San Jose

‘We're Not Just Human Numbers': Hundreds Pack San Jose City Hall for Rent Control Debate

Hundreds of angry and scared people crowded into San Jose City Hall Tuesday evening to demand more protection for renters.

The City Council is set to vote on rent control, over a loud hue and cry from renters who say a relocation package councilman Chappie Jones will propose is not enough for displaced tenants to transition to market-rate homes. 

Attendees are calling for stricter rent control and more assistance for those forced out by rising rents caused by city redevelopment.

Danielle Pirslin is working on the San Jose 5K Zombie Run, a popular event to raise money for city parks. She is known as a hard worker – and she has to be to stay on top of her rising rent.

“As a renter, I'm barely making it by myself, with having six part time jobs, [being] a single mom and paying the high rent I have here,” Pirslin said.

The city's rent control ordinance covers 44,300 units, about one-third of San Jose's total number of rental units. Jones proposes making several changes to the city's current Apartment Rent Ordinance.

Among the most significant modifications Jones would like to see is lowering the annual allowable rent increases for rent controlled units to 5 percent, down from the current 8 percent cap.

But some tenants say it's not enough.

"How are you going to take care of us? Rather than treating us like we’re dirt in the ground to be grinded over," said Dion Riley, who has lived at Reserve for 12 years with his mother and two brothers.

Jones says the proposal was meant to gives the tenants some relief in the short term.

"We have a tight rental market and these residents who have been here a long time are now out in the market trying to find a new place to live. So by having this in place we can make it a lot easier for them and give them some support," Jones said.

On Tuesday, not only were the council chambers filled but so were the so-called overflow rooms. 

"Right now landlords — not all landlords, there are good landlords — but bad landlords are preying on people," said Shaunn Cartwright with the South Bay Tenants Union. "They're preying on people who are afraid to fight back. And this is the day tenants fight back against the bad landlords."

City leaders are also mulling requiring just cause for many evictions. They are also looking to set up San Jose' first-ever displacement policy for tenants forced out by redevelopment of apartments. 

"We're hoping to spearhead this movement and say, 'These are faces [of] people who you are displacing. We're not just human numbers. We're faces and we have stories and we have families," said San Jose renter Brandie Locke.

Pirslin echoed the same sentiment.

"We're going to lose people, like myself, that were born and raised here," she said.

The City Council is expected to vote on this issue later tonight. Check back for updates.

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