Oakland and the limits of rent control: Confronting a crisis

Clara Chow didn’t ask for a $3,000 Italian tile kitchen floor. She didn’t want a concrete patio, granite countertops or a cool gray exterior paint job for the three-bedroom apartment she shares with her husband and daughter, either, but she’s still paying for them thanks to Oakland’s murky rent control rules.

“It was forced on us,” said Chow, who has lived at the four-unit property on a quiet street in the ever-trendier Temescal neighborhood for 18 years. “We were never even shown a budget.”

The bill her landlord passed on for the upscale improvements, which she said added 35 percent to the family’s $1,220-a-month rent, is an example of how price increases threaten to push tenants out of their homes in Oakland.

Chow’s three-year case with the city’s rent board also illustrates one of several tenant issues bubbling up in an onslaught of proposed changes to Oakland rent laws unrivaled in recent memory. Other questions include whether landlords should have to get government pre-approval for rent hikes, as well as how tenants and the city should be notified of increases.

Read more here