Why Protect Renters?

LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 04: . Tokio Hotel on Monday, Oct. 4, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images).

ALCO Supes Vote to Leave Thousands of Residents Unprotected

Yesterday for various reasons, I missed a chance to speak at the Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting in favor of affirming various renter protections that they passed on first reading in December. This new board then overturned their initial consideration for renters who do not live in cities where protections have been passed, the unincorporated areas. Those folks who do not live in neighboring cities do not have a local municipal government representing them but must depend on supervisors from far flung parts of the county, who may not be as concerned about their needs.

Homeowner for Tenant Rights

I have owned my little house above the Lakeshore neighborhood for 30 years now. I have experienced many of the annoyances, inconveniences, and costs of homeownership-failing roofs, rat and termite infestations, blocked sewers. So why do I still fight for tenant rights? Where is my class consciousness as a property owner and occasional landlord-which I also experienced as a renter-subletting part of my unit??

When I moved to California in late 1966, I could rent a room in a flat on Haight Street in the Fillmore for $30 a month, it was a mess but was to me along with my many friends from San Francisco State. I never dreamed that that flat, one of three, would sell by itself for close to a couple million dollars in this decade. When I lived there it was owned by a Black family whose father was a musician who had moved from Louisiana with his band during the Great Migration. But by now, few Black families are left in San Francisco, much less in that neighborhood.

I moved to Oakland the year after I became a BART train operator so I could be central to the three East Bay train yards where we reported for work. A couple years after I moved I became a stay-at-home mom. My ex and I knew that we would forfeit homeownership if I became a full time mom but we made that sacrifice still hoping for a better future. It was not so hard to rent and stay in a nice single family home at the time.

Single Parent Renting

Things happen and I became a single parent by the time my youngest was less than 2 years-old. We stayed in the comfortable Glenview house we had rented before I became pregnant with my first child. The kids played with neighborhood kids. We were part of a babysitting coop that centered on Dimond Park and walked to the old library which was then on Park Blvd in Glenview.

Then we went off for a week to family camp in the Sierra Foothills run by the Berkeley Coop and came back to an eviction notice! We had lived there 6 years and I was completely unprepared to lose my family home, uproot my kids and hope for a comfortable single family residence with a yard and kids to play with.

The next place we lived was a disaster. We moved out after 6 months. Someone I knew had renovated his upstairs into a 2 bedroom, 2 bath flat but I did not know he abused his girlfriend (I had rescued her one time which he did not appreciate) and terrorized our cat.

After that we moved 2 more times in less than a decade. Each time we moved, not only did our meager belongings get wrecked, the costs of moving and depositis for everything increase, but the rent seemed to double. One of our moves was into a lovely house on San Antonio Park but it turned out to be the height of the crack epidemic. Still we would have stayed but-for the second time-the house was sold out from under us.

I remember friends saying that, gee, at least, we were able to move to nicer homes or whatever they said. But the last eviction came as we returned from vacation to visit my mom on the East Coast. I became afraid to take a family vacation lest I come home to the notification of loss of that home, to the ever more difficult search for a family home, that is a house, something with trees outside of the windows and kids in the neighborhood, streets I might be familiar with for a price a single mom can come up with every month.

But the prices were doubling or more and the reality was that we were never able to control our destinies, to feel a part of a neighborhood, to simply think-now where did I put that document, that family photo, that season’s clothing. In my mind’s eye, I could see it in a dresser-in the last house. I became more disoriented with every move.

When we moved to our last rental, one of my cats became so hysterical ( try being a renter with kids and cats…) that he insisted on running up the chimney in our new house and getting covered in soot where he would sit and howl. I felt like howling myself and can still feel that fear in my gut. I never want to rent again.

Goodbye Landlords

So, yeah, after receiving the eviction notice on thethird home, after returning from vacation, I made a decision to either buy a house or move back East where my mother lived in a 4 bedroom home. I was lucky-the timing wa good as it was almost at the bottom of the latest housing cycle, I was able to get help on a down payment, and due to white privilege and a local savings and loan; I was able to buy a run down cottage in an excellent neighborhood, 4 doors down from my previous rental and a place my kids could safely walk to their friends, get ice cream, etc.

Just Cause for Renters

In one of my forced moves, at least my landlord was kind enough to give us 60 days to find a suitable home and get our things out and into the new place. I believe that is the law now for longer term rentals. The term “just cause’ means what it says not-just cause you want to sell and it’s easier without a tenant or just cause you want to jack up the rents-a family is removed from its home.

The ordinance provides for 13 legitimate reasons that tenants can be removed including owner move-in, damages, criminal activity or nonpayment of rent and others.


Really, this is obviously basic fairness and gives plenty of loopholes for landlords who will then get to determine the future of a family’s well being. Without a Just Cause clause, anything goes.

At the time my family was going through its many moves and our rent was soaring, not including the deposits for utilities, moving itself, extraneous expenses to a family under stress; at least we could still find a reasonably affordable home to move into those days. This was years before soaring gentrification and predatory venture capitalists took control of the rental market.

Now, being evicted often results in homelessness. Homelessness results in loss of employment, mental and physical stress that break down health and, once homeless, one tends to stay homeless. It’s a family emergency that can become generational family disintegration and chaos. Most of the officials who vote against protecting tenants or even more cowardly, abstained from their responsibility, thereby weaken the stability and safety of the very neighborhoods they claim to care about.

Where residents do not feel safe to remain in their homes, they have no investment in developing and protecting their neighbors, local businesses and indeed the democratic processes that engage people in their communities.

A Fair Chance for Formerly Charged or Incarcerated

As the eviction moratorium comes to an end the supervisors were also to take a 2nd vote on an ordinance similar to one already passed in neighboring cities. It makes it more difficult to keep people who were accused but not convicted of crimes or whose records are more than seven years old out by using of the market. It’s a narrow range of limitations against even considering tenancy (totally exculding sex crimes.) They voted that down too or abstained it away.

Remember, it’s still not possible for the most needy people to live in public housing for say, drug offenses. More’s the pity.

Disrespecting Legacies

Supervisors Wilma Chan and Richard Valle were heroes to their electorates and beyond. There was no chance that once supporting and voting on these necessary protections, they would have turned their backs on thousands of vulnerable seniors, mothers, fathers and children to leave them in the lurch after the protections of the eviction moratorium ended.

Do I have sympathy for small landlords desperate for rent to maintain their buildings? Of course, renter payments to these small landlords should make them whole and supervisors should help them get their funds through the state or county funding that’s been available but often difficult to obtain.

But to flaunt their lack of respect for the concern and hard work these supervisors spent their lives demonstrating, is shameful. Supervisors who took advantage of our county, our community’s loss, Haubert, Miley and Tam have a lot to account for. We are waiting for them to make this right.

Will there be a tsunami of evictions? Maybe but if one family is evicted needlessly and ends up couch surfing, living in their vehicles or on the sidewalk, it’s one too many.

ADAMS COUNTY, CO – FEBRUARY 02: They managed to borrow enough money to rent another house for themselves and their four children, she said, but not in time to avoid eviction. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

4 thoughts on “Why Protect Renters?

  1. When is it “respect the legacy” and when is it “elections have consequences?”

    Do you criticize the OUSD board for not “respecting the legacy” of the duly-elected members who voted to close underutilized schools? Dont cherry pick

  2. In the case of ALCO, Ms Tam ran asserting that she would honor Wilma’s legacy. In fact the vote changed because 2 members who cared about renters died. How is that like OUSD, nor did I express an opinion about the school board vote.

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