Progress in Oakland


Oakland, California, normally a leftist—dominated municipality, is taking a major common—sense step. The City Council there just passed an ordinance allowing the city itself to force the eviction of renters who are arrested for drugs, weapons, and certain other offenses which constitute a threat to neighbors. Because landlords are subject to intimidation, especially in owner—occupied buildings, and because absentee landlords may be unwilling to go to the expense of evicting rent—paying tenants who trouble only their neighbors, the law is an important tool to protect the law—abiding majority of renters.


Passage was not completely smooth, however. Five of the eight Council members refused to vote for the measure. Normally, six votes are required for a new measure to become law, yet the City Attorney's office ruled only five votes would suffice in this case. This sounds like an open invitation to a possibly successful court challenge.


A second reading and passage is required, though, before the measure becomes effective. There is time for Oakland residents to bring pressure on the three elected representatives who resisted the law the first time around.


According to the San Francisco Chronicle, an amendment will be offered which may address the concern that unjustly—evicted tenants will have no recourse. The proposal would allow tenants who successfully contest their evictions to receive attorney's fees. No mention is made of landlords or the city recovering legal fees if the challenge fails. This one—sided liability for legal fees is patently unfair. But the left—leaning Council members would probably never sign on to a measure which imposed equal responsibilities on both sides to a legal dispute. To them, the propertied class is always wrong.


Even with its flaws, the measure would be a great improvement for the honest, hard—working people of Oakland who have the misfortune to find themselves living near criminal elements. Let us hope that the measure passes with six votes, and becomes a fully legitimate law.


Posted by Thomas  02 19 04