. Alameda, nor any other city in the world, has ever been static. Cities are constantly evolving, with different groups moving in and out all the time. Long time residents are getting displaced by higher rents, but that does not mean that those new renters are bad people. They might even make the city better than what it is today.

Alameda is prime real estate in the middle of the bay. The secret is out. It's only going to get worse (or better, depending on your perspective) from here on out. And in a few decades, when Bart's second transbay tube is completed with a stop in Alameda, this city will look very, very different.

Submitted by Kyle Hansen (not verified) on Sat, Apr 25, 2015

@new to the Island:

I am one of the long term tenants being displaced and am mentioned by name in this article. I *am* a tech, albeit a Sole Proprietor MIS/IT. What I am seeing in Alameda is what I saw when I lived in the Mission District in SF in 1996. A large number of people push in and drive out all of the culture, cuisine, music and "romanticism" from the community. At that point it becomes a soulless hole, void of all the things that the people that moved here for wanted.

My family can afford our rent, even if the owners increased it again as they have done in the past (though not for several years). I work hard and so does my wife. We have a 4 year old daughter and our expenses are high, but completely manageable. We weren't given the option of an elevated rent. I came home to a 60-day notice on our door with no reason for it (the property managers had called my wife at her place of work to inform her of this). We have been loyal tenants here for 11 years. It was extremely impersonal. It was just a notice to vacate. My wife and I have been reeling from this. It has been emotionally difficult. The notice was taped to the door on the same day I was told my Father was dying.

So welcome to the "new" Alameda. The one where you rent a 2 bedroom apartment for $3500/mo. and then as soon as your one year lease is up you are given a 60-day notice to get out. That is what is happening.

The real problem is that owners and managers are not raising rents anymore. They are just slamming people (and families) with 60 day notices and kicking them to the curb. That way they can remodel, sell or do whatever they want. The market is perfect for this right now. The climate is right for preying on renters. I don't dispute that this is their right, it is just reaching a head where so many people are being displaced that they are voicing their opinions openly. I understand that an income property is just that, but the available rental inventory on the Island right now is extremely low. it is 1/10th of what it was 5 years ago.

So sure, Alameda is "prime real estate in the middle if the bay and the secret is out. but if you want to buy a 2 bedroom home here be prepared to spend about $800,000.

You may actually *be* new to the island, and I welcome you, but there are some things that you should note. Alameda has relatively strict zoning laws. The Island is also a host for many historical buildings. The house we are being tossed out of was built in 1897 (+/- a year). Not much can be done to it. It's an historical building.

The "BART to Alameda and beyond fantasy" will take at least 25 years to complete, and that is if it is even approved, which I doubt. It is currently a only a "study" in the works and no plans have been made. There are endangered shorebirds near the base, toxic waste to deal with etc. This will be a long time in the works. 2050 maybe.

I will say this though. I disagree with your last sentence. Due to zoning laws, this city will not look "very, very different." It will look pretty much like it does now, minus the heart and the soul. Sure, there will be a few more big box stores here, and I don't object that, I am tired of driving to Emeryville for a hard drive.

This Island REALLY does have a soul. It has a vibe, and it has a distinct atmosphere about it. It really feels different than other places in the Bay Area. We stop for pedestrians, and we don't speed. We are courteous and polite, and I don't think that any of that is going to change in the long term.

(This comment has been edited to reflect our comment standards.)

Submitted by New to the Island (not verified) on Sat, Apr 25, 2015

Kyle - Look, I know it stinks to get these 60 day notice letters and moving can be very disruptive to your life. And to find out on the same day as when you found out your father was dying...that is brutal and I am sorry for you.

But...these tireless arguments about the type of people that are moving here will somehow suck Alameda of its soul...they are baseless. You mention the Mission in '96. What did the Mission look like before you got there? Did that community think the same thing about you when you moved there? That you were sucking the soul, culture, community, etc out of their neighborhood? And again, when you moved to Alameda 11 years ago, did the people you displaced think the same of you?

Just because someone is willing to pay a much higher rent does not mean they will not contribute to the community. The vibe, the atmosphere, the values, whatever you want to call it, has always been evolving. Since I have become a resident, I have learned about the history of Alameda, and it wasn't always so rosy. Talk to some old time residents on the West End, and they will tell about how 5th St (or was it 6th?) was lined with brothels, Webster St. was lined with tattoo parlors, and drunken navy men would pass out in their front lawn. My point is that the city is always changing. That does not mean it will lose its soul, it just won't be the soul that you and many others making the same argument idealize.

Submitted by Jill Allen (not verified) on Sat, Apr 25, 2015

I have been living in Alameda over a decade and also a Military Veteran. All this construction going on why don't you build below market rate homes for Veterans do something for the Men and Women who sacrifice their life for your FREEDOM.

Submitted by Steve Gerstle on Sun, Apr 26, 2015

Alameda has fewer tenant protections than nearby cities and the lowest minimum wage. What else needs to be said about those who control the community?

Submitted by b. (not verified) on Sun, Apr 26, 2015

@"new": The overall dismissive tone--and lack of empathy--in your posts just reinforces everything that those you distastefully refer to as "romantics" say is wrong.

And it's a continuation of ignoring the core issue of this "rent crisis," which is the human cost of what is happening here on The Island, right now.

The leaders of the city have got to finally acknowledge and address this issue, once and for all.

Submitted by Pro Prop 13 Ala... (not verified) on Sun, Apr 26, 2015

Actually some people do not speed over 25 mph and actually stop for pedestrians. A great majority do not and is getting worse, especially around the schools in the mornings. Parents also being the greater majority of offenders. Also a lot of the newer development is on packed sand landfill. Hope it doesn't liquefy too bad when the big shaker comes from the Hayward Fault. People still fortunately inheriting by living will and trust better make sure your Prop 13 on your homes remains by checking your Wills and Mortgages for updates. Pay the lien holders off a.s.a.p. if absolutely possible. Then pray. Once you leave Alameda you'll never come back.