By a 4-1 vote, the City of Richmond passed a rent control law Tuesday night, prompting celebration among the broad coalition of tenants, labor allies, homeowners, and progressive community groups that packed the hearing chambers all night. Landlords turned out in force to oppose rent control, but had no support from any allies outside the landlord industry.
The Richmond Coalition for Fair Rents and Just Cause included AFSCME Local 3299, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, California Nurses Association, CCISCO (Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization), Centro Latino Cuzcatian, CUIDO (Communities United in Support of Olmstead), Eviction Defense Center, EBHO (East Bay Housing Organization), Iron Triangle Neighborhood Council, Richmond Progressive Alliance, Saffron Strand, SEIU Local 1021, Tenants Together, Urban Habitat, and Urban Tilth.
Vice Mayor Jael Myrick joined Councilmembers Jovanka Beckles, Eduardo Martinez and Gayle McLaughlin in casting the votes to pass rent control. These councilmembers withstood an aggressive and well-funded lobbying effort by real estate industry representatives that tried in vain to persuade the Council that rent control was the wrong answer to rising rents and displacement.
Councilmember Nathaniel Bates cast the lone vote against the measure in the end. Mayor Thomas Butt and Councilmember Vinay Pimple were vehemently opposed, but did not cast votes. In a dramatic moment just before the vote when it became clear that Vice Mayor Myrick was going to support rent control, Mayor Butt stated, “I’m leaving. I can’t deal with this,” at which point he stood up and left the meeting, followed by Councilmember Pimple. Moments later by a 4-1 vote, the Council passed rent control.
The Richmond law is the first new rent control law in California in 30 years. The real estate industry threw everything they had at these council members, but were unable to derail these basic protections against unfair rent increases and arbitrary evictions. This is an enormous win for tenants. Rent control is a meaningful, viable solution to displacement and erosion of community. The movement for renters rights is gaining strength. What will we accomplish next?
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