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Oakland Tenants Win Fight For Just Cause Rent Control

After years of struggle, Oakland California renters have finally beat the landlords at their own game, and rewrote the Rent Laws to place a Just Cause Anti-Eviction Ordinance on the books.
Victory for Just Cause Oakland and Measure EE

By Lynda Carson 11/18/02

Oakland Ca-Updated figures from the November 5, election results give a sigh of relief to Measure EE supporters. The latest count of absentee ballots released Friday November 15, confirm that Just Cause and their ballot initiative Measure EE still held the winning lead at the polls after 10 days of vote counting have passed.

In a tight election count, it has been an emotional rollercoaster ride of updated election figures. Landlords and renters alike anxiously awaited the daily election counts to be posted by the Alameda County Registrar of Voters. Now that the absentee ballots have all been counted, no one expects that the final count of the provisional ballots will shift any changes away from the existing Oakland Measure results.

Certification of the election results by the Registrar is required 29 days from the election, and the Oakland City Council is expected to follow up with their certification at the Dec. 10 or Dec. 17 city council meeting around 7.p.m.. Oaklands new anti-eviction laws shall be in effect around 10 days after the City Council certifies the election results, and the City Attorney is expected to enforce the new laws.

Calls made to some of the notorious landlord kingpins in opposition to Measure EE have gone unanswered or been hungup on when asked for their comments about the election results.

Tenants and supporters of Just Cause Oakland have been excited by the results even if it has been a long haul to reach this moment tenant activist Sue Doyle said.

As the votes were first being counted during the election night, some of Oaklands finest showed up at Just Cause headquarters to carouse and dance the night away, while the “DJ” kept the musical tunes flowing along with the food and drinks. As the vote counts were displayed upon the wall for all to see, the expressions upon the face of the reveler’s changed and contorted along with the numbers as they swayed one way or another to the incessant chant of the “DJ’s” ministrations. Cries of joy switched to tears of despair or grief for some who were overcome by the emotional impact of such a close race. Others rode it out like the wind on a cool moonlit night, ignoring the numbers and enjoying the excitement of the moment leading up to the grand finale of post election signs being torn to shreds and tossed into the air while the music blasted into the night.

Indeed, the election evening results flip flopped back and forth while Just Cause Oakland headquarters was filled with supporters who tried to remain upbeat as the numbers kept shifting around. Measure EE leapt out of the gate ahead of the opposition, and after losing ground to the opposition later that evening, Measure EE pulled ahead one last time during the election evening to keep it’s lead for the next 10 days as the absentee ballots were being counted.

Stakeholders such as realtors, landlords, and tenants alike wondered if the vote counting of the absentee ballots would ever come to an end, while others were entirely oblivious to the vote counting going on by believing that Measure EE had already won back on Tuesday, November 5.

Meant to preserve the diversity of Oakland neighborhoods from the corrupting influence of gentrification and the eviction for profit system, school children and juveniles alike may now grow up to frolic in the morning fog of Oakland on their way to school, thanks to Measure EE. Free from the tyranny of Oaklands notorious landlords, the retired elderly citizens who helped build this town, may now bask in their golden years free from the fear of the dredded 30 Day No Cause eviction notice.

Just Cause or known by the voters as Measure EE restricts the landlords to 11 basic reasons to terminate a tenancy for eviction. The voters of Oakland agreed to some basic rules by passing Measure EE in opposition to the powers to be in Oakland who have fought against “just cause” for many years. Oakland voters agreed to the following conditions to restrict evictions to certain “just cause” circumstances for residential housing units:

1) failure to pay lawful rent; 2) substantial violation of material terms of rental agreement; 3) willfully causing substantial damage to premises; 4) disorderly conduct: 5) use of unit or common areas for drug or other illegal activity; 6) denying landlord access to unit; 7) landlord will use unit for his or her principal residence where landlord has previously occupied unit and has written rental agreement allowing recovery of unit. 8) landlord will use unit for principal residences or for spouse’s , domestic partner’s, child’s, parent’s or grandparent’s principal residence; 9) landlord withdraws unit from market pursuant to state law (Ellis Act, Government Code section 7060); 10) tenant refuses a rental agreement extension based on terms that are materially the same; 11) landlord must vacate unit for code compliance and repairs cannot be made while occupied.

The above text is written word for word, just as it was in the initiative measure submitted to and passed by the voters of Oakland during the year of 2002. It took nearly 36,000 collected signatures to be able to bring these 11 reasonable conditions for a vote to offer a modicum of protections to Oakland renters from unfair evictions. It then took a hugh effort to get people to the polls for the vote of 44,860 for Measure EE, while the opposition garnered 43,449 votes against the measure. Tenant activist’s and supporters of Measure EE raised nearly $90,000 during the campaign while being outspent by the realtor/landlord lobbies who raised over $500,000 in opposition, for this very tight election result.



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