A California-based landlord group is working to block Richmond's new rent control policy, titled "Measure L," from being enforced, despite its overwhelming support with voters in the working-class city.
The California Apartment Association, a powerful landlord group that lobbied hard against the measure and similar ordinances in the Bay Area, filed a lawsuit with the Contra Costa County Superior Court on Friday alleging Measure L is “unconstitutionally vague, (and) violates the Constitution’s due process clauses,” among other grievances.
The association, which represents more than 50,000 members, also asked for a temporary restraining order to immediately block the measure, but Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Judith C. Craddick denied the request.
Measure L prevents rent increases on apartment units built before 1995 from surging past the rate of inflation, capped at around 3 percent. The measure, which went into effect on Dec. 30, also requires landlords to have a valid reason for eviction, known as a “just cause evictions" clause. In some cases, it also requires landlords to provide relocation assistance to tenants that they are displacing.
Richmond became one of the most progressive cities in the Bay Area following the November election when Richmond Progressive Alliance members Ben Choi and Melvin Willis nabbed spots on the city council. The alliance, which now has a majority on the council, strongly supported rent control and made it a central campaign platform.
“It’s upsetting that (the CAA is filing a lawsuit) over this measure after 64 percent of voters voted in favor of rent control,” Willis said. “Low-income, working-class people have already benefitted from this law.”
Willis said Richmond Progressive Alliance and other tenants advocacy groups will be working in the coming weeks to bring awareness to the lawsuit and fight against it.
The next court hearing is scheduled for Jan. 27.
Rent control has been a fiercely debated topic across the Bay Area, where gentrification has spread into some of the region’s most affordable cities. The California Apartment Association and tenants' rights groups, such as Tenants Together, have gone head to head in heated city council meetings in numerous cities throughout the Bay.
This is the second complaint the association has filed to stop voter-approved rent control laws from taking effect. The first, in Mountain View, was filed on Dec. 21 and was more successful; the temporary restraining order was granted in the South Bay city.
In nearby Concord, tenants rights advocates are just now starting to push for rent control. The lawsuit filed Friday could be a setback for those groups, who heralded the success of Measure L and used it as an example of grass roots efforts overcoming powerful and well connected real-estate groups.
Other cities, such as Berkeley and San Francisco, have had rent control policies for several years. Those, too, faced opposition from landlord groups that claim the laws penalize landlords who don't raise rents past affordable levels.