Mountain View residents to vote on ‘sneaky repeal’ of rent control

Mayor Lenny Siegel

Daily Post Staff Writer

Landlords’ so-called “sneaky repeal” of Mountain View’s two-year-old rent control law is heading to the ballot in 2020, despite Mayor Lenny Siegel’s urging to first investigate the methods of signature collectors.

“Signatures were collected in a fraudulent fashion. I had eight paid signature gatherers come to my front door, and I believe all of them misrepresented the measure,” Siegel said at City Council on Tuesday night. “We had hundreds of our voters signing affidavits that the measure was misrepresented to them, and until there’s an investigation of the wholesale misleading of the public to get this on the ballot, I cannot accept the certification of this measure.”

Siegel said that petitioners told signers that the initiative would reform the city’s rent control program, Measure V, but that “for all practical purposes it would suspend it.”

Vacancy rate would suspend rent control

The initiative would suspend rent control anytime the city’s vacancy rates go above 3%. Since 2009, vacancy rates have hovered between 3.9% in 2011 and 5.8% in 2016.

Siegel has said that other parts of the initiative were designed to attract votes by limiting rental protections to families earning less than the median income and ensuring that the rent control program can’t access general funds without council approval.

The city intends to fund the rent control program with fees paid by landlords. The Rental Housing Committee members are unpaid.

Siegel and Councilman Ken Rosenberg were the only two council members to vote against accepting a report from the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, the final step in putting the measure on the ballot.

Councilwoman Pat Showalter also spoke out against the measure, but explained that she would vote to approve the report because it was a “simple, ministerial requirement.”

“We are not saying that we approve of the measure. That would be very far from the truth,” Showalter said. “I personally do not approve of this measure at all. I think it was carried out in a very sneaky way.”

Signature-gathering effort

To get an initiative on the ballot, petitioners have to collect the signatures of at least 15% of registered voters. In Mountain View, that’s 5,156.

The landlord-backed Mountain View Homeowner, Renter and Taxpayer Protection Initiative, also called Measure V Too Costly, collected 7,432 signatures between April 20 and Oct. 8.

On Nov. 15, the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters found that 5,723 of those were legitimate and belonged to people registered to vote in Mountain View.

Rosenberg asked City Attorney Jannie Quinn what would happen if the city didn’t approve the report. Quinn said that legal action could be taken against the city since the state Elections Code requires the city to certify the registrar’s count of the signatures.

Not right now

Councilman Chris Clark said that approving the registrar’s report wasn’t the right time to take a stand against the initiative.

“There will be plenty of time to make political statements for or against this,” Clark said. “In my opinion, tonight is not that time, and we entrust the Registrar of Voters to verify the signatures that were collected.”

But Siegel, who lost re-election on Nov. 6, doesn’t have much more time on the dais. Neither does Rosenberg, who will be stepping down at the end of the year.

Showalter also appears to be losing her seat on council. As of last night, with 99% of ballots counted, Showalter was 98 votes behind Livable Mountain View cofounder Alison Hicks.


  1. Seigel, get out!

    We soundly voted out your ideas of how to govern, get out now before you do any more damage to MV!

    Showalter, you were shown the door as well! Stop your brand of politics now, MVers do not want you!!

    • So you voted people out or you voted for people who you wanted to represent you. It can’t be both. The reason why ridiculous political ideals and bad government is in place at all is because people vote with Mal content instead of good mind and time vote for people you believe will do a good job for all MVers. Not because you don’t like a person.


    Dear progressives: Sure, rent control might protect tenants from being forced out by rising rents. But if they need to move out for any other reason, they won’t be able to get another rent-controlled dwelling, because investors won’t build new housing unless it’s exempt from rent control. What tenants really need is not protection from the market, but a reduction in *market* rents. SOLUTION: Put a punitive tax on vacant lots and unoccupied buildings (except properties waiting for permits), so that the owners can’t afford *not* to build accommodation and seek tenants. A vacancy tax, by increasing supply and reducing owners’ ability to tolerate vacancies, strengthens the bargaining position of tenants and therefore reduces rents. The benefit starts immediately, because existing empty dwellings are pushed onto the market.

    Dear conservatives: You say you believe in jobs. But jobs require affordable housing. Jobs can’t be created unless (i) employers can afford business accommodation, and (ii) worker can afford housing within reach of their jobs, on wages that their employers can pay. Moreover, the need to avoid the vacancy tax would initiate job-creating activity, which would expand the bases of other taxes, allowing their rates to be reduced, so that the rest of us get a tax cut. Can you sell a tax cut?

    Dear employers: Lower rents make it easier for you to pay your workers enough to live on. And do you like lower business taxes?

    Dear home owners: Sure, you like high prices when you sell. But then you have to buy again! And then your kids have to get into the market without the benefit of a previous sale. And what if you have a misfortune that sends you back to square one? As a home owner-occupant, you are both landlord and tenant; and while the establishment wants you to think and vote solely as an owner (landlord), your interests as owner are probably outweighed by your interests as occupant (tenant). And do you like lower personal taxes?

  3. The former 2-term MV Cpuncilmember who co-sponsored the SNEAKY REPEAL of rent control (John Inks) finished a distant last in the City Council race. But rent control barely passed 52-48% in November 2016 and landlords will this time (March 2020) spare no expense to repeal it.

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