Mari Mendonca, who currently serves on the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, is running for reelection with hopes of advocating for affordable housing and extending rent control.
As a young mother, Mendonca lived below the poverty line and experienced homelessness in Berkeley. In 1994, she faced displacement and had to leave the city for more than 10 years while she was on a housing waitlist.
She now works as a member of Friends of Adeline, an advocacy group working to achieve a more equitable South Berkeley, and is part of the Housing Advisory Commission in addition to being on the rent board.
“I have been fortunate to lend my voice … but more importantly, work in partnership with the community to bring their voice … to the spaces in which they are lacking,” Mendonca said in a speech at the tenant convention.
In her work with Friends of Adeline, Mendonca fights for affordable housing, creates policies for housing justice and advocates that housing is a human right.
Mendonca said she believes the gentrification of Berkeley was already threatening displacement for lower-income and middle-class residents. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the unemployment many families face contributes to that threat, she added.
“The health and safety risk from the threat of the virus is consuming people’s daily lives,” Mendonca said in her speech. “It is threatening the livelihood, health, safety and well-being of our entire community.”
Activist Edythe Boone, who works with Mendonca in Friends of Adeline, believes Mendonca will fight for housing for people who are suffering.
Boone said she thinks there are many rules that prevent low-income individuals from securing housing and Mendonca would be able to make necessary changes to help them.
“Being aware and willing to make changes is what I love about her,” Boone said. “She tells the truth; she’s outspoken.”
Richie Smith, another member of Friends of Adeline with Mendonca, also supports her run for rent board.
Having lived in Berkeley since 1949, Smith said she has witnessed gentrification in the community over the years. She believes that reelecting Mendonca to the board will inspire positive change to create more affordable and safe housing in Berkeley.
“I believe in her; I’m supporting her,” Smith said. “I know she will do an outstanding job in this position.”
Mendonca said housing disparities show the need to promote sustainability in the community and the economy.
She added that she wants to move away from the narrative of dismissing and marginalizing residents in Berkeley because of their economic status.
“Now is the time to build and strengthen the power of our collective consciousness towards change … sustainable, substantial, just and equitable change,” Mendonca said in her speech.