Heralding Tenants' Rights, Y Passes

Steve Sexton of the Daily Californian Staff contributed to this report.





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Keeping Berkeley at the national forefront of tenant protection, voters yesterday passed Measure Y, which will protect long-term tenants from "owner move-in" evictions.

As of 1:30 a.m. this morning, with 75.4 percent of votes tabulated, 56.7 percent had voted for the controversial measure that Berkeley landowners vigorously opposed.

The measure would prevent landlords who own more than five units from kicking out tenants who have lived in their aparment for more than five years in order to move in relatives. Low-income tenants would recieve $4,500 in compensation for evictions. If the landlord owns four units, the measure would only apply to seniors and the disabled. For small landlords of three units or less, the measure would not apply.

Suppporters herald the measure as the key to stopping the explosion of owner move-in evictions that they say landlords are using to boost rents. Under vacancy decontrol, landlords can raise rent to market level if a tenant moves out.

"(Meausure Y) is important because right now Berkeley is facing an eviction crisis," said Paul Hogarth, who will join the new Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board on the pro-tenant slate. "Students are unfairly being picked on because they don't know their rights."

But the No on Y campaign, which gathered more money than any other city campaign, issued an eleventh-hour blitz of literature, claiming the measure will hurt tenants.

"If we put more restrictions on landlords, more housing will be taken off the market," said Betty Hicks, the unsuccessful moderate challenger in District 2. "We don't need to lose any more housing. The measure needs to be rewritten. I do not like people being evicted but landlords are so afraid about the laws on the books."

The City Council put the measure on the ballot at the last minute, leading the League of Women Voters to criticize it as "undemocratic."

Voters apparently were not swayed by the barrage of anti-Y glossy flyers and did not mind how the measure was put before them, bringing a measure to Berkeley that is similar to a San Francisco ordinance but much stronger.

While Measure Y was by far the most controversial of local measures, many others will prove to be important to bringing funding to the city.

Measures AA, a bond issue, and BB, a tax, will provide money to the Berkeley Unified School District for facility maintenance and classroom improvements. Both measures took more than 80 percent of the vote, though some doubted Berkeley's pocketbook generosity would reach that far.

The warm water pool at Berkeley High School, used by seniors and disabled children alike, is destined for repairs with the passage of Measure R.

The Berkeley public libraries will also benefit from fresh funding, since voters continued their approval of bonds and taxes and passed Measures P and V.

A property tax that aims to boost improvements in the city's parks, Measure S, also passed. Measure W, which reauthorizes a previous park tax, was continued.

Though Berkeley is known for its willingness to approve high taxes for good causes, not everyone predicted that each and every tax and bond issue on the local ballot would win.

"(Even) liberalism has its limit," said Councilmember Kriss Worthington

When results for the measures came up on the television screen in the Berkeley Democratic Club party headquarters, there was a silent hush followed by enthusiastic cheering.

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