Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Alameda Extends Rent Hike Moratorium, But Doesn’t Adopt Rent Control Measures

by Steven Tavares
Wed, Jan 6, 2016 at 5:27 PM

Alameda City Hall.
  • Alameda City Hall.
After eight hours of public testimony and deliberation, the Alameda City Council on Wednesday morning voted to extend the city’s current moratorium on rent increases and evictions for another sixty days. The council, however, did not approve any of the three rent control ordinances that were proposed, and told staffers instead to create compromise legislation during a meeting that did not end until after 4 a.m.

Tuesday night’s debate underscored the growing anxiety for renters who have facaed exorbitant rent increases and mass evictions by landlords during the past year. At a raucous November 4 council meeting concerning soaring rents, two residents were arrested at City Hall and one was bloodied by police.

Tuesday night’s meeting was not as intense. To accommodate a large crowd, the city held the meeting in the cavernous Kofman Auditorium.

But the council was unable to agree on any of three rent ordinances proposed by city staffers. The proposals included a landlord-friendly plan to strengthen the city Rent Review Advisory Committee (RRAC); an ordinance somewhat favorable to renters that included binding arbitration for settling rent disputes and some restrictions on no-cause evictions; and a third, compromise solution.

Following a recess at 12:40 a.m., councilmembers discussed the proposals until 3:55 a.m., and then directed city staffers to bring back a rent ordinance in mid February that includes the following: Adding binding arbitration to settle rent disputes at the RRAC; requiring landlords to petition the RRAC for any rent increases of more than 5 percent; requiring landlords to offer one-year leases to tenants during their first year; relocation fees based on the length of tenancy, in addition, to $1,500 for moving expenses; and a yet-to-be determined cap on evictions.

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Oakland Eases Rules on Secondary Units to Add New Rental Housing

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, Jan 6, 2016 at 4:16 PM

A diagram of a secondary housing unit behind a single family home. - CITY OF SANTA CRUZ
  • City of Santa Cruz
  • A diagram of a secondary housing unit behind a single family home.
Last night, the Oakland City Council voted to ease restrictions on the construction of secondary housing units, or backyard cottages. The new rules promote more rental housing by easing parking requirements, allowing homeowners to transform existing backyard buildings like sheds and garages into living spaces, and relaxing height and setback requirements.

"This is the best way to quickly build our stock of much-needed rental housing," said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf in a press release. "This will also help preserve the diversity of our communities by keeping renters and owners in the same neighborhoods, while creating income opportunities for homeowners who also feel the pressure our region’s high cost of living."

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Wednesday Must Reads: California Fails to Cut Prison Spending; Some Parts of Bay Area Get Up to Ten Inches of Rain

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Jan 6, 2016 at 9:22 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Even though California has reduced its prison population by about 30,000 inmates in the past few years, the state is still spending roughly the same amount on its prison system, Reuters reports. The reason is largely due to the fact that the state has not reduced its number of prison guards and staffers, even though there are now fewer inmates. In fact, the cost to house an inmate has risen from $49,000 a year to $64,000 because of the excess guards and staffers.

2. During the past 48 hours, some parts of the Bay Area have received huge amounts of rainfall — more than ten inches in areas of Sonoma County, the Chron reports. Nearly 4.5 inches have fallen in parts of Santa Clara County, while Oakland and San Francisco have received about 1.5 inches of rain.

San Onofre nuclear power plant.
  • San Onofre nuclear power plant.
3. The administrative law judge overseeing the closure of the San Onofre nuclear power plant in Southern California has suddenly retired amid disclosures that she engaged in backchannel communications with plant owner Southern California Edison, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (h/t Rough & Tumble). Criminal investigators are now probing communications made by CPUC Administrative Law Judge Melanie Darling. The deal to close the nuclear power plant has come under intense criticism because it calls for ratepayers to pay 70 percent of the costs.


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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Tuesday Must Reads: Raiders Officially Seek Move to LA; State Lawmakers Propose $2 Billion Plan to House Homeless

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Jan 5, 2016 at 9:18 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

The Raiders officially submitted plan for a stadium in Carson.
  • The Raiders officially submitted plan for a stadium in Carson.
1. The Oakland Raiders officially submitted an application to move to Southern California and share a new stadium with the San Diego Chargers in the city of Carson, outside Los Angeles, the Bay Area News Group$ reports. NFL owners are expected to vote on the Raiders-Chargers proposal next week, along with one by the St. Louis Rams to build a new stadium in Inglewood, near LA. The NFL is expected to only approve one new stadium in the LA area. Any team that moves to Los Angeles is also expected to have to pay a $500 million relocation fee to the league.

2. State lawmakers have a proposed a $2 billion plan to build and rehabilitate housing in California for homeless people, the LA Times$ reports. Officials estimated that the bond funds, along with federal and local money, could create 10,000 to 14,000 units. It’s the most sweeping plan to house homeless residents in the state in a generation.


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Monday, January 4, 2016

Monday Must Reads: Bay Area Fog Laced with Toxic Mercury; Newsom Predicts Diablo Canyon Nuke Plant Will Close by 2025

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Jan 4, 2016 at 9:28 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Fog in the Bay Area is laced with toxic mercury, the Chron reports, citing a new study from researchers at UC Santa Cruz and other institutions. The mercury likely comes from the burning of coal and other fossil fuels. While the levels of mercury in fog in the Bay Area are not considered dangerous, the neurotoxin accumulates in animals and plants over time. Some animals along the California Coast have levels of mercury in their systems above the US safety threshold.

Gavin Newsom.
  • Gavin Newsom.
2. Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, who is also the frontrunner in the 2018 governor’s race, predicts that California’s last nuclear power plant — Diablo Canyon — will close by 2025, the Chron$ reports. Newsom is pushing for PG&E to conduct a full environmental review on the nuclear facility in order to extend its lease on public coastal land near San Luis Obispo. The lease expires in 2018.

3. Heavy exposure to electronic cigarettes causes DNA damage in cells, which could lead to cancer, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (h/t Rough & Tumble), citing a new study by researchers at UC San Diego and other institutions. The new study on e-cigs is among the first to show that they’re unhealthy.


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