By Steven Tavares.
After more than five hours of public testimony at the Jan. 6 Alameda City Council meeting, Mayor Trish Spencer called for a 10-minute break. At 12:35 a.m., and with little evidence the council’s deliberations over three proposed rent ordinances was near, Alameda City Attorney Janet Kern gathered during the brief interval some city staff members to discuss a recommendation to resume the meeting at a later date.
Not only did city staff and the few remaining audience members look weary, but the council appeared gassed by the long evening. In addition, the decision to move the meeting to the much-larger Kofman Auditorium was apparently made without any considerations beforehand for turning on the heat.
Wrapped in a thick coat and scarf, Kern recommended the council approve the soon-to-lapse 65-day moratorium on rents and evictions–which they did–but they neglected to get around to putting off further deliberations for another day. Instead, the council debated finer points of a future rent ordinance for the next three hours. On a bitterly cold and rainy night, the council meeting did not end until after 4 a.m.
Now, city staff says they are not exactly sure what the council directed them to do regarding the potential rent ordinance slated to be discussed Feb. 16. Last week, Alameda Interim City Manager Liz Warmerdam asked to schedule an agenda item for the Feb. 2 meeting to allow city staff to pin down details from the marathon early January meeting. “We want to get a better understanding of what you all agreed to,” said Warmerdam. “Our goal is not to rehash Jan. 5, but to get clarification.”
The intention, still, is for the Feb. 16 council meeting to render an up or down determination for a permanent rent control ordinance, said Councilmember Jim Oddie. In the meantime, he added, “There is some confusion in the community over what we reached consensus on.”
At the Jan. 5 meeting it was unclear why the council never weighed-in on the merits of suspending the discussion, despite Mayor Trish Spencer initially broaching the subject. Instead, Councilmember Frank Matarrese began a lengthy explanation of his stance on the various rent ordinances and the issue of moving the discussion to another day was never again mentioned.
Councilmember Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft said she reviewed video of the meeting and found the early morning discussion a bit disconcerting, especially for an issue as important to Alameda as rent protections. “It doesn’t make you proud. I’ll speak for myself,” said Ashcraft. “I sounded punch drunk.”