Stefan Elgstrand, the legislative aide to Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, announced his candidacy for the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board in a press release Monday.
Elgstrand, a UC Berkeley alumnus, notably emphasized he achieved a supermajority in endorsements from the Berkeley City Council having received support from the council members Terry Taplin, Kate Harrison, Sophie Hahn, Rigel Robinson and Ben Bartlett.
“There is no one I trust more than Stefan Elgstrand to bring progressive values, competent oversight, and proven experience to the Berkeley Rent Board,” Arreguín said in a statement on Elgstrand’s campaign.
According to Elgstrand, his proposals include efforts to prevent displacement and evictions, ensure safe housing and end tenant harassment. He highlighted increased rent and gentrification, complications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and rising tensions over inflation as key issues plaguing Berkeley residents.
Among Elgstrand’s qualifications are almost 10 years of experience with Berkeley City Council, including seven in the mayor’s office, according to the press release. During that time, he worked on housing legislation such as the Tenant Protection Ordinance, the COVID-19 Emergency Response Ordinance, Measure O and more.
“I have a decade of experience working on tenant issues and having been involved in much of the legislation in recent years around tenant issues, I would probably hit the ground running,” Elgstrand said. “My experience will make the commission stronger at addressing these issues.”
If elected, Elgstrand said he will assume the position in December, at which point he will operate simultaneously in his positions on the Rent Board and in the mayor’s office.
Berkeley voters will elect five members for the Rent Board in the November election, according to Elgstrand. He joins a competitive candidate slate in the race for open seats.
Earlier this month, the Berkeley Rent Board Convention planning committee announced five candidates — Negeene Mosaed, Soli Alpert, Ida Martinac, Della Moran and Vanessa Marrero — as the “progressive, pro-tenant slate” for the Rent Board, according to a committee press release.
“Electing these five candidates in November is crucial to protecting and expanding Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization and Eviction for Good Cause Ordinance,” said Paola Laverde, the convention’s planning committee co-chair, in the committee press release. “The next Board will be in charge of implementing what could likely be the first expansion of local rent control and eviction protections in Berkeley in over 40 years.”
Laverde said she strongly opposes Elgstrand’s candidacy. According to Laverde, Elgstrand ran unsuccessfully for the convention’s slate in 2018 and 2020, alleging Elgstrand lacked grassroots support.
Elgstrand also previously served as the Berkeley Tenants Union Steering Committee’s secretary, Laverde said. She noted that Elgstrand was asked to resign from his position alleging a conflict of interest in his ties to the mayor’s office.
“As the mayor’s spokesperson, it is hard to believe that Mr. Elgstrand would vote for or advocate for progressive, pro-tenant policies that are opposed by the mayor,” Laverde said in an email. “His job prevents him from being an independent voice. Instead, as a commissioner, he will have to be in lock-step with the mayor’s policies even if they are detrimental to tenants.”
In response to the allegations, Elgstrand said he chose not to apply to the slate this year, preferring to take his vision directly to voters. Furthermore, Elgstrand alleged he was removed from the Steering Committee after he faced internal abuse from another committee member and reported the abuse to the committee.
The committee has not responded to this allegation.
Elgstrand also emphasized that the mayor’s interests are not contrary to those of the tenants’ union, calling Arreguín the “most pro-tenant Mayor in a generation.” He expressed surprise at Laverde’s claim of a conflict of interest, noting that multiple commissioners of the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board have also served as aides to the mayor and city councilmembers.
“The Mayor and I do agree on most issues given our pro-tenant viewpoints, but I have spoken out on disagreements,” Elgstrand said in an email. “As a Commissioner, I’m here to represent the people of Berkeley, not the Mayor’s Office.”