Renters, small property owners and faith leaders rallied in Oakland this week in support of an Oakland City Council proposal to phase out the city’s residential eviction moratorium.

About 30 people rallied outside 1425 Harrison St., a rental property owned by FPI Management, which organizers said was sued in 2021 for allegedly harassing and discriminating against tenants.

The City Council’s proposal went before the council’s Community and Economic Development Committee at a special meeting Tuesday.

“We want stability in our community,” said attorney Leah Simon-Weisberg, who is the legal director for the ACCE Institute, whose mission is to improve the lives of underserved California residents.

Simon-Weisberg said the proposal before the council would close loopholes that are allowing property owners to make money from evictions.

The eviction moratorium will end Sept. 1 if it is approved by the full council. The proposal is being put forward by Councilmembers Nikki Fortunato Bas and Dan Kalb, who is running for state Senate.

But before the moratorium ends, property owners can still evict tenants who don’t pay rent unless the pandemic is the reason. That provision, which would begin May 2, would be applicable to nonpayment of rent from May 2023 forward.

The council’s proposal also allows property owners to evict tenants starting May 2 if they or a qualified relative is going to move in to the unit. The provision applies to property owners who own only one residential rental unit in Oakland.

A ‘crusade’ against housing providers

“Let’s be clear what Oakland is doing,” said Joshua Howard, executive vice president of local public affairs for the California Apartment Association. “Oakland’s actions are not about winding down their moratorium; they’re ramping up even more regulations, restrictions, and red tape on housing providers who have been on the front line of the pandemic response by providing housing, working with tenants, and being flexible despite the government telling renters they don’t have to pay their rent.”

Howard said Oakland should “end the eviction moratorium and stop this crusade against hard-working housing providers.”

Property owners have had at least one rally calling for an end to the eviction moratorium enacted by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. That moratorium is scheduled to end April 29.

“We believe evictions will spike. We will see a huge amount of displacement.”

Michelle Starratt, Alameda County Housing and Community Development Department

Some property owners said they are owed tens of thousands of dollars.

The end of the moratorium in Alameda County is expected to increase evictions.

“We believe evictions will spike,” said Michelle Starratt, director of the county’s Housing and Community Development Department following a recent presentation to the Board of Supervisors. “We will see a huge amount of displacement.”

That’s what supporters at Tuesday’s rally want to avoid in Oakland.

Simon-Weisberg said Oakland needs a calm, intelligent transition. The last thing Oakland needs is poor housing policy, she said.

“We want to keep as many people housed as we can,” said Dominique Walker with Moms 4 Housing, a group that advocates for housing as a human right.

Preventing a wave of evictions

Oakland property owner Barbara Lopez said she supports the proposal before the City Council because it will hopefully keep tenants from becoming homeless. That is her biggest concern.

She also thinks Oakland does not have enough staff to handle an immediate end to the eviction moratorium.

Tenant Alex Nigro also wants Kalb and Bas’ proposal to pass or something stronger. Nigro works in the live event industry and was out of work starting February 2020.

The eviction moratorium allowed him to stay in his home. He started working again in October 2021, as events slowly resumed. He is nearly ready to get back to a normal way of functioning, he said.

“I hope this proposal goes through,” he said.

FPI Management did not respond to a request for a comment on the suit alleging harassment and discrimination.

Keith Burbank, Bay City News

Keith Burbank is currently a fulltime reporter covering Alameda County and Oakland news for Bay City News. He has also worked on the Data Points project for Local News Matters, finding trends and stories about the region through data. In 2019, he was a California Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, producing a series about homeless deaths in Santa Clara County. He worked as a swing shift editor for the newswire for several years as well. Outside of journalism, Keith enjoys computer programming, math, economics and music.