Eden area advocates frustrated by Alameda County supes’ inaction on tenant protections

Housing advocates, including members of My Eden Voice, hold a vigil for displaced residents ahead of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors' decision on rental policies. (Courtesy of My Eden Voice)

OAKLAND, Calif. — The state’s COVID-19 state of emergency has ended and that means pandemic-era policies that protected renters will soon expire in Alameda County. Renters in the unincorporated area are concerned about what this means for evictions, says Julio Contreras, a community organizer with My Eden Voice.

“They’re feeling vulnerable,” Contreras told the East Bay Echo. “They’re just really concerned about all the possible evictions that are going to come after the eviction moratorium ends, especially since we don’t have ‘just cause’ protection.”

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday decided not to vote on the eviction moratorium instated at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, setting the course for it to expire in 60 days at 11:59 p.m. April 29. The supervisors also failed to pass three ordinances that would have (1) established a registry of rentals, (2) required landlords to have a just cause to evict a tenant and (3) prevented landlords from looking into a prospective tenant’s criminal history in the unincorporated area.

Fifth District Supervisor Keith Carson voted to pass all three ordinances; 4th District Supervisor Nate Miley voted to pass the fair chance ordinance and abstained from voting on the other two; and supervisors David Haubert and Lena Tam abstained from all three votes.

Instead they kicked back the fair chance ordinance to the Unincorporated Services Committee for further tweaking and decided to table the rental registry and “just cause” ordinance until the board has five members again.

The supervisors unanimously directed staff to bring back a report on the resources and programs available to assist tenants and landlords as the eviction moratorium ends.

The supervisors had tabled the tenant protections and possible changes to the eviction moratorium for several meetings before the decisions Tuesday.

The decisions came over the course of about seven hours of discussion and public comment from dozens of property owners and tenant advocates. Property owners condemned the eviction moratorium and package of tenant protections, saying that the county victimized property owners and gave undue rights to tenants by passing the moratorium. Housing advocates said the supervisors’ decisions are bound to force members of the most vulnerable and marginalized communities into homelessness or out of the area.

“We’re talking about an eviction tsunami,” said Carmen Jovel, deputy director of housing at the East Bay Community Law Center.

Before the discussions, My Eden Voice and other community groups held a vigil for displaced residents in front of the County Administration Building in Oakland, where county meetings are generally held. It’s common knowledge that even when tenants aren’t officially evicted, they’re being forced to move out of the area because of unreasonable rents and substandard living conditions, Contreras said.

“We need to stop villainizing the renters,” he said.

The supervisors were largely sympathetic toward the landlords and accused the tenant advocates of acting in bad faith, particularly for invoking the names of late supervisors Wilma Chan and Richard Valle, who championed tenants rights.

“I don’t think human rights trump property rights nor do I think property rights trump human rights,” Miley said. “I think, as an elected official, we need to be looking at both and doing what we can to preserve the integrity of both.”

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