RICHMOND -- A local community-organizing group on Monday accused two top city administrators of stalling a far-reaching housing plan until next month, when a new City Council will convene.
A Monday morning news release issued by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment accuses City Manager Bill Lindsay of "political maneuvers" aimed at the new Richmond City Council,"which will be more conservative," to adopt new local housing ordinances and disregard proposals such as rent control and giving tenants more rights against eviction. ACCE and the Richmond Equitable Development Initiative back the proposals.
ACCE organizer David Sharples on Monday afternoon stood by the release, which he said he authored, and added that Planning Director Richard Mitchell also was to blame.
"It's disappointing," Sharples said. "Pushing this back is really a political move. (Lindsay and Mitchell) decide what is going to be on the agenda."
Lindsay said the allegations are false.
"I'm sorry that is their belief, but it is not right," Lindsay said.
Lindsay added that Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, who has a track record of working with ACCE on housing issues, asked him last week why the item would be postponed until next year, when Councilman Jeff Ritterman is scheduled to be replaced by newly elected Councilman Gary Bell.
Lindsay forwarded an email sent to him Monday morning by Mitchell, apologizing for the "misunderstanding" and noting that "dates that are discussed at Planning Commission meetings are always tentative and subject to change."
Mitchell cited a state law requiring a 90-day consultation period with Native tribes before new housing policy adoption, which he said requires the council to wait until next month to hear the issue.
McLaughlin said Monday she was "disappointed" that planning staff didn't better communicate that the housing item would have to be postponed, and had never heard of the law cited.
"I told (Lindsay) today that I would like to see the item come forward at the Dec. 18 meeting, but I haven't heard back on that yet," McLaughlin said.
At stake is not only housing policy in a city many see as poised for growth in the coming decades but also an increasingly strained council and city government. In Ritterman, who declined to seek re-election in November, McLaughlin and her progressive allies lost a vote and a forceful advocate. Backers of the housing policy saw Ritterman as a vital December vote, one they won't have when he leaves office in January.
"ACCE reached out to me, but they don't have the votes on this, even with Ritterman," Councilman Tom Butt said. "I don't support any of these measures, at least not totally."
Among the basket of policy modifications the activist groups want are rent control; increased fees for developers not providing affordable housing; establishing a "community land trust;" making evictions more difficult; and cracking down on banks that poorly maintain foreclosed properties.
Butt said he was concerned the measures may go too far and impede economic development in a city that desperately needs it.
"Berkeley and San Francisco have some elements of these (policies), but those are hot markets," Butt said.
ACCE issued a news release last week touting the housing plan as on Tuesday's agenda but learned soon after that it had been pushed back.
In Monday's news release, Sharples called for a news conference at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in front of the council chamber and called on supporters to speak out during public comment in support of the housing plan.