Supporters of the Tenant Protection Ordinance march into Oakland City Hall.

Tenant protection ordinance passes at Oakland’s city council meeting

on October 22, 2014

“Hey hey, ho ho, it’s time to pass the TPO!” The chant rang out in front of Oakland City Hall, inside the building itself, and in the city council chambers as marchers in support of the Tenant Protection Ordinance made their way to Tuesday night’s council meeting.

At the council’s final meeting before the November election, they considered the Tenant Protection Ordinance, passed another ordinance that will protect unaccompanied minors at risk of deportation, and discussed updates on the Coliseum City development. The Tenant Protection Ordinance, or TPO, is meant to help tenants who are harassed by landlords who fail or threaten to not make repairs, remove property from the apartment of the tenant without prior written consent, threaten physical harm to a tenant, or cause one of the 13 other problems that would be prohibited by the ordinance.

The city clerk announced that 47 people signed up to talk about the ordinance, and many told anecdotes of being done wrong by landlords. Some said they had their locks changed; some said they had their belongings thrown out; some said they heard of tenants of being sexually harassed.

“We want to pass this anti-harassment ordinance to really stop the ways that landlords are intimidating tenants and forcing tenants to move out,” said Robbie Clark, housing rights campaign lead organizer at Causa Justa, a group supporting the ordinance.  “We’re really wanting to put in some protections in place for tenants across the board in Oakland.”

District 6 Councilmember Desley Brooks said that she supports protecting tenants’ rights, but she said that she didn’t feel that this proposal would do that. “When you start to look at the details of the tenant protection ordinance, this isn’t ready, this isn’t right,” Brooks said.

City Council President Patricia Kernighan said that the city should not be operating on a “complaint basis,” meaning that enforcement is triggered by a tenant filing a complaint. Instead, she said, during the next budget cycle, the city should hire more code enforcement agents and that they should actively inspect apartment buildings.

When the vote was called for, Councilmember for District 7 Larry Reid, Brooks, and Kernighan abstained. The ordinance passed to a room of cheers.

As part of the consent agenda—meaning that each item doesn’t have to be voted on—the council passed a grant for a group of non-profits that will help them provide legal aid to unaccompanied minors who are going through deportation proceedings.  The “collaborative” consists of multiple groups, including Centro Legal De La Raza, the lead group. According to the resolution, the collaborative asked for around $575,000 from the city of Oakland for legal and “community coordination” services. They are also asking for around $420,000 from Alameda County for mental health and housing services.

“We’re going to be able to hire additional attorneys and have additional capacity to be able to serve these young children and refugee families that are coming,” said Bianca Wolff, executive director at Centro Legal de la Raza. “We’re hoping that we’ll be able to provide legal services to between 300 to 400 children,” she continued, though she said she wasn’t exactly sure about the number.

Before the meeting began, people dressed in Oakland Raiders gear assembled in front of city hall. “Godfather” Griz Jones, “Dr. Death” (Ray Perez), and “Frank Nitty” (Adam Alcala)—co-founders of Forever Oakland, a group that works to keep sports teams in Oakland—had been told that an announcement about the Coliseum City project was coming.

Coliseum City is a retail, hotel, and residential space that would be centered around a stadium for the Raiders.  The city has been trying to raise money for the development. “In the last month, an organization has stepped forward that’s going to put in the first, probably, half a billion dollars for the development,” said Quan standing on the front steps of city hall next to Gorilla Rilla, a Raiders fan who dresses as a gorilla in a football jersey.

The city will also extend the agreement with New City, the group that is working with the Raiders, and with the NFL to accept a master developer for the project. “We are very close to the end. This is a critical step,” said Quan.  She also said the environmental report done for the Coliseum City project is now available on the city website.

“Everything that we worked for has gone in the direction that it’s supposed to go,” said Jones, wearing his Forever Oakland shirt. “This type of announcement goes to show that a deal will get done, and the stadium will get built. That’s why we’ve been working from a grassroots level.”

Then the Oakland team fans and Forever Oakland members shouted their rallying cry, which echoed across the area in front of city hall: “Stay in Oakland!”

Photo by Basil D Soufi
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