Developers, anti-renters’-rights interests pour money into Sacramento City Council

Last June, heavy-hitting developer Mark Friedman gave $3,500 to Sacramento mayor Darell Steinberg’s 2020 campaign. So did his mother, Marcine, and his wife, Marjorie.

Those three transactions — each one the maximum a single person can give to a Sacramento mayoral candidate — made up about 9 percent of Steinberg’s total campaign contributions for the first half of 2019.

Such is the way that developers have always influenced municipal governments in California. But with the Sacramento region’s tenants rising to fight for protections such as just-cause eviction and rent control, these methods by developers, landlords and builders are increasingly under the microscope.

As the 2020 city council campaigns begin in earnest, campaign contribution disclosures show who these interests will trust to fight their battles.

Take, for instance, the District 4 race in Sacramento City Council.

Research by VOICES: River City finds that, in the first half of 2019, incumbent Steve Hansen received $18,752 from interests who have explicitly fought against renters’ protections, and $15,600 from groups with a vested interest in fighting against tenants’ rights.

These interests make up 45 percent of Hansen’s total campaign contributions in that period.

Challenger Katie Valenzuela raised just under $25,000 in the first half of the year — about one-third of Hansen’s total. A renter herself, Valenzuela received no money from anti-renters’-rights interests beyond a $1,750 contribution from a real estate agent.

A full list of Hansen’s campaign contributions can be viewed here. V:RC readers can download and peruse the spreadsheet of contributors for free. Valenzuela’s spreadsheet can be viewed here.

Soon after the 2019 campaign contributions became publicly available, Sacramento City Council appeared to take a more tenant-friendly stance on renters’ protections. They will meet on Tuesday, August 13, to discuss a proposed rent control law that would cap annual rent increases between 6 and 10 percent, depending on the Consumer Price Index for mid-sized West Coast cities each year.

Sacramento also faces a 2020 ballot measure that would put much stronger protections in place for the city’s tenants. Last year, Mayor Steinberg called the initiative “a threat,” and council members do not want to see it on the 2020 ballot. They hope that passage of this law will loosen support from the measure’s backers.

Some housing advocates have placed support behind council’s proposed law, but two organizations are voicing strong opposition. The Sacramento Tenants Union and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment say city council’s proposal is not sufficient in protecting tenants. They believe elected officials should leave it to residents to vote on the 2020 measure.

This grid outlines the differences in renters’ protections between Sacramento City Council’s proposal and the 2020 ballot measure. Source: An essay from the Sacramento Tenants Union against city council’s proposal.

Spreadsheets for campaign contributions to Mayor Steinberg and the rest of the council will be updated and available over the next two weeks.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the amount of money that District 4 challenger Katie Valenzuela received from a real estate agent.

While VOICES: River City provides its research and reporting for free, our work can be difficult and time-consuming. If you consider what we do a public good, please consider becoming a patron!


Dave Kempa on EmailDave Kempa on FacebookDave Kempa on InstagramDave Kempa on LinkedinDave Kempa on Twitter
Dave Kempa
Editor at VOICES: River City
Dave Kempa is the founder and editor of VOICES: River City.