Alameda Adds Just-Cause Protections for Section 8 Renters 

Plus, LeBron passes the ball to Skinner, and Alameda Council approves prosecutor post.

click to enlarge Holocaust Survivor and Section 8 tenant Musiy Rishin.

Holocaust Survivor and Section 8 tenant Musiy Rishin.

A loophole in Alameda's recently enacted just-cause ordinance was closed Tuesday night after the City Council approved an urgency ordinance that extends the same protections to low-income Section 8 recipients. The council also voted to extend tenant relocation payments to Section 8 renters in cases when the landlord decides to move into the unit or remove it entirely from the housing market.

The impetus for Tuesday night's urgency legislation was the case of Musiy Rishin, an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor on Section 8 who is being evicted from his apartment on Shore Line Drive in Alameda. The eviction made national and worldwide news after Rishin's story was published in The Guardian.

In the article, the landlords, both living in Arizona, said the decision to evict Rishin was made to boost their rental income. "I'm not a monster," Margaret Tam, the owner of The Dunes apartments, told The Guardian. "I'm not a greedy landlord, but I do want to make money when I'm legally able to."

The just-cause ordinance, long-sought by Alameda renters' groups, was approved last March. Under the ordinance, landlords can only evict tenants for specific causes, such as habitual non-payment of rent and criminal conduct, among a number of reasons. But while most segments of Alameda's rental market were covered under the new just-cause protections, they were not extended to Section 8 renters, who tend to be older and often on disability.

The decision to exclude Section 8 from the previous ordinance was due to concerns from the Alameda Housing Authority, said Debbie Potter, director of community development. Currently, 75 renters with Section 8 vouchers are seeking housing in Alameda, Potter said. The fear was that just-cause protections could make landlords less willing to accept people on Section 8, she added.

Walking gingerly to the lectern Tuesday night, Rishin pleaded for the council's help. "It is cruel and wrong," Rishin said, adding that he has lived in the unit for 17 years and pays his rent on time. "They say in America that your home is sacred. Please help me stay in my home."

"I'm sorry there was a loophole," Alameda Councilmember Jim Oddie said. He added that a number of Alameda landlords also found the attempt to evict the elderly renter abhorrent.

Councilmember Tony Daysog voted against the emergency ordinance, in addition, to three other related housing items on the agenda Tuesday night.

"We're right to feel for the plight of the Rishin family and right in our anger for large complexes like The Dunes," Daysog said. "We should be moved by our hearts and our heads. It is not City Hall's place to make unilateral dictates."

There is a sense among public officials that the publicity over the Rishin case will trigger more cases of Section 8 abuses to come forward. "I don't want a period of time for people to continue to discriminate," Councilmember Malia Vella said, speaking in favor of the urgency ordinance. "This is about protecting our most vulnerable. It's why we have these ordinances in place."


Alameda Creates Bay Area's First City Prosecutor

Thieves snagging Amazon packages from doorsteps in Alameda, and other violators of misdemeanor-level crimes often have a good chance of falling through the criminal justice system. That's because most district attorneys across the state focus their limited resources on high-level crimes. But Alameda believes it has a novel idea to enforce its local laws that include recently approved minimum wage rules and a number of new rent protections.

Without much discussion Tuesday night, the Alameda City Council unanimously approved the creation of a city prosecutor's office. The position, along with a full-time paralegal, will fall under the supervision of Alameda City Attorney Yibin Shen.

"To me, this is the most important thing we're going to do all year," Alameda Councilmember Jim Oddie declared.

The Alameda Police Department issued strong support for the item. Oddie said the ability for the city prosecutor to validate the police department's efforts by gaining prosecutions will boost the morale of Alameda police officers.

Not only could the city prosecutor litigate instances of petty crime, but also enforce Alameda's growing menu of tenant protections.

"I think laws without enforcement are meaningless," Councilmember Malia Vella said.

No other city in Northern California uses a city prosecutor. But it's quite common in Southern California.

Shen, who worked in the Santa Monica city attorney's office for more than a decade, imported the idea to Alameda earlier this summer. Shen, himself, was once a city prosecutor in Santa Monica. His tenure in Alameda began last May.

The new positions will cost a total of $400,000 in salary and benefits annually.

But in order for Alameda's city prosecutor's office to maximize its full potential for litigating low-level crimes, the City Charter will require revisions.

Under current law, Alameda's city prosecutor still needs to ask the Alameda County District Attorney for permission to prosecute violations of state law. In order to gain a new level of autonomy, the charter needs to be amended to specifically delineate those powers to the city prosecutor.

Any change to the city charter requires a vote of the people. But Alameda officials are already eyeing a number of potential charter revisions that could come before voters sometime next year.


Nancy Skinner Gets an Assist From LeBron James

Sen. Nancy Skinner's "Fair Pay for Fair Play" bill could drastically change how the NCAA, the powerful governing body of college sports in the U.S., does business.

Skinner's legislation to give college student athletes in California the ability to be paid when their likeness is used by for profit by their college and university may affect more people nationwide than it will in the state like few bills under consideration this year in Sacramento.

This was underscored Thursday when NBA superstar LeBron James offered his support for Skinner's Senate Bill 206. James urged his 43 million Twitter followers to support the bill.

Although, James never played college sports, he was nonetheless monetized as a high school athlete. Basketball scouts tagged him, quite presciently, as a once-in-a-generation talent. He jumped from high school straight to the NBA.

Other high-profile names have added support for Skinner's bill. Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang back SB206.

DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, also came out in favor of Skinner's bill on Thursday.

The state senate approved the SB 206 last May, 31-5. The legislation is currently being debated in the Assembly.


In Other News ...

President Trump's tariffs are worsening California's housing crisis, the California Building Industry Association said, tacking on up to $30,000 to the price of a new home, the Sacramento Bee reported. ... State Sen. Nancy Skinner's "Housing Crisis Act" was approved by the Legislature on Friday and awaits Gov. Gavin Newsom's signature, the East Bay Times reported. The bill would loosen local zoning ordinances for housing by streamlining the permitting process, lowering fees, and prohibiting developers from demolishing affordable and rent-controlled units unless they are replaced. ... Housing advocates believed this legislative year held great promise, but a number of high-profile bills fizzled. Perhaps the last, best hope for this session rests with a bill authored by Sen. Bob Wieckowski seeking to accelerate the building of accessory dwelling units, also known as "granny flats," the Chron reported. ... Not exactly a news flash, but rankings compiled by WalletHub ranked Oakland as the second worst city for drivers, behind Detroit, Fox Business reported. San Francisco ranked fourth. Oakland was also in a three-way tie for the highest rate of vehicle thefts. ... Newsom issued his support to AB5, the bill that would designate gig workers and freelancers as company employees in an op-ed this week. The bill is still winding through the Legislature. ...

Richmond Police Chief Allwyn Brown's days were numbered after the police union registered a stunning no-confidence vote against him on Friday. A day later Brown was placed on leave and replaced with his assistant, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Assistant Police Chief Bisa French takes over as acting chief. ... A judge's decision to bow to public sentiment and throw out the negotiated plea deal involving former Ghost Ship residents Derick Almena and Max Harris seems highly foolhardy in retrospect. Jurors acquitted Harris of 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter, but could not come to a decision on the same charges for master tenant Almena. Harris walked out of Santa Rita Jail a free man, while Almena must return to court on Oct. 4.  ... Sixty-eight Chromebook laptops worth $100,000 were stolen from Markham Elementary School in Oakland, KTVU reported. Earlier this year, 40 Kindles were stolen from the same school. ... The Metropolitan Transportation Commission voted Wednesday to begin the transition to cashless tolls, KTVU reported. Seven Bay Area bridges including the Bay Bridge, Richmond-San Rafael and Hayward-San Mateo Bridges will soon only accept FasTrack. ... Sen. Kamala Harris unveiled a $10 trillion plan to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. by 2045, the Los Angeles Times reported. The announcement came prior to Wednesday night's climate forum on CNN. The plan would spend heavily on upgrading to the country's transportation, energy, and water infrastructure. $$ 

A bill seen as crucial for the construction of an Oakland A's ballpark at Howard Terminal cleared the Legislature and now heads to Newsom's desk, the Chron reported. Sen. Skinner's legislation allows the city to create a tax authority to cover costs for infrastructure improvements at the location. ... The A's are calling up their top prospect as the pennant race enters the final three weeks of the season, the Times reported. Jesus Luzardo is regarded as one of the game's most prized young left-handed pitchers. The A's currently hold one of two spots in the wildcard playoff. ... Antonio Brown's career as a Raider ended before it began, as the team released the receiver only to have him instantly snapped up by the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. The speed of the signing sparked speculation the whole ordeal was orchestrated by Brown and the Pats. Nonetheless, the Raiders looked sharp in a Monday night beatdown of their division rivals the Denver Broncos. ... Meanwhile, Alameda County prosecutors charged eight people in a multi-county crime spree that included 61 strong-arm robberies of UPS and FedEx trucks, the Chron reported. Among those charged is former Raider Isaiah Langley, who was cut last month. ...

Tony Bennett cancelled a scheduled Sep. 10 concert at the Fox Theater due to an unexpected illness, SFGate reported. 

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