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The purpose of this blog is to provide occasional observations about issues affecting the City of Alameda and its citizens.

Don’t expect inside information from City Hall or a “vision” for the City’s future.  The Alameda Merry-Go-Round will stick to the public record and attempt to analyze the facts rather than to promote an agenda.

Years ago, the motto of the Chicago Sun Times was that the job of a newspaper was to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.  If a blog needs a “mission statement,” that is a pretty good one for the Merry-Go-Round.

37 Responses to Home

  1. 2wheelsmith says:

    Great mission statement!

    If the comfortable invested more in education and kept the economy on a more even keel, the afflicted would be more comforted.

    • Joe says:

      I have to agree we pay way to much…for police and fire. I still don’t understand why a fire truck goes out every time an ambulance is called. I would think if you cut the salaries and benefits in half you would still have a lot of well qualified willing people to fill the positions. In NYC they don’t make nearly this much.

  2. jsanders128 says:

    Let’s start with the Alameda city budget. 68% of the budget goes to police and fire. Entry level firefighters make 120k per year, experienced 200k. They are robbing the citizens of Alameda!

    • Alameda Guy says:

      What data is there that tells us that the Police or Firefighters don’t deserve above average salaries?

    • Lisa says:

      I believe I read in the Alameda paper a while ago that the Police Chief actually makes over $400k. That seem outrageous to me. CEOs of medium size companies don’t make that kind of money.

  3. meysha says:

    To Alameda Guy, Police and firefighters should earn pay that doesn’t represent twice or three times, or more, than the median salary of the people who live here and support city government. It is not sustainable. I support the analysis and understanding of how our local economy works.
    What is your definition of “above average”?

  4. notmayberry says:

    To Alameda Guy: 2 Words: RAYMOND ZACK.
    But what data is there that tells us they Do Deserve above average salaries? Hi crime area? Above average hazards in firefighting? Our police aren’t even required to live in Alameda [like they used to be when they made less money] any more.

  5. Dennis says:

    Joe, Don’t you get it? Really it is simple, every time a fire truck accompanies an ambulance/para-medic, it counts as if that fire truck had gone to an actual fire. Then at the end of the year the fire department can say look at ALL of these calls we have gone on to save all of the citizens of Alameda. Simplified, remember “Little Jack Horner” !!

    • I was told by the fire people who came to our house after a call to 911, that they send two vehicles because they don’t know what they will face. In our case, my husband is rather large. He had to be moved from our bedroom upstairs to the ambulance. It required 4 people to move him. They said if he had been in respiratory distress or having a heart attach or stroke and they only had one truck, they would have had to call for another truck wasting valuable time. I am still not convinced that 2 vehicles are necessary, but in my husband case I am glad they sent to vehicles.

  6. Denise Lai says:

    Gilmore and Russo believe that Fire Knows Best. Remember we shut down Measure C? We foolishly thought that referendum would send the city the message that we-the-residents wanted them to stick to fire industry standards in our city, you know, the things that dictate minimum standards for fire service? And which distinctly tell us that we do not nee a fire station at Pacific and Grand—in fact, it’s a completely redundant locatino for a fire station. Which is why we shut down Measure C. But Gilmore et al found the money anyway (you know money that could be used to oh, say, provide something our city really needs like proper tree care, park care, or hey a new city public pool . . but I digress) would stop the city) and are building a new fire house with emergency center for $4M+.

  7. Michael Gorman says:

    Well done Robert

  8. I email Mr. Chen asking for his honest response to this post. Here is what he emailed me back:

    Here is my honest response. 19 months on the City Council and I can honestly say that I have given my full devotion to serving the people of Alameda. I diligently prepared and studied all the agenda items before each Council meeting and I actively participated in the healthy discussion before casting my vote. I am proud of my voting record and can honestly say that all my votes were for the good of the community.

    As Mr. Sullwold correctly pointed out, I, alone, do not set policies for the City. We, as Council members, vote on staff recommendations to help set policies that are fair and beneficial for the community and the City. All of the achievements mentioned in Mr. Sullwold’s article are the achievements made during my term on the City Council. These achievements were the result of good policies set forth by your municipal government, a government that includes your City Council members.

    Thank you for your email.

  9. JSF Alameda says:

    Who is this guy? Is he for real? Seems to be quite bitter. Need to go enjoy life and quit complaining.

  10. SG says:

    Salaries for fire dep’t. and police dep’t. brass seem unjustifiable and warrant heightened scrutiny. Probably nobody needs their level of income to live comfortably. However, it is so costly to live here that even the average income of the firemen does not allow a family to ‘live large’ in the Greater Bay Area. Verbal darts thrown at that level of income may mask actual envy, often disguised beneath a veneer of apparent frugality. A critique that begins with “I don’t make as much, so why should so-and-so make that much?” deserves an answer like this: “Average fireman’s wages are probably sufficient, but not exorbitant, considering the cost of living hereabouts.” Rather than tearing down other hourly wage earners we, as wage earners ourselves, should instead collectively aspire to raise our own standards of living, and seek increases in our own earnings.”

  11. joe smith says:

    Don’t include our income in the average! We inherited to buy this house. Our retirement income is 2200 gross per month!

  12. JEK says:

    Quick question: I’m new to both this blog and Alameda. My question is that throughout the posts here, the plural ‘we’ is used when making a statement, question, etc., but I’ve yet to find another poster/author than Mr. Sullwold. If there are others, can you please say who they are here so it’s a little easier to follow. Or, use ‘I’ instead of ‘we’ if that’s really the case. Thanks a lot.

  13. Steve Gerstle says:

    Does the ordinance include a list of causes for eviction (Just cause eviction)? If not, is there anything that prohibits a landlord from issuing a 60 day notice to tenants who question a rent increase? There seems to be no limit of potential new tenants willing to pay higher prices.

    • The ordinance does not require just cause for eviction, nor does it contain any list of “just” causes.
      As to retaliatory eviction, the inartful drafting continues. The ordinance contains no express prohibition against eviction in retaliation for filing a RRAC complaint. But the section prescribing the text of the “notice of availability” cites a state statute dealing with retaliatory eviction and then states, “A Housing Provider’s efforts to evict a Tenant within six months of a Tenant’s requesting a hearing may be used as evidence of retaliatory eviction.” It’s not clear whether the ordinance is intended to create a new right beyond those already existing under state law (ordinarily, you don’t find new rights slipped into the notice section), and, if so, exactly what that right consists of. Once again, the drafting invites litigation.

      • H. Macknzie says:

        Mr. Sullwold you have criticized the Alameda Ordinance repeatedly, some justified as in their failure to address the lack of protection for just cause eviction. However, my question to you would be has anyone considered the draconian requirements of the ARC proposal slated for the November ballet. The Alameda Ordinance can be tweaked if only we had a city council with the collective intelligence to correct this error, which they can do. The ARC proposal, if enacted, would require a vote of the people to make changes, and removes any oversight from City Officials There are those that would maintain that is a good idea, however, we do have some control over public officials at the various council and committee meetings. We have a very inept and dysfunctional city council at present unfortunately who seem to rely on “staff” to provide them insight. Rent control is a serious issue, the city needs to come together on this and decide if they want an ordinance that can be tweaked via city council or turn it over to an elected board separate from the city composed of elected persons with long terms. And a board which will become more expensive to manage as time passes, some of whom will become “city employees” with benefits as well. Also what will the city do with those already hired to run the current ordinance.

  14. Bill Cox says:

    Just discovered this blog, Thanks for your work, Mr. Sullwold, and for your sensible letters to the Alameda Sun editor. I’m subscribing.

  15. Irene K. Hanson says:

    Thank you Mr. Sullwold. I never knew that I had silent partners, like the CITY of Alameda and tenants —when I purchased my private property.

  16. Paul S Foreman says:

    Monty Heying’s article in today’s paper suggests language to close the fixed term “loophole” in the City Ordinance. Where does that language or other language appear in the ARC Initiative that requires relocation payments at the termination of a fixed term lease? I can’t find it! I know that the issue only arises under the ARC Initiative for owner move in or going out of rental business, but what stops the lease from terminating by its own terms, and the Landlord evicting for unlawful detainer? Can one of you ARC folks help me out here?

    • MP says:

      I would like to see the ARC measure sections and the City Ordinance sections that are relevant to this question set forth side by side. Without looking at them, I suspect that they may be the same or very similar. I may be wrong. So far, the arguments I have read are based on what people argued in front of the City Council and what some ARC supporters are arguing about why the ARC measure deserves support. What is the actual language in the law and the competing proposal?

      • You might want to take a look at AFFRC.org. There is a tab where the two measures can be compared side to side and individually.

      • Yeah, that isn’t a fair comparison at all. Every box contains flat out lies. They are so dedicated to scaring you that they don’t care what the truth is anymore.

        One example- Sub-letting. They say it allows unrestricted sub-letting. What Measure M actually requires is written approval of the roommate choice from the landlord. It just says that if that roommate is not responsible for the rent, because the primary is the leaseholder, then creditworthiness is not an acceptable basis for refusal. But, criminal record, sex offender, brining a pet into a no pets building, etc, are all reasonable reasons to refuse. And they, and the landlord, are protected under Measure M.

        They call Measure M radical. What it actually is is a compilation of best practices from cities up and down California. Its provisions have been tested and retested, by Real Estate Investment groups, in courts for decades. These are the laws that have stood the test of time. And the cities where they have been used, like Santa Monica, or Beverly hills, are thriving. The city ordinance, by contrast, is a novel mediation based approach that is untested, either in use or in court. They just made it up! So, who is radical?

        They say the city will be liable for attorney fees under Measure M. Yes, it will, just as the city is under measure L. Exactly the same liability. Except, Measure M’s provisions have actually been tried and tested. Do you, as a tax payer, want to be liable for known law or novel law?

        It goes on and on. Suffice it to say that measure L is the law right now, the ballot has no effect on that, and its “Rent Review Advisory Committee”, appointed entirely by Mayor Spenser, is giving an average 7.9% rent increase to the tenants who dare go to it for help. Most tenants refrain from antagonizing their landlords (for obvious reasons) and don’t even fight their increases. They buckle under or move.

        Which is exactly what the real estate investment groups want.

      • Paul S Foreman says:

        Eric. You are complaining about scare tatics! You obviusly do not read your propagandist, Monty Heying. He can’t write a sentence without a pejorative.

        I agree with you that the sublet provision is not quite as bad as some paint it. However, what if two guys with below average credit ratings apply for a rental and the Landlord decides that with both of them on the lease he can risk it. One moves out and the remaining tenant brings in a guy with lousy credit. Under M-1, the landlord cannot refuse him.

        M-1 is radical. Look at Section 5(c) that says that if a tenancy is terminated in order for the landlord to house a close family member or remove the property from the rental market and the property is “ever” returned to the rental market by the landlord or any subsequent landlord, the landlord must offer the property to the old tenant at the rent he was paying when he left. Thus, if a landlord terminates a tenancy to move his mom into the unit in 2016 pays the required relocation costs to the displaced tenant; and mom dies in 2026, the landlod cannot return the property to the rental market unless he offers the tenant the same unit at the 2016 rental rates! Could there be anything more “radical” than this?

        Finally, your claim of a 7.9% average rent increase. You are talking about seven cases that have gone to the RRAC so far, hardly a reliable sample, but let’s lok at the detail below:

        Case # Unit Rent Requested Status
        Case 372 3br 2195 305 (13.9%) Agreed to 205 (9.3%) during mediation
        Case 380 1br 1550, 150 (9.7%) Agreed to 105 (6.45%) while mediation on Progress.
        Case 386 2br 1620 980 (60.5%) Accepted RRAC recommendation 81 (5%)
        Case 387 1br 1400 140 (10%) Accepted RRAC recommendation 91 (6.5%)
        Case 388 1br 1300 130 (10%) RRAC recommended $75 (5.8%) Not appealed
        Case 406 1br 1312 98 (7.8%) Accepted RRAC recommendation 98 over 6 months
        Case 417 1br 1226 123 (10%) Agreed to 123 (10%) over 6 mo. While med. In progress

        Note that the high percentage increase cases are 372, 406, and 417, all of which indicate rents far below market that were probably landlords motivated by rent control to catch up. Both Measures allow the hearing officer to consider past history of increases. All three cases, even after the increases, are still way below market. If we look at the remaining cases that were closer to market to begin with, the average increase was.5.9%

    • Established case law says that a lease automatically becomes month to month when it expires. It is the basis for most of the “leases” in Alameda. The terms and conditions in the lease remain in effect, but the “end” date has no effect. It just becomes month to month.

      The landlords could write a lease that states that it will not roll over, and that is what Monty and others are concerned with. Measure L forbids this in the first year after a first rent increase, by by implication allows it thereafter. Measure M1 spells out when it is allowed, and thereby forbids it in all other situations.

      • Paul S Foreman says:

        Eric, In my opinion neither Measure prohibits fixed term leases, but both require relocation payments when a landlord fails to extend a fixed term lease. Section 5 (a) of M-1 and Section 6-58.140 both prohibit termination of a tenancy for any reason other than those enumerated in the subsections that follow those Sections. All of the subsections under both of those Sections require the payment of relocation costs except for failure to pay rent or breach of the lease. Holding over after the expiration of the term of a lease would normally be covered under breach of the lease. However both sections expresly exclude holding over as a basis for temination for breach of lease.

        Based on the above a fixed term tenant proteced under either Measure could only be evicted under one of the other subsections, all of which require relocation payments. Actually M-1 is more favorable to landlords here because it does provide that a landlord can enter into a fixed term lease for his residence for a period not to exceed a year, and avoid reclocation payments.

      • That’s a pretty solid argument. My take is that since Measure M expresses how a short term lease may be written, and under what circumstances, it does a better job of excluding all other cases. Measure L does not address short term leases at all. So, if a landlord were to write one that specifically excluded roll-over, had a prominent termination date, etc, would it stand up in court? I don’t know. But it is another case where the novel approach is more likely to be challenged.

        Measure M does do a better job of protecting Landlords in this case, and in another. The homeowners who have an in-law unit will find themselves far more free under Measure M than under the current law, measure L. Single family homeowners with an in-law unit are the true “Mom and Pop” Alameda landlords, and Measure M protects them.

        Again, and always, Measure M is about Keeping Alamedans in their Homes.

  17. H Mackenzie says:

    Eric, is not your comments regarding “room mate” moving into an apartment,( ie: subletting and the vetting of a new room mate.) I believe that Measure M requires the landlord to approve the roommate withing a certain period of time, however, if the landlord does not give written approval within a time frame the landlords approval is considered given. Also you seem to imply there are no consequences to this as well, when in fact I believe there are. Under state law when one room mate moves out of a unit, the remaining occupant is considered the “tenant” and as so assumes all rights of tenancy. So under these circumstances a questionable room mate could become “the tenant” who causes problems for the landlord as well as other tenants on the property. You either seem to miss this point or gloss over it.

    You also gloss over what makes property expenses rise. You comments regarding why property taxes went up more than 2% in the last five years cannot be taken seriously. Whatever the reason the taxes have gone up, they are expenses. How can this 2% (State Law) change to catch up with anything past or present, 2% is 2% per year, to my knowledge there was never an exception to the 2% raise. And I do agree that added assessments and parcel taxes add much to the bill, however, you statement that they do no change over time is erroneous, parcel taxes for school bonds being the main reason, however, check out the changes with regards to other assessments as well, they have all gone up, and 2% does not overstate the actual increase in costs “over time on average”.

    There cannot be fair comparisons without honesty when you state what you consider factual information.

    • RE: the 12:33 post- Sorry, you are just making things up. Taxes went down when assessments went down. Assessments went up again and taxes went up again, just enough to make up the lost ground. Your property has a base value. The average increase cannot be more than 2%. So, if it goes down by 1% in year 1, it can go up by a maximum of 3% in year 2. 2% average per year. It isn’t hard.

      If a tenant is on the lease, they are responsible to the landlord, period. If a tenant is not on the lease then they answer to whoever they pay rent to. So, if tenant 2 is obnoxious, it is tenant 1’s problem to fix or he can be evicted for cause.

  18. H Mackenzie says:

    Mr. Strimling. This information is being forwarded to you regarding a post I have been informed of on the alameda renters coalition website. A Yolanda McCormack has made accusatory comments concerning myself which border of defamation of character which concerns me. He post alluded to her standing in her boyfriends apartment kitchen without clothing on when an employee of mine entered her boyfriends apartment without notice. This information is totally false and without merit. She has published my name as the landlord which borders of defamation of character. The true issue is her boyfriend, who I will not name, and myself have entered into an agreement regarding his tenancy subsequent to his violating his lease agreement. The property is also being advertised for sale. All tenants were provided sufficient legal notification of an inspection of the building with date and time. Yolanda , not the tenant of record, was present. She departed subsequent to being notified of the inspection. Without going into details there are five witnesses to this event who will provide information that her reporting of the incident is totally false and without merit, that no one entered the apartment without notice, and certainly no one observed her without clothing. This is how misinformation spreads without verification or verification.

    My wife and I have been housing providers in Alameda for over 60 years, have never been subjected to accusations of this type of behavior in all that time. Additionally we have evicted less than three people is those sixty years, all for good cause. However, I take exception when someone is allowed to make malicious and false accusations published in a community based forum without verification. You appear to be a frequent contributor to that site as well as this one. It is hoped that some controls can be instilled to prevent this type of activity.

    • Thank you for the point of view. May I copy and paste it to the string in question? Also, can you provide a copy of the notice? If I find the charge of defamation to be true I will immediately remove her from the site.

      Social media is many things, but fair it is not. It is the equivalent of neighbors standing in the back yard and gossiping over the fence, or a group of acquaintances telling stories in a coffee shop. It would not be appropriate to ask the proprietor of the shop to fact check every yarn told over his tables. But, if someone is provably lying, it is appropriate to throw them out.

    • I deleted your name from the comments.

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