Candidates sharply divided over proposed rent control measure

Candidate Melvin Willis gives his opening statement at the candidates' forum Thursday evening. Photograph by Abner Hauge.

Candidate Melvin Willis gives his opening statement at the candidates' forum Thursday evening. Photograph by Abner Hauge.

All nine candidates for the Richmond City Council weighed in at a question-and-answer style forum at the Hilltop Community Church last Thursday night, where jobs, health care, and above all rent control dominated the discussion.

Vice Mayor Eduardo Martinez moderated the forum, which was organized by the Fairmede-Hilltop Neighborhood Council.

Candidates were sharply divided on Measure L, which would, according to the ordinance, control “excessive rent increases and arbitrary evictions” while ensuring landlords have “a fair and reasonable return on their investment.” The initiative would set up a rent board to carry out enforcement, funded by a fee paid by landlords and the general fund as needed.

Incumbent Nat Bates said the rent control board would drain landlords and city resources.

“That’s the damnedest bill, you better read it or you’re going to pay the consequences dearly through your pocket and the general fund,” Bates said.

Candidate Jim Rogers and incumbent Jael Myrick spoke in support of the measure, along with RPA member-candidates Melvin Willis and Ben Choi, who both gathered signatures for the initiative.

Myrick said Measure L would “provide stability” to about “ten thousand households” in Richmond. “I personally can’t leave those ten thousand families behind,” he said.

Willis described working with groups of tenants whose “buildings are falling apart.” Such tenants “are living in fear of addressing this to their landlords because they’re afraid they’ll have no other place to go,” Willis said.

Incumbent councilmember Vinay Pimplé, former councilmember Courtland “Corky” Boozé, and candidates Uche Uwahemu and Cesar Zepeda all spoke against Measure L.

Boozé said that Measure L was just one example of a bigger issue: Richmond’s attractiveness to outsiders, especially potential investors in the city. If the RPA gains a majority on the council, Boozé said, “you’ll get a one-sided council, you get Measure L, and you get a ghost town in the city of Richmond.”

Bates, too, expressed concern about creating a welcoming environment for business and investors in Richmond. He criticized the stalling of the Terminal One project by “slow” city staff and a lawsuit “over some nebulous idea.”

“To the business community, time is M-O-N-E-Y. If they can’t get their projects completed and approved, they’re going to look elsewhere,” Bates said.

Choi spoke in favor of “building denser communities” to support businesses that “spread wealth”—as opposed to businesses that take “wealth away from the community and put it somewhere else, maybe in the Cayman Islands or something.”

Willis said that developers in Richmond need to be asked, “What can you do to prioritize community members?”

Martinez also asked the candidates about the need for a new hospital or emergency room in Richmond in the wake of Alta Bates Hospital’s planned closure by 2030 and the 2015 closure of Doctor’s Medical Care Center in San Pablo. Candidates uniformly agreed that Richmond needs a new hospital.

“I think all of us up here are agreed that it’s a tragedy, what happened to Doctor’s Hospital,” said Rogers. Adequate medical services need to be brought back to Richmond, he said, “by hook or by crook.”

Candidates now have less than six weeks to campaign before the November 8 General Election.

16 Comments

  1. Confidential Commenter

    “Willis said that developers in Richmond need to be asked, “What can you do to prioritize community members?”

    Because that hands out tactic was so effective with Berkeley Global Campus.

    “From the East Bay Times;
    Ruben Lizardo, a spokesman for the Berkeley Global Campus, said he understood concerns about fair pay and using union labor but said the University of California already had many similar provisions in place, including a plan to pay even the lowest-skilled workers $15 an hour and use local workers. And he agreed with the mayor that negative comments about the project, including fears that it would hasten gentrification, had made it more difficult for the university to pursue this project.”

    Willis and Choi know absolutely NOTHING about business. The whole Bay Area has been booming in recent years except Richmond. A RPA majority will definitely scare off business and investment in Richmond for years if not decades. Wake up and think about it folks, it’s all there in front of your eyes to see if you would but open them.

  2. Zak Wear

    The future is in political candidates who do not take corporate campaign contributions. Only Melvin Willis and Ben Choi have taken that pledge, to only raise money from regular people like you and I. This makes a big difference in how politicians behave, and I hope you will consider supporting these two stellar candidates. Also, vote YES on Measure L so that the people native to Richmond will have the opportunity to benefit from all the development we plan to have here.

    • Mike Rose

      Stellar candidates?????
      Willis even did not bother to get formal education, he just bangs on the doors, organizes violent protests and makes trouble.

      How can he possibly understand complicated budget issues if he did not learn basic math.

      Add that on the top of Beckles playing scrabble during budget presentations and you get full PRA picture.

      People of Richmond are smarter than that.

      I am voting NO on L, and for Pimpley ( the smartest person ever on the City Council), Uche and Bates.

    • mike rose

      And Zak, you can plan on development coming to Richmond all you want, but none will, unless we get rid of RPA and create business friendly environment. Passing Measure L will have chilling effect on all investment, not only real estate development.
      The best example is recent Berkeley Global Campus fiasco, thanks mainly to Willis, RPA and surrogate organizations who scared the hell out of possible investors in that project.

      • Jeanne Kortz

        Willis had nothing to do with the demise of the Global Campus. That is a lfalsehood perpetrated by Tom Butt. It has everything to do Chancellor Dirks’ mismanagement which resulted in a huge loss for the University. He is going, and so with him goes the Global Campus. I wrote to Dirks directly. It has nothing to do with Willis or the RPA. See Eli Moore’s comments on The Real Rich(Facebook).

        • Confidential Commenter

          From the East Bay Times;
          Ruben Lizardo, a spokesman for the Berkeley Global Campus, said he understood concerns about fair pay and using union labor but said the University of California already had many similar provisions in place, including a plan to pay even the lowest-skilled workers $15 an hour and use local workers. And he agreed with the mayor that negative comments about the project, including fears that it would hasten gentrification, had made it more difficult for the university to pursue this project.

          How do you account for Reubens Lizardo statement to the East Bay Times supporting Mayor Butts comments then? He plainly states that the RPA made raising money difficult. Mayor Butts comments are simple common sense. Willis has no education or business experience at all. The RPA will scare business and investment away from Richmond you can count on that. Berkeley Global Campus was just the beggining.

          • Eduardo Martinez

            I relpied to your request for accounting to Reuben Lizardo’s statement, but Richmond Confidential chose not to publish it (at least I don’t see it here). I illustrated Lizardo’s focus (and consequently, lack of focus in other areas) through e-mails we exchanged. Since the e-mails were on city servers, they are public record; anyone could request them through a public records request. It is too much work to reassemble, but if Richmond Confidential chooses to share what I sent, I’m sure it will account for Mr. Lizardo’s statement.

  3. Confidential Commenter

    I’m voting for Vinay Pimple and Cesar Zepeda. Pimple is intelligent and is an independent thinker unlike the RPA and its candidates, who are simplistic dittoheads who will vote however their puppet masters pull their strings. Cesar Zepeda is a real go getter who has all the better qualities of the RPA but with the added benefit of having common sense, unlike the RPA whose hands are often tied by their extremist ideologies.

  4. Deborah Bayer

    I think the “confidential commenters” bashing Melvin Willis and the RPA should come out of the closet and not be afraid to tell us who they are. I a retired nurse, a 25 year resident of Richmond, and I own my own house. I support the RPA and support rent control because I want to live in a community that is healthy, stable, and ethnically diverse. And I want to live in a community where the rights and happiness of every resident is valued, no matter their education level, accumulated wealth, and no matter how “smart” someone else tells us they are.

    • mike rose

      So Deborah, such a communist heavens, as you described already exist. Feel free to move to Cuba, Venezuela or North Korea and enjoy.
      Don’t try to steal someone’s property, move out and make your house available at below market rent to someone in need. Otherwise you are a hypocrite.

      • Confidential Commenter

        I notice that you Deborah, haven’t demonstrated that I have said anything untrue, you simply don’t like what I have to say. It doesn’t really matter who I am, I am nobody really, but I have the right to speak my 2 cent opinion here and I will do just that if I please. I also notice the RPA folks don’t like people to speak freely either, Zak Wear especially. I’d rather not have him and his brown shirts screaming outside of my door simply because I said what I think. What does that tell you about these people? It’s a red flag (pun intended) in my book. As far as your comments Deborah, if I thought Measure L would accomplish these things as you say, I would support it also. But there is no good reason to think it will, but rather it will only make things worse for those very people. That is based upon what has actually happened in rent controlled cities over the last several decades. But facts seem to mean little to Measure L supporters. Few of them get the big picture and react emotionally rather than logically.

        • Confidential Commenter

          People like Deborah change their tune if they actually get into the business themselves and get burned by bad tennents themselves. I know more than a few people who this has happened to and all of them actually quit the business because of it. It takes a thick skin to deal with that. I also believe Measure L will drive a lot of small owners out of the business as well. I already know people who are selling out to the big investors, it’s a shame and not a good sign for renters. These were nice owners who kept rents low and worked with tennents in difficult times. The big companies don’t operate that way. But you already know all this, right Deborah?

          • Confidential Commenter

            Ask yourself why aren’t the rent controlled cities ethnically diverse?
            They were before their rent control ordinances. What happened?
            Why is it still so expensive and hard to find housing in Oakland and San Francisco when they keep ratcheting up the rent control laws? Shouldn’t by your own logic rents be stable, and neighborhoods ethnically diverse?
            Why are people flocking to Richmond, which currently has no rent control, from rent controlled cities like Oakland and San Francisco?
            The RPA members themselves are largely Berkeley refugees, or rather, gentrifiers from rent controlled Berkeley. They still go there to raise money for their political efforts. They think it’s ok when they themselves gentrify a neighborhood, but they don’t like it if others do the same or in other words, they are hypocrites.
            Measure L is simply not going to work any differently here than similar measures have in other cities. Doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result is the very definition of madness. But that doesn’t seem to bother Measure L supporters. What that says about them you may gauge for yourselves.

        • Eduardo Martinez

          Confidential,
          You also haven’t proved that anything you’ve said is true.
          You do have the right to say anything you want, but you have the obligation to demonstrate that what you say has some substance. Zak Wear loves people to speak freely, he just likes them to be able to defend their position with facts and logic.

          • mike rose

            Eduardo,
            You are asking for proofs and for demonstrating that what people say has some substance.
            But you and the 2 other RPA council members along with Myrick chose to ignore proof and “substance” last year when Vinay Pimple presented scientific research data regarding rent control in neighboring cities showing that rent control causes the rate of rents and gentrification to substantially increase compared to the cities without rent control.
            YOU and your RPA friends chose to ignore the “substance” and went for anecdotal evidence instead. All of that ONLY so you can keep your electorate base, voting for RPA intact, without any regard to the actual suffering of the tenants. You treat them as a collateral damage to the goal of grabbing power and money as a result.
            You pray on uneducated, poor, promising them easy results and “gifts” from the government well knowing that the unintended consequences of rent control will backfire on them as they did in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley where rents and gentrification rate is the highest in the nation.
            As for Zach Wear and Willis, they were appropriately characterized as “brown shirts” by confidential commenter. Their method of persuasion is usually a violent and loud protest, banging on the doors in the middle of night ( Dirk’s residence, elderly Richmond Iron Triangle landlord).
            One cannot resist thinking of Kristalnacht in 1930’s (night of the broken glass in Nazi Germany)

          • Eduardo

            @ Mike Rose: You obviously did not listen to the debate. Mr. Pimple trotted out the same data twice with no explanation of how it was causation and not merely concurrence. What he should have shown is the number of residents still living in rentals that were under rent stabilization, the rents they paid and illustrated how that affected the rising of the rents. He did none of that. I respect Mr. Pimple and his ability to retain facts and process numbers, but I find that his ability to evaluate the meaning of those numbers to lack on many occasions.

            And you use this faulty analysis as your bases to attack council members ad hominem.

Comments are closed.