New candidates running for city rent board include three UC Berkeley graduates

UC Berkeley graduates John Nguyen, Stefanie Rawlings and Alejandro Soto-Vigil are all new candidates running for the city's Rent Stabilization Board.

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Three UC Berkeley graduates — John Nguyen, Stefanie Rawlings and Alejandro Soto-Vigil — will run for positions as commissioners on the city of Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board.

According to rent board commissioner Katherine Harr, the board “administers Berkeley’s laws that control rents and ensure safe and clean living conditions, including overseeing the city staff at the board as well as deciding appeals from landlords and tenants who come to the Board to settle disputes.”

Currently, there are nine candidates running for four open commissioner positions on the board.

Nguyen, a 2012 graduate, said that he is running to advocate for safe and affordable housing in Berkeley. He said he hopes to do so by talking to Berkeley residents and using their opinions, especially students’, to figure out practical solutions for current problems in the city.

“I have been involved with several commissions and boards here in Berkeley that focus on housing and homelessness, and by being around so many involved people, I feel that these issues are too important to not be addressed,” Nguyen said.

Rawlings, who graduated in 2010, wants to be a commissioner on the rent board to continue fighting for tenants’ rights, to watch out for the disabled, students and low-income residents and to emphasize outdoor gardening spaces.

“Currently, there are people who want to garden outdoors but can’t,” Rawlings said. “As a student of urban gardening, I plan to make the city better through sustainability gardening.”

Rawlings was involved in the recent Occupy the Farm protest during which protesters set up an encampment on and farmed UC-owned research land in Albany.

Soto-Vigil, a 2004 graduate, has fought for tenants’ rights as a commissioner and vice chair of Housing Advisory Committee. He is also a legislative aide for Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington.

“One issue I plan to focus on is the soft story buildings in UC Berkeley,” Soto-Vigil said. “The buildings are not safe for major earthquakes.”

According to Worthington, incumbents Igor Tregub, Asa Dodsworth and Judy Shelton will run for re-election as commissioners. Tregub is also a 2008 UC Berkeley graduate. New candidates besides the UC Berkeley graduates include Mills College graduate Audra Caravas, Berkeley Planning Commissioner Patti Dacey and city Commission on the Status of Women chair Yelda Bartlett.

According to rent board commissioner Jesse Townley, a tenant convention will be held on July 8 at the main branch of the Berkeley Public Library for city residents to vote on four candidates to endorse as a pro-tenant slate for the November election. Townley said those who are not chosen for the slate must take a pledge not to run against the slate.

The filing period for candidates seeking election in November ends Aug. 10.