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Proposed Tenant Protection Law in Concord Angers Both Sides

The Concord City Council met to discuss a proposal to strengthen its tenant protection laws. It’s an effort seven years in the making, but the Mayor was reminding the public that “you can’t always get what you want.”

The protections being discussed come too late for Betty Gabaldon. In 2018, after living in Concord for 18 years, she and her daughter were pushed out of their apartment without explanation.

“The owner just came in and gave everybody a 6-day notice,” she said, “and he didn’t have to give us a reason why he was doing that. He just said it was because…he didn’t even have to give us a reason.”

Gabaldon became a housing activist with the Todos Santos Tenants Union, and joined others at Tuesday’s Concord City Council meeting. They’ve been pushing for rent control and just-cause eviction protections for seven years now but on that night, they were arguing that the proposed ordinance NOT be passed.

“It would not protect anybody,” said Gabaldon. “It wouldn’t protect any tenants if this ordinance gets passed tonight.”

In the law, words matter. The ordinance calls for a 3% cap on rent increases, but would not apply to Accessory Dwelling Units. The activists said it’s so vaguely defined that EVERY rental unit in the city could claim to be an ADU and be exempted. And they also take exception to the ease with which landlords can make a claim for “fair return” allowing them to get around the rent cap.

“Even if they’re making a profit, they could ask for this fair return every year,” Gabaldon said. “So, this whole thing needs to be sent back.”

But Mayor Edi Birsan said he’s not surpised there’s dissatisfaction with the proposal…probably from both sides.

“Well, there’s an old saying: ‘If both sides are unhappy, it must be good deal,'” he said. “I like to think that if both sides are happy…maybe I’m on some strange meds!”

Birsan said he supports greater tenant protections. He said some landlords have treated people badly in pursuit of greed. And he recognizes that the rapid rise in rents is putting huge pressure on long time tenants to pay more or get out. But he said good government is not a “zero-sum game” where one side wins and the other loses.

“Both from the tenants’ side and the landlords’ side, they have to understand that they are in a compact to make the community work. And we are writing the rules so that people are reminded of what it is that makes the community work,” said Birsan. “And that’s why we’re having an intense time tonight. Because people’s perceptions…and what people want…and what people need…are all three different subjects. “

The mayor said he doubts any final decisions will be made until sometime in January. So, the city’s new rent stabilization law will continue to be discussed–and argued over–for a while longer. And in the end, there’s a good chance that no one will be completely happy with it.

Source : CBS News