“I’ve lived in Palo Alto as a renter for about 30 years. I moved out here from the East Coast with a one year old child who’s now approaching 31. My then husband was going to Stanford into a residency program so we lived on campus for one year. Then, we lived off campus for a few years and then eventually, although that house felt like home, the rent became too expensive and I switched to the apartment where I’ve lived for many years.
I’ve been involved [with renters rights] for quite a long time. I kind of stumbled into it. A little bit of how I stumbled into it and off my sofa was actually [through] a proposal, ironically, to build housing in a meadow right next to a creek right next to Stanford. I was fond of that meadow. There were people getting organized to have an alternative site, a more infill site — that just sounded good to me. I got involved and active. My other invitation [into activism] was that I went to a PTA meeting. I didn’t last too long in the PTA, but there was a nice older woman that had been coming to read stories to our kids and did some tutoring. [She said] that her group at the Universalist Church would like a representative [to join.] I was going to a Redwood City Unitarian Universalist Church but I lived in Palo Alto. [I thought,] “I could meet Palo Alto Unitarian Universalists, I think I’ll go.” So I raised my hand.
There wasn’t much they needed from me around the tutoring work. But they also started talking about housing and they themselves were part of Peninsula Interfaith Action, which is now Faith in Action. They weren’t sure what options there were to make a difference in creating more affordable housing but they were learning. With them, my involvement just kept growing.
I started going to regional Faith in Action meetings, and that helped my education. I learned about every issue. It was interesting, I was hearing about things in both counties, Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. But again, the progress being made compared to the gentrification going on and how many units a company can build, it’s still slow. At some point, I just started googling a little bit about rent control and reading the most readable explanations that I could find about what is allowed in California. The phrase Costa Hawkins came to my attention. The restrictions of Costa Hawkins helped ease me into saying no. Some of the economic objections don’t make any sense because Costa Hawkins, the state law passed in 1995, says that any unit built after 1995 is exempt from rent control. There isn’t a deterrent force but yet there are many units that are built in 1995 and earlier than can be rent controlled. And also, they can stay decontrolled. Is this fair to landlords or not? Well, the fact that landlords can reset to market rate when a new tenant moves in, that is a gift to the landlords. That’s not a permanent restricting of the prices. I learned enough that I started instigating a little bit. I thought, “What about rent control?”
In 2014, other people on the Peninsula were also starting to say and wonder about rent control. So, it was a big learning curve. How do you design a ballot measure, how do you get something on the ballot, and then, how do you win? One of the things I loved to remind people of is we don’t know what were the crucial things we did right or did wrong to win the Measure V for rent control in Mountain View, but more accurately, rent stabilization because that’s what California law allows. What a gift that whatever mix of things we did, we won with 53% of the vote.”