San Pablo residents rally for rent control and better tenant protections
on October 20, 2023
As inflation last year reached its highest level in 40 years, raising consumer prices on food, gas and even used cars, renters in San Pablo say they’ve felt the squeeze because of a lack of rent control in the city.
This week, they asked the City Council to take up their cause. With hand-painted signs reading “Housing is a human right,” more than 30 people, including families, marched outside City Hall on Monday. Gathering shortly before the council meeting convened inside, they chanted: “La renta, la renta, está muy alta, La renta, la renta, está muy alta!” and “What do we want? Affordable rents. When do we want it? Now!”
“The reality is that everyone here is at risk of losing where they live if we don’t get rent control,” renter Veronica Martinez said in Spanish through an interpreter.
The event was organized by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, a grassroots organization helping communities fight for policies and programs to improve neighborhoods.
Rent control is among the biggest issues ACCE is trying to address, said Mashel Lindstrom, a San Pablo resident and ACCE member. ACCE had helped Richmond tackle the issue, Lindstrom said. In San Pablo, a growing number of renters is demanding action.
“I could see a lot more residents coming forward to speak up about it,” Lindstrom said. “I feel like it’s moving rather quickly on the residents’ side, so I’m hoping that soon we’ll hear more from the actual city of San Pablo.”
The current median rent for a two-bedroom apartment or condo in San Pablo is $2,123, according to Zillow.com. A renter earning the city’s median income — $67,294 as of 2021, according toU.S. Census data — would be spending 38% of that income on rent.
San Pablo City Manager Matt Rodriguez said the city’s latest housing element update, which is pending state approval, includes 55 proposed housing policies and programs ranging from enhancing affordable housing opportunities to developing new tenant protection programs and services. Many of the proposals will be considered at a housing policy workshop early next year.
Rodriguez noted that City Council recently approved a rent registry program to enhance tenant protections. It is set to come online in December or January, after adoption of an ordinance by the council. And substandard housing conditions continue to be addressed by the city’s Residential Health and Safety Program, Rodriguez said.
Rent control, which the city doesn’t have, limits the price a landlord can set for rental properties. California renters received new protections under the Tenant Protection Act in 2019, one of which is a stipulation that landlords cannot impose a rent increase over 10%, or 5% plus the percentage change in the cost of living — whichever is lower, as outlined by the California Department of Justice website.
Just-cause evictions are another new protective measure, covering most tenants who have resided in their units for at least a year. Landlords must have a legitimate reason for eviction, such as nonpayment of rent, an impending demolition or substantial remodeling of the property.
The California DOJ notes that there are specific exceptions to these protections, including rental units subject to more protective local ordinances.
During Monday’s meeting, tenants said they have faced harassment from landlords, been denied necessary repairs, struggled to pay utility bills with rising rents, had to live in unhealthy conditions and were forced to choose between buying food or paying the rent.
Commenters implored the council to put the issue on a city council agenda.
“Tenant protections are needed in San Pablo to prevent the displacement of families,” said one.
Lindstrom emphasized the community’s effort in pushing for rent control.
“All that we can do as residents and ACCE, as an organization, is continue to voice our opinion, continue to voice the facts and what people are really going through and struggling with.”
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