Oakland and the limits of rent control: A battle at the ballot

Lisa Simonson is an artist, but she makes ends meet by assisting an East Bay home stager who aims to ensure that multimillion-dollar listings live up to their asking prices.

It’s an ironic day job for the Oakland resident of 18 years, who moved to Vallejo at the end of September after a spike in her own housing costs.

“I expected a rent increase, but I didn’t think it would be $1,200,” Simonson, 56, said of her shared two-bedroom apartment on the North side of Lake Merritt. “I was stunned. My mind went blank.”

Like thousands of other apartments, condos, duplexes and houses built after 1983, the converted photo studio Simonson has called home since being priced out of San Francisco in 1998 isn’t covered by Oakland’s rent control ordinance. Her experience shows both the limitations of such policies under current state law and how thousands of other renters stand to gain from new protections promised by the Measure JJ initiative headed for the November 8 ballot.

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