Rent Control Initiative Sparks Controversy

On November 8, Burlingame residents will vote on Measure R, a rent control initiative whose stated purpose would be “controlling excessive rent increases and arbitrary evictions to the greatest extent allowable under California law.” This measure has sparked a battle within Burlingame; a battle fought with red signs staked on lawns, passionate letters written to local newspapers, and everyday citizens voicing their support or discontent with the measure to local representatives and each other.

 A Burlingame resident stakes a sign in their front yard reading "NO ON MEASURE R. COSTLY, MISLEADING." These signs can be seen throughout Burlingame.

A Burlingame resident stakes a sign in their front yard reading "NO ON MEASURE R. COSTLY, MISLEADING." These signs can be seen throughout Burlingame.

The most controversial element of Measure R is rent stabilization. If passed, Measure R would: (1) create a rental housing commission to be placed in charge of adopting regulations authorizing rent increases with members appointed by city council members. (2) Each year, the Commission would announce the amount of the Annual General Adjustment: the percentage by which rent may be increased each year. This figure would be equal to the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index: the annual change in the prices of retail goods and services as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor. The Annual General Adjustment would have a minimum of one percent and a maximum of four percent.

In a letter published by the San Mateo Daily Journal, Burlingame homeowner Elana Lieberman pledged her support for the measure.

“Let’s be a city that recognizes every resident is valued and deserves to be represented. Let’s support Measure R and strive to be the compassionate community we say we want to be,” Lieberman said.

Most arguments for the measure derive from feelings of frustration with the rapidly inflating Burlingame housing market and the withdrawal of some low-income residents, pushed out because of unaffordable rent prices. However, those against the measure point to many of the hidden costs Measure R would bring about on taxpayers and the school system.

All five members of the Burlingame City Council are against the measure including Vice Mayor Ricardo Ortiz who added his concerns on the measure, explaining that one of “the biggest concerns is legal fees.” According to Ortiz, the measure would leave the city vulnerable to “landlords or renters suing the city because they don’t like the way we’ve interpreted the wording of the measure … Whenever it comes to that kind of lawsuit, the city would have to pay for the events of that.” Possible lawsuits and the cost of time and resources that the city would be required to spend implementing the measure are Ortiz’s main concerns with the measure.

Senior Ashlin Pellegrini says that, while she is in support of legislation to aid low-income residents, she believes, like Vice Mayor Ortiz, that Measure R will have unforeseen negative impacts. She argued that Measure R will cause property values to decline and as a result property taxes will go down; the result of this being less funding for Burlingame schools. However, on principle Pellegrini believes that raising the rent to exorbitant prices is “unfair to the tenants, especially if the [landlord] knows that the tenant cannot afford the rent increase.”

Passing Measure R would also repeal Measure T, a measure passed in 1987 which prohibits the city council from passing legislation that places restrictions on the price that property may be sold, leased or rented. Vice Mayor Ortiz, while in opposition to Measure R, supports repealing Measure T, which he says would create “things we could do as a council short of pure rent control … to add more affordable housing stock.”

In another letter to the San Mateo Daily Journal, Burlingame resident Saundra Ardito voiced her support for Measure R by pointing out the negative effects of Measure T.

“[Measure T] prevents the city from requiring that developers include affordable housing in new multi-unit buildings. That destructive ordinance is not relevant to today’s economic realities and has to go — Measure R will overturn it,” said Ardito.

While Ardito and Ortiz disagree regarding Measure R, they both support repealing Measure T and addressing the rental and housing issues of many Burlingame residents.

Make your decision on Measure R. The full initiative can be found at burlingame.org along with written statements for and against the measure.

 

Posted on November 2, 2016 .