Community Power Slate wins seats on Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board

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Updated 11/7/2018: This article has been updated to reflect additional information from Soli Alpert, Paola Laverde and David Buchanan.

In the race for Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Board, the Community Power Slate — which includes James Chang, Paola Laverde, John Selawsky, María Poblet and Soli Alpert — won the available seats as of press time at 2 a.m.

The Community Power Slate, which ran on a shared platform of improving tenant protections and expanding rent control, watched the election results at Cornerstone Craft Beer & Live Music in Downtown Berkeley, celebrating with City Council District 4 candidate Kate Harrison.

With 100 percent of precincts reported at 2 a.m., results showed that Chang received 19.54 percent of the vote, Laverde received 16.9 percent, Selawsky received 15.07 percent, Poblet received 14.82 percent and Alpert received 12.53 percent. Candidate Judy Hunt trailed Alpert with 10.56 percent of the vote.

Four of the winning candidates from the Community Power Slate — all except Alpert — have prior experience as rent board commissioners. The other candidates — David Buchanan, William “Three Hundred” Caldeira and Hunt — are not projected to secure seats on the board as of press time.

In response to California’s housing and homelessness crises, rent control was treated as a statewide issue in the midterm elections. Also on this ballot, California Proposition 10 — which was projected to lose as of press time — would have repealed the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, expanding local governments’ authority over rent control.

Chang plans to advocate for more affordable student housing, expanded renter rights and more housing located near public transit. After graduating from UC Berkeley in 2013, Chang began serving on the rent board in 2014. His work on the rent board has included lobbying for increased funding for housing legal services organizations such as the East Bay Community Law Center.

“I am very grateful and humbled and appreciative of the Berkeley voters for giving someone like me, who is so young in politics, the opportunity to serve again,” Chang said. “Prop. 10 did not go the way that we wanted it to, but we will continue to use our platform to continue to advocate for stabilized housing.”

Chang added that the Community Power Slate is “very grateful” that Berkeley voters chose a slate dedicated to tenant rights, and that the votes showed that many voters support rent control.

Rent board vice chair Laverde will serve a second term on the board. Laverde, who has experienced eviction, casts herself as a strong advocate for tenants and seeks to strengthen tenant protections because she claims state laws only protect developers and property owners.

“I have a mandate from voters. I have a voice,” Laverde said. “We will work with our representatives to make sure that the voice of renters is heard.”

Selawsky, chair of the rent board, said he will focus on improving tenant protections and anti-displacement mechanisms during his future term on the rent board. He also said he hopes that in the coming years, the rent board will register every rental unit in the city to provide data to better inform the board.

Poblet, who was appointed to the rent board in 2017 to replace former commissioner Katherine Harr, hopes to combat rising rent costs by supporting the development of more community-controlled affordable housing.

Alpert, who is taking time off from his fourth year at UC Berkeley, ran on a platform of representing the large population of student renters in Berkeley. Alpert said he will bring his experience with legislative analysis to the rent board and will advocate for extended tenant protections.

Alpert said Berkeley took a “big step forward” in advancing the Community Power Slate and that Tuesday was a “really good day” for students at UC Berkeley.

“We’re a city that is ready for real solutions to our housing and homelessness crises that put people first, not the interests of massive corporations,” Alpert said.

Hunt, who served as a rent board commissioner from 2012 to 2016, hoped to increase affordable housing options for low- and middle-income residents. As a candidate, Hunt claimed the rent board lacks representation from property owners.

Buchanan received 6.66 percent of the vote as of press time. A property owner himself, Buchanan was the only candidate running for rent board on a pro-property owner platform. As a candidate, he opposed policies such as the $250 fee that property owners are required to pay for rental properties.

Caldeira received 3.62 percent of the vote as of press time. A Berkeley resident and a landscaper, Caldeira previously served on the Berkeley Homeless Commission. He focused his campaign on rising rents and gentrification, hoping to ensure that working-class people, seniors and college students are protected under the city’s rent stabilization ordinance.

“Well, the voters have spoken,” Buchanan said in an email. “Until there is consensus that our issues with housing prices are, at their root, a supply problem … we will not make real progress to fixing this.”

Contact Hannah Piette and Madeleine Gregory at [email protected].