Nearly three months after Measure L: Richmond Fair Rent, Just Cause for Eviction, and Homeowner Protection Ordinance went into effect, the City Council unanimously approved the five individuals I appointed to Richmond’s first Rent Board.
Until I read the RPA’s dark spin on the action (see below), I thought I had done a good job of collaborating with my RPA colleagues to establish a Rent Board made up of people who could be depended on to implement an ordinance that includes “Homeowner Protection” in the title as well as “Fair Rent and “Just Cause.”
The RPA apparently believes otherwise, cynically defending their support with the desultory comment, “So, faced with the choice of a less than optimal rent board or no rent board at all for the remainder of his term as mayor, the Fair and Affordable Richmond Coalition (of which the RPA is a member) decided to support this slate and move forward with implementation as best we can.”
We Have a Rent Board!
On Tuesday, March 21, the Richmond City Council voted unanimously to appoint a 5-member rent board. This board will be responsible for implementing rent control—setting a budget for the Richmond Rent Program, hiring an Executive Director and setting regulations.
Richmond’s charter gives the mayor the sole power to nominate people to boards and commissions—the city council can approve or disapprove but it cannot propose nominees. Unfortunately the 5-seat rent board approved on March 21 has only 2 strong rent control supporters.
Some RPA members had engaged in prolonged negotiations with Mayor Butt, and at the March 7 City Council meeting, dozens of public speakers advocated for a rent board led by a majority of rent control supporters who can be trusted to implement the program enthusiastically and to the intent of 65.2% of Richmond voters.
We became convinced, however, that the rent board slate presented by Mayor Butt on March 21 is the best we can get from him, and it certainly could be worse. So, faced with the choice of a less than optimal rent board or no rent board at all for the remainder of his term as mayor, the Fair and Affordable Richmond Coalition (of which the RPA is a member) decided to support this slate and move forward with implementation as best we can.
We welcome a principled debate on the rent board and all issues facing Richmond. Going forward we have to remain vigilant of how the rent board is led. All of its meetings will be open to the public. None of us expected this work to be easy. We’ll keep showing up and we welcome all to do the same as we strive for a more just, prosperous and sustainable community for everyone.
Zak Wear, Marilyn Langlois and Mike Parker, RPA reps on the Fair and Affordable Richmond coalition
Let’s take a look at the five individuals who were appointed, none of whom personally owns any rental property.
- Nancy Combs: An attorney with a JD from the University of Illinois, with a Social Security disability law practice. She is a volunteer at Saffron Strand and is neither a landlord nor a Realtor. She was recommended by the RPA.
- Virginia Finlay: Former president of the Marina Bay Neighborhood Council and former Richmond Planning Commissioner for 16 years, with a BA from San Francisco State University. She has been a licensed real estate agent since 1990 but neither owns nor manages rental property.
- Emma Gerould: A former tenant advocate in the San Francisco Tenderloin with a BA in Psychology from Marymount Manhattan College, she was recommended by the RPA and is neither a landlord nor a Realtor.
- Lauren Maddock: An employee of Mercy Housing, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit affordable housing organizations, she has years of experience in managing and developing affordable housing. She has an MA in Nonprofit Administration from the University of San Francisco School of Business.
- David Gray: David first worked as a City Council intern when he was at UC Berkeley earning a Master’s Degree in Public Policy. Former Council Member Jeff Ritterman helped me recruit David back from Louisiana to serve as my chief of staff when I became mayor. He has since moved on to an administrative position with the San Francisco Public Utility Commission. He is neither a landlord nor a Realtor.
I think we did a good job, and I am disappointed that the RPA has failed to embrace it and at least give it a chance.
Meanwhile, the city manager has done a remarkable job of establishing the Richmond Rent Program, using a handful of existing City staff, interns and consultants. The program has already successfully served thousands of renters and landlords. I am told that nearly three months into the program, there have been less than a dozen requests for adjudication of rent disputes from renters or requests from landlords for rent increases above the established maximum.