Making Democracy Work

Action Letters

Action letters

Action Letters written to public officials stating League concerns based on LWV positions

Recommendations for Modifications to the City of San Jose Apartment Rent Ordinance

April 5, 2016

Mayor Sam Liccardo Vice Mayor Rose Herrera, Councilmember, District 8 Councilmember Charles "Chappie" Jones, District 1 Councilmember Ash Kalra, District 2 Councilmember Raul Peralez, District 3 Councilmember M. Nguyen, District 4 Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco, District 5 Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio, District 6 Councilmember Tam Nguyen, District 7 Councilmember Donald Rocha, District 9 Councilmember Johnny Khamis, District 10

Re: Recommendations for Modifications to the City of San Jose Apartment Rent Ordinance

The League of Women Voters San Jose/Santa Clara appreciates the opportunity to comment on the Draft Recommendations for Modifications to City of San Jose Apartment Rent Ordinance (ARO). We are in support of the proposed modifications of the ARO based upon adopted League positions. LWV California supports action at all levels of government for the provision of affordable housing for all Californians and supports measures that protect "the rights of both tenants and landlords." The overarching LWVUS position regarding housing supply is that every family should have a decent home and a suitable living environment and that government has a responsibility to ensure that this happens. It also has a very specific position stating the rights of tenants to negotiate for proper maintenance and management of facilities.

The League acknowledges that the Study of the City of San Jose Apartment Rent Ordinance conducted in January found the current ARO has done little, if anything to lower rents. The market prevailed. However, that fact will not prevent potential staggering rent increases if the existing ARO is not modified. (For example, if a landlord has not increased rent for a two-year period, an immediate 21% increase is allowed plus additional pass-through costs.)

Annual Allowable Rent Increases

It makes sense to link annual allowable rent increases to local inflation rates rather than an arbitrary fixed percentage which cannot adequately reflect sudden market changes. A reasonable fixed rate protects neither tenant or landlord. We support use of the CPI-U for the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose area as the basis to determine the rate of rent increases. Courts have ruled that this methodology does not constitute a taking. We note that unlike some other California cities with rent stabilization ordinances, San Jose will allow 100% of CPI-U.

The ability of owners to earn a fair return is protected by a floor of 2% regardless of the inflation rate, banking of unused increases, use of the MNOI standard and the right to file a "fair return petition" with the City. Vacancy decontrol mandated by State law also provides opportunities for owners to "catch up" to market rate rents. The January Study documented that over two thirds of all rental units revert to market rate within five years. Since ARO units house some of the City's most vulnerable residents, we support the ceiling of 8% as the cumulative annual rate for rent increases because it provides an important protection for tenants.

Debt Service Pass-Through

The ARO existing ability to pass 80% of an owner's debt service to ARO tenants can generate huge rent increases when a property is sold. The League agrees with Housing staff that owners are responsible for conducting due diligence prior to the purchase of rental properties and debt service should be carried as an investment cost, not an operating cost. We support the elimination of the debt service pass-through.

Capital Improvement Pass-Through

We support the recommendation to eliminate the current capital improvement pass-through that allows owners to pass capital costs to renters amortized over only 60 months. The Court-upheld MNOI standard linked to CPI-U includes reasonable capital costs such as repair and replacement of major systems. As noted above, owners have the right to file a "fair return petition" if capital costs during a given year do not allow a fair return on investment.

Limited Capital Incentive Programming

We support the limited capital improvement program as recommended as long as the costs are removed from the base rent once improvement costs have been recovered, and the 8% cumulative ceiling remains in place. Incentives for ADA, seismic retrofit, conservation and safety are appropriate to support Citywide goals. Since costs are amortized over 5 years and do not become part of the base rent, impacts on tenants will be minimized and owners will be motivated to make such improvements.

Revised Notification Requirements

We support the proposed modifications as described. The HUD standard of a 5% vacancy rate should be used to define a tight market, not the 3% in the existing ARO. Full disclosure to tenants regarding the ARO and potential rent increases is a necessary protection to reduce "rent shock" and decrease tenant/landlord conflicts.

Amendments to facilitate monitoring and enforcement of the ARO

We support the creation of a rent registry to ensure that tenant rights under the revised ARO are fully protected. We note that six of eight California cities with rent stabilization use either a rent or unit registry. Costs of the rent registry are equally divided between owner and tenant.

Consideration of a Good Cause Eviction Ordinance

We support the recommendation to create an Anti-Retaliation & Protection Ordinance (ARPO) as a companion program to a significantly modified ARO. Tenants fearful of eviction living in one of the hottest rental markets in the country will not report code violations and need protection from retaliatory evictions. The ARPO provides just-cause protection for two years if a tenant's code violation complaint is substantiated by the City. Owners are not subject to just-cause provisions if the violation is judged to be caused by the tenant. We respectfully suggest that the effectiveness of ARPO should be evaluated one year from enactment. We note that many cities with rent stabilization programs employ a just-cause eviction model.

The gap between ARO units and non-ARO units has narrowed from 20% in 2009 to just 8% in 2014. The need to take action is urgent. We thank City Councilmembers, Housing Department staff, tenant and landlord advocates, the Advisory Committee and the Housing Commission for the extraordinary amount of work completed to date.

Sincerely,

Cecilie Schulze President, League of Women Voters San Jose/Santa Clara

Community Choice Aggregation

Feb. 24, 2016

Mayor Sam Liccardo Vice Mayor Rose Herrera, Councilmember, District 8 Councilmember Charles "Chappie" Jones, District 1 Councilmember Ash Kalra, District 2 Councilmember Raul Peralez, District 3 Councilmember M. Nguyen, District 4 Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco, District 5 Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio, District 6 Councilmember Tam Nguyen, District 7 Councilmember Donald Rocha, District 9 Councilmember Johnny Khamis, District 10

RE: Yes on "Approval of Community Choice Aggregation feasibility study and RFP for San Jose"

Dear Mayor Liccardo, Vice Mayor Herrera and City Councilmembers:

On behalf of the San Jose/Santa Clara League of Women Voters, I write to endorse the Transportation and Environment Committee's February 1, 2016 passage of the staff recommendation to investigate the potential for establishing Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) in our City. The Board of San Jose/Santa Clara League of Women Voters is on record in this matter and voted to approve this action.

After studying the comprehensive staff report describing Community Choice Aggregation with options for participation and evaluation, and benefits and risks, we endorse the direction to staff to develop a Request for Proposals for a Community Choice Aggregation program in San Josť and return to Council in fall 2016 to present recommendations. During this time period, we encourage and recommend broad outreach and education for community discussion and involvement.

We support the investigation of adoption of the City of San Jose Community Choice Aggregation based on strong policies of the national League of Women Voters on fighting climate change and on clean energy as an effective way to cut carbon emissions.

Our League is active in conducting research and public education on climate change and will continue to organize public meetings and publish articles in our newsletters and websites. We have a Climate Change Committee, chaired by Rita Norton with a contingent of informed members. Our League of Women Voters offers our willingness to work jointly with other community organizations to promote discussions and input on options for how this alternative model might be configured.

We support that the City Council approve the study of the community choice energy program. The study should determine whether San Jose Community Choice Aggregation would reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, increase use of renewable energy, and build a strong economic basis for citizens, businesses and the City itself. The study should develop a sound management and business plan including risk mitigation and options. The plan and the work of the entity that would put it into effect should be accessible and transparent to citizens. Our League hopes that you approve this recommendation with the aim to achieve these goals.

For further information and follow-up on our work, please feel free to contact us at ritanorton1@gmail.com.

Sincerely, Cecilie Schulze, President, San Jose/Santa Clara League of Women Voters

Cc: City of San Jose City Clerk

Letter to City of Morgan Hill for an Urban Service Area Amendment.

March 3, 2016

To: Emmanuel Abello LAFCO of Santa Clara County 70 W. Hedding Street, San Jose, CA 95110 RE: Morgan Hill Urban Service Area Amendment + 2015 + LAFCO Application Sports + Recreation + Leisure District

The League of Women Voters of San Jose/Santa Clara -- which also covers the cities of Milpitas, Morgan Hill and Gilroy -- appreciates the opportunity to comment on the application from the City of Morgan Hill for an Urban Service Area Amendment.

The League has been an advocate for comprehensive regional planning that promotes compact growth, natural resources protection and social and economic equality. We have endorsed the goals and objectives of LAFCO to be an important governmental body to control and direct growth. The League has many long-standing positions on land use, the environment, opposing sprawling growth and the erosion of natural assets.

We have reviewed the staff report and applaud the extensive analysis provided by LAFCO staff. We point out that their analysis shows that the plan is inconsistent with the Regional Transportation Plan to reduce Green House Gases, and is inconsistent with Plan Bay Area. The staff notes, too, that the population growth projections by Morgan Hill are in excess of the ABAG projections for the same 25 year period. Staff's analysis of LAFCO factors used for decision-making shows that of eight factors, the proposal does not meet LAFCO policies in six areas.

Additionally, of great concern to the League, the request by the city of Morgan Hill provides inadequate assurances that prime but decreasing Agricultural Lands will be preserved, and could negatively impact the work being done by the County to prepare a Sustainable Agricultural Lands Policy Framework for Southern Santa Clara County. Any action on the application would be ill-advised at this time.

Other critical factors: 1) Information to LAFCO suggest that the City long-term is unable to provide urban services (water, police, fire protection, storm water and sewer services) as required; 2) the plan's "segmentation of analysis" downplays impacts and does not meet CEQA requirements; and 3) the city's own General Plan calls for coordination with the County and that their application does not accomplish that objective.

Further, the League supports the use of doing an Ecosystem Services review in making land use decisions. Ecosystem Services measures the economic benefits of open land, e.g. clean air, water, food, etc. No such analysis was performed on the area of SEQ that Morgan Hill is proposing be annexed. An economic analysis would help inform Morgan Hill leaders when making decisions around development and agricultural preservation.

For these reasons, the League of Women Voters is strongly opposed to the request from the city of Morgan Hill for an Urban Service Area Amendment + and we urge the Board of LAFCO to support staff recommendation of Option 1.

Please contact me at if you have any questions about our concerns.

Sincerely,

Cecilie Schulze

President, League of Women Voters San Jose/Santa Clara

Letter to San Jose City Council Regarding Approval of Community Choice Aggregation

February 21, 2016 Dear Mayor Liccardo, Vice Mayor Herrera and City Councilmembers:

On behalf of the San Jose/Santa Clara League of Women Voters, I write to endorse the Transportation and Environment Committee's February 1, 2016 passage of the staff recommendation to investigate the potential for establishing Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) in our City. The Board of San Jose/Santa Clara League of Women Voters is on record in this matter and voted to approve this action.

After studying the comprehensive staff report describing Community Choice Aggregation with options for participation and evaluation, and benefits and risks, we endorse the direction to staff to develop a Request for Proposals for a Community Choice Aggregation program in San Josť and return to Council in fall 2016 to present recommendations. During this time period, we encourage and recommend broad outreach and education for community discussion and involvement.

We support the investigation of adoption of the City of San Jose Community Choice Aggregation based on strong policies of the national League of Women Voters on fighting climate change and on clean energy as an effective way to cut carbon emissions.

Our League is active in conducting research and public education on climate change and will continue to organize public meetings and publish articles in our newsletters and websites. We have a Climate Change Committee, chaired by Rita Norton with a contingent of informed members. Our League of Women Voters offers our willingness to work jointly with other community organizations to promote discussions and input on options for how this alternative model might be configured.

We support that the City Council approve the study of the community choice energy program. The study should determine whether San Jose Community Choice Aggregation would reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, increase use of renewable energy, and build a strong economic basis for citizens, businesses and the City itself. The study should develop a sound management and business plan including risk mitigation and options. The plan and the work of the entity that would put it into effect should be accessible and transparent to citizens. Our League hopes that you approve this recommendation with the aim to achieve these goals.

For further information and follow-up on our work, please feel free to contact us at ritanorton1@gmail.com.

Sincerely,

Cecilie Schulze

President, San Jose/Santa Clara League of Women Voters