Lawyer and UC Berkeley graduate Bianca Zahrai is running for the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board this November.
A longtime Berkeley resident with experience as both a renter and homeowner, Zahrai said in an email that she hopes to bring the voices of property owners to the conversation if elected. Her campaign is based on the principles of balance, fairness, transparency and accountability.
“I believe in public service and civic duty,” Zahrai said in the email. “This campaign is the first step in my commitment to fulfilling that duty.”
The goal of the Rent Stabilization Board is to maintain community diversity and support affordable housing while still providing owners with a fair return on their properties, according to its website. The board works to achieve this by regulating residential rent increases and providing protection to tenants.
As civil employees, Zahrai’s parents instilled in her the values of civil service, which helped prompt her to run for office, according to Zahrai.
Currently an attorney, Zahrai has work experience in nonprofit organizations and for profit businesses, as well as the California Legislative Counsel, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the U.S. District Court and the federal executive branch.
“I (will) draw on my work experience at the different branches of state and federal government, and apply that knowledge to the Rent Stabilization Board to help bring people together and to find practical and objective solutions,” Zahrai said in the email.
Zahrai alleged that the current rent board policies have “shut out” and even “demonized” property owners in Berkeley.
She added that she fears that the current approach of the rent board will cause homeowners to take their properties off the rental market.
“Berkeleyans view the current Board as ‘radical and chaotic’, unpredictable, and illogical,” Zahrai said in the email. “Many see the Board’s past actions and current policies as Draconian and in violation of both the US and the California State Constitutions which guarantee property rights and explicitly state that there shall be no taking of property without just compensation.”
Zahrai hopes to bring a “fresh perspective” to the Rent Stabilization Board and promote accountability through annual audits, recognizing the importance of affordable housing for all Berkeley residents.
If elected, Zahrai plans to create policies that have a positive impact on the lives of Berkeley residents. Beyond the rent board, Zahrai is also running for AC Transit Board of Directors Ward 1.
“All Berkeleyans need to have a voice in how their city government works, and I am that voice,” Zahrai said in the email. “I have the dedication and enthusiasm to make Berkeley a better place for all Berkeleyans, both tenants as well as property owners, and firmly believe we are better when we work together.”