Yes on AA: Update the rental ordinance

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Caragh McErlean/Staff

For years, Berkeley championed tenants’ rights, but our rental ordinances have fallen somewhat behind those of the rest of our state. It’s time to start catching up.

Measure AA would amend the rental ordinance to prohibit owner move-in evictions — when landlords evict tenants to open the unit for themselves or their families — for tenants with children during the school year.

The current rent ordinance stipulates that landlords can evict tenants if they or a close family member move into the unit. Known as no-fault evictions, they would become illegal against families with school-aged children during the school year if voters approve AA.

Of course, landlords should enjoy the right to live in their own properties when they need to. But they shouldn’t be able to dramatically affect a child’s education in the process.

In most cases, requiring that landlords wait until the school year ends to evict tenants and move into their properties is not exceptionally unreasonable. The only situation in which it could create problems is when landlords find themselves with nowhere else to go. But even in these unfortunate instances, the burden should not shift from the landlord to a child.

Berkeley should strive to create an atmosphere where we respect our children foremost. Berkeley residents should therefore vote yes on Measure AA.

But this ordinance does more than just protect students. As of now, move-in evictions require that landlords provide $4,500 in relocation assistance to low-income residents. In Berkeley’s housing market, this screams insufficient.

Approving measure AA would increase the relocation assistance fee for move-in evictions to $15,000 and make it apply to all tenants. It would also require an additional $5,000 for low-income tenants. When Berkeley rent prices already hover in the thousands, providing families enough money to cover a security deposit and the first month’s rent is essential as they relocate.

Voting yes on Measure AA will update the rental ordinance and start Berkeley on a path toward catching up with other cities in California where relocation assistance and fair tenant laws are bounds ahead of Berkeley.

Endorsements represent the majority opinion of the Senior Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.