BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
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.”
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.