Berkeley rent board seeks new commissioner after resignation of Katherine Harr

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Katherine Harr, a longtime commissioner on the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, submitted her letter of resignation Jan. 26, ending her term almost two years before she was set to leave office.

Harr’s resignation has been effective since Jan. 30. She resigned because of personal circumstances, stating that her family is planning on moving out of Berkeley in the coming months. The rent board will be appointing a replacement to hold the position until the November 2018 election.

Harr first became a rent board commissioner in 2010 and has served as a commissioner in Berkeley for seven years. She worked extensively for the passing of Measure AA in November, a measure intended to increase the relocation money for people being evicted and prevent evictions until the end of the school year for families with school-aged children. During her time as a commissioner, Harr also worked on changes in demolition ordinance, legislation regarding short-term rentals and practices meant to ensure renter involvement in community building.

“The (rent board) makes a huge difference in the day-to-day lives of Berkeley,” Harr said. “The idea was to let renters have the same stake in this community, because they know they can stay … giving them the stability so that they know that they can get involved.”

Harr has continued to volunteer with the Berkeley Tenants Union and has been meeting with potential candidates for the now-vacant position on the rent board.

“Wherever she goes, (Harr) is … the hardest-working person,” said Dave Blake, a former commissioner on the rent board who worked with Harr. “She really feels that an elected position is a responsibility, not a right.”

The rent board is accepting applications for a new interim commissioner until Feb. 22. A subcommittee will be appointed by the board to interview applicants, and a final decision will be made March 20.

According to Jay Kelekian, the executive director of the rent board, the board is invested in maintaining a variety of perspectives. Kelekian said the primary qualification for a commissioner applicant is the ability to uphold the ordinance that voters have repeatedly adopted.

When describing what the rent board looks for in a candidate, Harr emphasized that the process is open and accessible and not restricted to people who have previously held public office.

“I’m really excited to encourage people to get involved,” Harr said. “Especially students — everybody needs to be represented. … You have to be somebody that believes that collective decisions are better than individual decisions. You’ve got to believe … that talking about different perspectives leads to a better conclusion.”

The rent board will be honoring Harr for her work as a commissioner during its March 20 meeting.

Contact Shayann Hendricks at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @shayannih.

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  • justiceplease

    This is a huge loss for both the tenants and landlords of Berkeley. It will be impossible to find someone with the same administrative/legal skill set who is also dedicated to dethe cause of rent stabilization for people in Berkeley.

    • FuzzmanX

      How is the loss of a tenants advocate a loss for property owners? Unless rent control benefits landlords…

      • Commissioner Harr is a landlord.

      • justiceplease

        Commissioner Harr administered the law fairly. The rent board is there to benefit landlords as well as tenants. They educate both tenants and landlords, can make sure the landlord is keeping up with the law, and can help them with problem tenants.