September 7, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sarah Henry, Public Information Officer
No Wrongdoing Found in Recent Signature Gathering Effort
The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office has determined that no actionable wrongdoing was found in connection with signature gathering for a referendum of a recent rent stabilization ordinance amendment.
On June 6, 2017, the Alameda City Council adopted Ordinance No. 3180, amending Ordinance No. 3148, Alameda’s Rent Review, Rent Stabilization and Limitations on Evictions Ordinance. Ordinance 3180 eliminated “no cause” as a ground for eviction, required relocation fees be paid to a tenant vacating a rental unit at the end of a subsequent fixed term lease, and made other clarifying changes. However, a referendum petition was submitted to the Alameda City Clerk on June 26, which delayed the effectiveness of Ordinance 3180. Sufficient signatures were obtained to require that the Council either rescind Ordinance 3180 or place it on a ballot for Alameda voters to decide.
The District Attorney reported that it had reviewed several dozen declarations alleging violations of Section 18600 of the California Elections Code, along with a letter received from Assemblymember Rob Bonta to the Alameda City Council, and a letter addressed to Assemblymember Bonta from The Sutton Law Firm. The District Attorney concluded that none of the information it received substantiated criminal charges under Elections Code Section 18600. Specifically, the District Attorney found that twenty-five out of thirty-seven (25 of 37) declarations contained no allegation of fraud or misconduct and the remaining twelve (12) declarations were unlikely to be proved.
The District Attorney assessed that all of the relevant discussion of this issue falls under the general topic of rent control. The paid signature gatherers were specifically instructed by their employer to say the issue was regarding rent control, which was technically true, and the law provides protections to the individuals who were merely doing what they were instructed to do (meaning they were not intentionally misleading or misrepresenting the topic).
On September 5, 2017, the City confirmed that there were enough signatures on the referendum petition against Ordinance 3180 that the Council could either put the matter on the ballot or have a first reading to rescind the ordinance. The Council voted 4-1 to rescind Ordinance 3180. Once Ordinance 3180 has been rescinded the amendments to Ordinance 3148 reflected in Ordinance 3180 will be permanently set aside, and the same or substantially same amendments cannot be enacted for a period of one year after repeal.