In 2016, the voters of Mountain View adopted Measure V (the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act), which protects renters by limiting rent increases and requiring just cause for eviction while ensuring landlords get a fair return. Measure V has worked well and has enabled many families, seniors, teachers and workers to stay in Mountain View with stable rents.
Now the City Council has placed Measure D on the March ballot. It professes to improve Measure V, but in fact, Measure D would result in higher rents and weaken the current law.
Proponents have made the misleading assertion that Measure D would lower the allowable rent increases, but this argument is flawed. Current law allows rent increases between 2% and 5%, but never higher than the rate of inflation, which has remained below 3.6% for the past 10 years. Measure D would give landlords the ability to raise rents 4% every year, which is more than these historical inflation rates. Thus, fixing the allowed increase at 4% is a gift to landlords at the expense of renters, and this gift grows in value with lowering inflation.
In another move to weaken current law, Measure D changes the rules on how improvement costs are passed on to renters. Current law allows for rent increases of up to 10% to offset costs of safety upgrades or government-mandated improvements (if those costs deny landlords a fair rate of return). Measure D broadens the list of upgrades to include projects that "extend the useful life of the property." This could include almost any renovation or improvement, and these could raise rents by up to 10%. This part of Measure D is not needed to allow increases for earthquake safety improvements as claimed by proponents, and it opens the door to manipulation and abuse.
Proponents say that Measure D will reduce demolition of older apartments. This argument has been made moot by state Senate Bill 330 (a new law prohibiting cities from approving new housing developments that would raze rent-controlled or affordable housing unless an equal number of new units are offered to tenants at the same price).
Some of the other features of Measure D are just unnecessary. One is the prohibition on paying the members of the Rental Housing Committee. They have never asked to be paid, and the implementation of Measure V has not cost the taxpayers of Mountain View a single dollar.
Another specious aspect of Measure D is lifting the requirement that committee members be residents of Mountain View. Proponents say that this is necessary in case the City Council cannot find suitable Mountain View resident landlords. Measure V requires that there be no more than two out of five members who are landlords or property managers — it does not require that there be two. Surely there are plenty of qualified Mountain View residents who are capable of ensuring fair treatment for both renters and landlords.
If you are still not convinced, the California Apartment Association has announced that if Measure D passes, it will drop support for its own even more misleading and self-serving November ballot initiative. This must mean that Measure D accomplishes their objective of undermining the current law.
Measure V is working well and protecting renters as intended. Measure D weakens rent control in Mountain View and is a gift to landlords. We are voting no on Measure D.
Ronald and Dorothy Schafer are Mountain View homeowners.