Daily Planet Staff
Without debate Tuesday night, a unanimous City Council took the first steps toward putting a measure on the November ballot that would protect the city’s most vulnerable citizens against landlord move-in evictions.
The proposed ballot measure would prohibit landlords from moving into apartments rented for 10 years or more by seniors and the disabled, and apartments rented for five years or more by those with catastrophic illnesses. People with low-income Section 8 vouchers would also get protection under the proposed law.
Property owners were conspicuously absent when public comment was made, but renters, mostly advocates for senior citizens, were evident, carrying signs with the message: “No unjust owner move-in evictions.”
“Many Berkeley seniors live alone in small rented units, carefully budgeting Social Security checks,” senior citizen advocate Helen Wheeler told the council.
“Right now, we can at least protect disabled persons and low-income seniors from the abuse and trauma of owner move-in evictions by passage of a ballot measure.”
Grace Christie, 78, facing an owner move-in eviction, told the council that she “fell in love with Berkeley over 50 years ago.” She asked the body to pass the resolution that would “work to keep (the city) that way.”
Although property owners may have decided not to come to the council to debate the issue at this early stage, they may fight it when it comes to the council in July or when it is on the November ballot.
Berkeley Property Owner Association President Robert Cabrera told the Daily Planet recently that he believes that the best way to assure housing for all is by building more housing and not by passing new laws.
He also said that he thought the measure could hurt seniors because property owners might become more hesitant to rent to them.
The Rent Board, Housing Advisory Commission, Commission on Aging and the Commission on Disability will all give their input into the ballot proposal, which will be written by city staff and brought back to the council by July in order to be considered for placement on the ballot for November.
The vote was 8-0, with Mayor Shirley Dean absent for an international mayors conference in Jerusalem.