An urgent call to mobilize Sacramento rent control supporters at City Hall

Tenants at the Cedar Ridge Apartment Complex on Mack Road demand necessary repairs and an end to rent hikes. [Photo by Jonah Hill.]

For the last year and half, I’ve worked to win rent control in Sacramento as a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. During that time our movement grew from a brief mention in the alternative weekly newspaper to a powerful and diverse community coalition, Housing 4 Sacramento, poised to help tens of thousands of rent-burdened Sacramentans get necessary relief.

But we can only overcome the barriers to victory with your immediate help.

The Stakes Are Too High To Stay Quiet

The Sacramento City Council has buried its head in the sand when it comes to soaring rents, growing accustomed to tuning out the testimony of poor tenants and their struggle by writing them off as “shirts” (referring to the colorful shirts worn by tenants’ advocacy groups like the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment [ACCE] Action).

They need to know that the majority of their constituents demand and support rent control.

I’ve canvassed neighborhoods throughout Sacramento, and nearly nine out of every 10 households support rent control, revealing overwhelming support throughout the city. Hundreds of canvassers verified this level of support over the last three months. While the confidence and support in rent control is cause for celebration, it’s made us too comfortable that it will pass.

I am writing to tell you: Don’t get comfortable yet!

If we do not voice our support this month, our amendment is in great danger. We need to share our stories and remind city leaders how rent control makes our community stronger.

The California Apartment Association and the National Association of Realtors have assembled an enormous war chest of at least $150,000 to oppose our ordinance. They stand staunchly against all rental market regulation, and fear that Sacramento may be the tipping point of a victory for the statewide affordable housing and tenants’ movements.

They’ve also hedged their bets by spending thousands of dollars in local elections to get pro-landlord city councilmembers re-elected. These members end up ignoring the voices of their own voting constituency because they feel indebted to the real estate interests that provided them with so much money.

Most importantly, California landlords and realtors are mobilizing their members to intimidate council members into opposing rent control. In an e-mail sent out this week, the CAA tried to whip their members into a frenzy by telling them that the city council is working on its own ordinance for rent control. They want their members to bombard the city council with calls and complaints.

We can’t let deep-pocketed landlords control our elected officials.

Landlords have proven in other cities that they will deceive and litigate endlessly to kill rent control. In National City this year, litigation prevents the submission of thousands of petitions that would qualify rent control for the ballot. In Mountain View, the landlords have created a countermeasure to erase tenants’ hard-fought rent control victory.

Our voices can’t be drowned out.

Let Them Hear the People’s Voice

The Sacramento Fair Rent and Community Stabilization Charter Amendment is the best chance yet that Sacramentans could ask for in scope and fairness. It provides accountability for all renters and landlords, and brings desperately needed sanity to the destructive forces of skyrocketing rents. It would also create a democratically elected and accountable rent board that must respond to the needs of voters and not just special interests.

The problem is that Sacramento City Council doesn’t understand how extremely popular and beneficial this legislation is for tenants. That’s why we need you to explain this to them. The movement needs you to share your stories about how rent control will benefit you and tenants throughout Sacramento.

Sacramento needs you to speak out in favor of our rent control measure. Tell them how critically beneficial it is to end rent gouging and provide eviction protection to all tenants.

We also need city council to understand that their support is necessary to make rent control work. Their good-faith effort is required to implement and make our charter amendment successful. As other cities have experienced, city councils can throw a wrench in the operations of rent boards, making them toothless or, at worse, weaponizing them against tenants’ rights. We can’t let that happen here.

All walks of life benefit from the stability that rent control and just-cause for eviction protections bring. Let’s show city council that we stand united as a community on this issue.

Will you join us in making history?

We are approaching Sacramento City Council as fellow city residents. We’re focusing on giving them positive encouragement only. It is okay to show your emotion—this is an issue that impacts everyone differently — but this month is about inviting councilmembers to stand with us. No special expertise is required; they need to hear from all walks of life. Speak from your heart and share how you, your friends, family, acquaintances, neighbors or coworkers have been impacted by the crisis. Our measure benefits everyone, and Sacramento City Council needs to see past the fear and lies that the landlord lobby will bring.

Thank you for your support. We look forward to seeing you at City Hall.

Where: Sacramento City Hall, 915 I St, Sacramento, CA 95814


Thank you for listening.

In Solidarity,

Jonah Paul


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Jonah Paul
Jonah Paul is co-chair of the Sacramento Democratic Socialists of America.