Here’s who you should vote for in the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board election

CITY AFFAIRS: In the upcoming November election, Berkeley voters will elect new commissioners to the Rent Stabilization Board. Here's our take.

Maria Poblet/Courtesy

Berkeley is in the midst of a dire housing crisis, and now more than ever, the city’s Rent Stabilization Board has an incredibly important role to play in regulating rents and protecting tenants’ rights. This November, Berkeley voters have the opportunity to elect five new commissioners to the board, and the members of the Community Power Slate — Soli Alpert, James Chang, Paola Laverde, María Poblet and John Selawsky — are the most qualified candidates for the job.

The Daily Californian’s editorial board interviewed all the candidates for rent board — except for William “Three Hundred” Caldeira, who could not be reached for an interview, and Judy Hunt, who declined the request. But the Daily Cal editorial board believes that Caldeira — though his intentions are noble — lacks the experience and tangible goals required in a rent board candidate. Hunt, meanwhile, has repeatedly taken pro-big landlord stances that the Daily Cal editorial board finds worrisome, especially when the rent board’s focus should be supporting tenants and smaller landlords in an increasingly unaffordable city.

Another candidate, David Buchanan, also vocalized some ideas that concerned the Daily Cal editorial board, including opposing Proposition 10, which would repeal the Costa–Hawkins Rental Housing Act and expand rent control in California.

Berkeley needs commissioners who are going to fight for tenants’ rights. And those candidates are Alpert, Chang, Laverde, Poblet and Selawsky.

Soli Alpert

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If elected, Soli Alpert would bring an invaluable perspective missing from the rent board — the student perspective.

Students make up a large portion of the city’s population. Alpert, who is taking a year off from UC Berkeley, has experienced firsthand the housing struggles that many students undergo. As a commissioner, Alpert would prioritize students’ rights as tenants and aim to increase awareness about housing resources.

While Alpert has never served as an elected official, he is experienced in policymaking — in his time as a legislative assistant to Kate Harrison, he has lobbied for affordable housing in Berkeley.

The board hasn’t had a student commissioner in more than 10 years, and Alpert would provide this much-needed voice.

Vote Soli Alpert for rent board.

James Chang

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James Chang’s knowledge of eviction laws and budgeting experience make him a strong candidate for the rent board.

Chang has served on the board since 2014 and has prioritized educating tenants about their rights. As the chair of the outreach committee, Chang has improved the communication between the rent board and community members by making services more accessible online.

In his interview with the Daily Cal editorial board, Chang showed that he understands the nuances of creating more affordable housing in the city. He said in his interview that the city must find a balance between rent stabilization and increasing housing development. Additionally, his time on the rent board’s Budget and Personnel Committee will be critical in addressing the housing crisis from a financial perspective.

Vote James Chang for rent board.

Paola Laverde

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Paola Laverde is an experienced candidate who is passionate about tenants’ rights.

In her time as a rent board commissioner, Laverde has shown time and again that she puts tenants first. Laverde, who currently serves as the board’s vice chair, worked to increase protections for tenants with disabilities by updating the city’s elevator code.

Laverde herself has experienced no-fault evictions twice, and in her interview with the Daily Cal editorial board, she showed how these experiences have galvanized her to fight for the rights of some of the city’s most vulnerable residents.

Berkeley needs a rent board that will fight for equitable access to housing. With Laverde on the board, Berkeley voters can be sure that residents will come first.

Vote Paola Laverde for rent board.

María Poblet

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María Poblet has supported tenants’ rights for nearly two decades. If elected to remain on the rent board, she would continue her mission for another four years.

Poblet has devoted much of her career to improving housing in the Bay Area. She has worked at Causa Justa :: Just Cause, an Oakland-based housing rights organization, and was appointed to the rent board in 2017. In her time on the board, she worked to provide free eviction defense legal services to tenants in need. If elected, she would prioritize promoting racial equity in housing and stabilizing rent control to protect the city’s low-income and underrepresented communities.

As an experienced housing advocate, Poblet would bring a knowledgeable and passionate perspective to the rent board.

Vote María Poblet for rent board.

John Selawsky

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John Selawsky has years of experience as both a commissioner and the chair of the rent board, and the Daily Cal editorial board has no doubt that residents will benefit from his re-election.

Selawsky has been a long-standing and active community member in Berkeley, serving on the Berkeley Unified School District Board and the Zoning Adjustments Board. In his interview with the Daily Cal editorial board, Selawsky said he believes that stable housing creates stable communities and that he hopes to achieve this with increased oversight for all housing units in Berkeley.

After nearly 30 years as a Berkeley resident, Selawsky has witnessed the effects of Berkeley’s growing housing crisis and has the experience to address it.

Vote John Selawsky for rent board.

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