Rent Control Advocates Stage Capitol Sit-ins to Counter Housing Crisis

Governor’s Office Said Rent Control Will Help, but Fails to Provide Food, Water & Bathroom

By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau

SACRAMENTO – Sometimes it comes down to a matter of trust – especially in politics – and seniors, disabled, a cancer patient and homeless were told to take the word of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office late Wednesday after a more than five-hour occupation of the outer office of the state’s chief executive.

The governor’s staff – meeting in person with a group of about 50 people – swore that Newsom supported a trio of bills that would stabilize quickly rising rents and provide housing security.

And they swore their boss had made rent control a major part of his platform, and was doing all he could to convince lawmakers – even those from his own party – to send him something to sign.

Finally, after the Capitol closed for the day, the governor’s staff promised to allow protestors to stay in the outer office all night, with no threat of arrest.

There were caveats in the last promise, as demonstrators soon found out. They’ll know more about the first two promises when the vote is tallied on two of the three measures that will be heard before the Assembly Housing Committee Thursday.

As to the free use of the governor’s outer office, demonstrators learned that they could stay there but without the use of bathrooms, or access to food or water.

They did get three trash cans to use for “personal bodily function” reasons, but a security camera watches over the room along with security guards so there are privacy concerns.

With those prospects – no bathrooms among them – most of the 50 people holding the peaceful vigil, which included young children, disabled seniors and at least one cancer victim, chose to leave.

Four people did stay – the cancer patient was one – despite the unsanitary conditions.

Tuesday, the tenants in urgent and threatening housing conditions, as they describe themselves, staged hit and run, peaceful sit-ins in a couple of lawmaker offices or entrances to their offices in an attempt to get some commitment to vote for the rent stabilization packages.

HAPPENING NOW: tenants in dire housing conditions have chosen to SIT IN at Assemblymember Maienschein urging him to commit to a YES vote on AB 36 to expand rent control and AB 1482 to stop outrageous rent increases on Thursday's Assembly Housing Committee meeting. The families here are facing homelessness and truly dire circumstances- they have no other choice but to stay here and urge Maienschein to do the right thing and commit to yes vote on Thursday. You can support the tenants be calling Maienschein's office to show your support for the #KeepFamiliesHome bill package at (916) 319-2077

Posted by Housing Now on Tuesday, April 23, 2019

HAPPENING NOW: tenants in dire housing conditions have chosen to SIT IN at Governors office urging him to commit to support AB 36 to expand rent control and AB 1482 to stop outrageous rent increases at TOMORROW’S Assembly Housing Committee meeting. The families here are facing homelessness and truly dire circumstances- they have no other choice but to stay here and urge the Governor to do the right thing and commit to help support our bills.#KeepFamiliesHome

Posted by ACCE Action on Wednesday, April 24, 2019

AB 36 (Bloom) and AB 1482 (Chiu) would stabilize rents and provide housing security. The third bill, AB 1481 (Bonta), will be heard in the judiciary committee on April.

The “Keep Families Home Bill Package” includes AB 1482 (Chiu), which protects renters from high and sudden rent increases. This new law would tie the percentage that a landlord could raise rent to a formula based on the Consumer Price Index; AB 36 (Bloom) reforms statewide restrictions on local rent control, allowing local jurisdictions to amend rent control laws to protect millions more renters, while exempting small landlords and newly constructed structures from these changes; AB 1481 (Bonta) extends so-called “just-cause” eviction protection to all state renters.

Melvin Willis, a Richmond City Council, has spent the last few days supporting the tenant rights group, and said he’d risk arrest in the governor’s office if it came down to it to find justice for them.

“All of these bills are extremely important in this displacement crisis. AB 36 is the most important. Los Angeles, for instance, wants to expand its rent control but LA is limited because of (state laws),” Willis said, adding “AB 36 is the last hope for many people to keep a roof over their heads.”

The stories of those being displaced or who have been displaced by unfair rents are heart-wrenching, as Gov. Newsom’s chief of staff Ann O’Leary acknowledged when she spoke to the packed outer office group.

“The governor asked me to come out here personally. He knows so many are struggling with rent. He asked the Legislature to send him a good rent package (and) he’s made clear this is his priority,” said O’Leary. She said Newsom has met with legislative leaders about the rent package and told them he wants something to sign.

“A rent stability bill package on his desk is what he wants,” said O’Leary, although noting – under withering questioning – the the governor is not in the Legislature, which is “a separate branch of government.” She admitted that the administration is “aware” that 40 percent of Californians are renters.

Those participating in the sit-in include Mari Sanchez, a homeless mother of five recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer living in National City, in the San Diego area.

“I am homeless now with two special needs kids, but I worry about who’s taking care of the seniors,” said Sanchez.

Elsa Stevens, a senior citizen who lives in the Heritage Park Apartments in Richmond but is exempt from Richmond’s rent control protections because of current state laws that limit what local governments can do, said her and others like her face homelessness.

“If AB 32 does not pass, you’re evicting many of us,” she said, explaining how modest rent increases in a retired, low cost community suddenly became a nearly 20 percent increase in two years, which she said is untenable to older residents living on social security.

Others protesting include Barbara Pinto, a senior citizen from San Diego who is fighting being displaced for the fourth time in four years by another large rent increase; Gloria Cortez, a mother of five in Los Angeles, who was displaced by a large rent increase and has been homeless for the last year and a half; and Sylvia Venegas, a mother of two from Los Angeles/San Fernando Valley fighting an imminent eviction from one of the nation’s largest landlords – Blackstone’s Invitation Homes.

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  1. Bill Marshall

    There are many “buzz-words”/phrases in the piece… ‘unfair rent increases’ -no definition, in ‘eye of the beholder’; “just cause”… one could argue that failure to pay rent for a year or two, or chronic delayed payment, because of unemployment, family emergency, personal choices, limiting finances, is not “just cause” for eviction…

    For a number of years, we owned a rental property (SF)… we covered our remaining mortgage payments (we had lived in the home for 13 years), property tax (inc. parcel taxes, City utilities), made repairs (even when renter caused), maintained… and had maybe $1,000 “profit” a year… we ‘buffered’ larger increases (utilities, for ex.), and didn’t go over CPI, and actually also decreased our annual profit… the tenants often were 2-3 weeks behind in rent, and when we went to sell, found out that they had buried garbage, recyclables etc. in the backyard… despite the fact that we had built City utilities, including garbage/recycling service, into the rent.

    Yet, one could argue we had no “just cause” for eviction…

    This topic is not simple… there are very mercenary landlords (so what? Rental property is a ‘business’, just ask IRS)… but the solutions proposed could well put all into the same constraints… ours were self-imposed.   Not by City/State…

    Just saying…


    1. Craig Ross

      A lot of buzzwords.  Here’s a question for you: do you actually care that there are people who are being forced from their homes, that there are students who cannot afford to rent apartments in town and live in their cars or sleep in the library and shower in the ARC?

      I don’t know whether or not rent control is the right answer, but it just seems to me that a lot of the older folks who post on this site are either oblivious to what people are suffering or simply do not care.

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