Landlords lose major rent control battle in Bay Area city

By Jillian D’Onfro

April 22, 2024

FILE – The former U.S. Coast Guard Victory Village housing site, consisting of 42 apartment-style buildings and constructed in 1989, is seen from this drone view in Concord, Calif., on June 24, 2021.MediaNews Group/East Bay Times v/MediaNews Group via Getty Images

After months of delays, the battle between landlords and tenants in one Bay Area city has come to an end. A rent control ordinance in the city of Concord went into effect Friday after its opponents failed to get enough signatures to place the issue on the November ballot. 

“We are thrilled that the people of Concord have spoken again in favor of people over corporate greed,” Rhea Elina Laughlin, executive director of advocacy group Rising Juntos, said in a statement. 

The ordinance reduces the annual percentage by which landlords can raise rent in Concord and bolsters certain eviction protections. The city council voted to approve it in March, but a local property manager spearheaded a referendum to place it on the ballot. The ordinance’s opponents had accused it of “causing slum-ification” and forcing landlords to “provide subsidized housing” during a five-hour public meeting earlier this year, as SFGATE previously reported.

Jo Sciarroni, a real estate broker who led the referendum efforts, wrote on Facebook in March that “Concord doesn’t want to be San Francisco or Berkeley and certainly not Worse!!” Neither she nor the East Bay Rental Housing Association, which also came out against the ordinance, responded to a request for comment by publication. 

The ordinance’s opponents withdrew their referendum when it failed to get the 7,204 necessary signatures by the Thursday deadline, according to Concord community relations manager Jennifer Ortega. 

“I’m so excited and happy that Concord families are going to have these protections,” Betty Gabaldon, tenants rights organizer with the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, told SFGATE. The fight for these protections has spanned eight years, she said. 

“This is a way to prevent homelessness,” Gabaldon added. “It’s going to have a big impact for all families and people in Concord.” 

According to the city, median gross rents in Concord increased by 62% between 2011 and 2021. The new ordinance will limit annual rent increases for rent-stabilized units to 3%, or 60% of the consumer price index, whichever is lower. It goes beyond California’s Assembly Bill 1482, which limits annual rent increases to no more than 10%, or 5% plus the percentage change in the local consumer price index, whichever is lower. OaklandAntioch and Richmond have also passed their own similar rent protection policies in recent years. 

“We really didn’t know if they were going to get it on the ballot or not,” Gabaldon said of the attempted referendum by the ordinance’s opponents. Getting that many signatures is hard work, she added. “I don’t know how well they were organized. Obviously not that well, because they didn’t get enough signatures,” she said. “I don’t know if I should laugh.” 

The ordinance will be retroactive to April 2023 rents, Gabaldon said, and she’s already talked to a senior man who she said will benefit from the change. According to Gabaldon, he experienced a big rent increase in November that made it hard for him, on his fixed income, to pay for food and medication.

“I started crying with him — this is why we’re doing this,” she said. “For those people who really need it.”