Opponents of condo conversions spread hysteria
The hysterical tone of many of the condo conversion plan's opponents was evident in last week's CED Committee meeting, where anxious upper-income renters and homeowners spoke passionately about the low-income renters who have nothing to do with this proposal. Now, renowned anti-capitalists Nancy Nadel, Lynda Carson, and Paul Hogarth have decided to spread misinformation throughout the media. Additionally, they link this to mayoral politics despite having no evidence that Dellums objects to the proposal.
Paul Hogarth of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic (whose successful advocacy of "progressive" policies has rendered San Francisco utterly unaffordable) asserts in BeyondChron that, like a lame-duck Congress, Ignacio de la Fuente is trying to rush through his condo conversion ordinance "even though incoming Mayor-elect Ron Dellums opposes the plan." But Dellums doesn't oppose it! According to Desley Brooks (who, of course, was the sole councilmember to support Dellums' candidacy, and is the author of the conversion ordinance), "Ron hasn’t said anything on this issue." Andre Spearman, while speaking against the ordinance at the council committee hearing, strongly implied that a Dellums task force is going to recommend a similar ordinance. It is interesting that those who oppose it continually refer to it as Ignacio's plan even though it was introduced by Desley Brooks. Like many "progressive" diatribes from San Francisco about Oakland, Paul Hogarth's article refers to an imagined political situation on the City Council and does not address the substance of the proposal.
Lynda Carson, on the other hand, a long-time tenant activist, does indeed address the proposal on her post to IndyMedia. Unfortunately, she focuses on the spectre of greedy speculators and doesn't actually address the merits of the conversion act. She seems to be unaware that the cap went down to 800 after the planning commission hearings, and focuses on low-income tenants, who are unaffected by the proposal. She writes as though the current law, requiring replacement apartment development, is great, even she opposed increasing our housing stock as part of the Oak-to-Ninth development. I wouldn't be suprised if she also opposed the Forest City development (along with other housing activists), which will be the largest addition to Oakland's rental housing stock in decades. She appears to be deliberately misinformative when she cites Nancy Nadel and Jean Quan's opposition to the ordinance as evidence that Dellums opposes it, even though neither of them supported Dellums' election. Finally, I'd love to know where she gets her figure of a 2.7% vacancy rate in Oakland's apartment market, since reliable data is very hard to find. Also, 2.7% isn't very low.
Councilmembers Nadel and Quan helped gather petition signatures against the condo conversion plan on Saturday, according to the Trib. Using her trademark divisive and ignorant rhetoric, Nadel characterized the proposal as "a ploy by developers." Deckin pointed out on the earlier comment thread that Ms. Quan made broad arguments against homeownership that she knows to be untrue. I am puzzled by Ms. Quan, who is a savvy political operator, acting so clearly against the wishes of her constituents. Does anyone really think that Montclair's councilmember (the only councilmember to represent an all-hills district) should be leading a charge against homeownership? Her repeated calls during the Inclusionary Zoning debate for economic integration within buildings was ironic in the extreme - she feels that downtown condo buyers living next door to residential hotels need to be in mixed-income developments (which is extremely inefficient), while development in her own district is primarily single-family homes. I'd like her to tell her constituents that they should be sharing a roof with subsidized housing.
The rent control and do-nothing activists opposing condo conversions miss several key points of the proposal. First and foremost, it attempts to convert 9% of the apartment stock over 10 years, which is less than 1% a year. Thus, liquidity in the market will be preserved, and the proposal will not impact most renters. While the assumption behind the proposal is that up to a third of existing renters could afford to buy their own apartments, even if we accept the opponents' figures that 90% cannot (which is from the same source, HUD, cited during the IZ debate saying that 70% of Oaklanders cannot afford to rent here), the proposal still makes sense. Second, there are many protections built into the law to prevent evictions (and all Section 8 buildings are exempt). Tenants are given three months to decide to purchase their unit (a timeframe that may increase as a compromise measure), and if they don't, they receive 6 months rent as compensation. That is extremely generous. Seniors receive lifetime leases (which to me seems really costly). Third, the funds raised by conversion fees will triple Oakland's affordable housing budget, which would have prevented the Chinatown evictions that happened because the city could not afford to purchase the subsidized units when the subsidies expired. Fourth and finally, any issue of tenant displacement could be solved by an aggressive push to incentivize the construction of rental housing. No tenant activist is suggesting that. By consistently opposing efforts to increase Oakland's housing supply, tenant activists do a great disservice to the renters they claim to represent.