SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA | August 1, 2012, 4:06 p.m. ET
By BOBBY WHITE
BERKELEY—A powerful city agency that regulates some rental rates and intervenes in disputes is facing calls for an overhaul after a highly critical grand jury report in June labeled it “a self-sustaining bureaucracy.”
Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Board, a nine-member group of elected officials established in 1980, came under scrutiny last year by the Alameda County Superior Court after two agency employees petitioned the court to investigate alleged unfair hiring practices.
The resulting grand jury report found the agency to be a “bureaucracy that operates without effective oversight and accountability.” The report said the board heavily favored tenants by hiring a lobbyist for pro-tenant issues and contracting with local nonprofits to help tenants fight eviction. The board has raised rental-unit registration fees paid by landlords from $22 at the beginning of rent control in 1980 to $194 today.
Rent Stabilization Board members are elected to serve for four years and are limited to two terms. Members run in contested elections and can solicit contributions from residents, tenants and property owners.
The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Berkeley is $1,885, a 21% increase from just five years ago, according to RealFacts LLC, a local firm that tracks rental rates in the Bay Area. In comparison, average rent for a one-bedroom in San Francisco is $2,632, up 32% from five years ago, according to RealFacts.