1. Send an important message to elected officials that this proposal needs to receive proper community input.
2. Attend an upcoming city meeting to express your concerns/questions about the legislation.
3. Review our main talking points for guidance on what to say.
Mayor Jesse Arreguin (in coordination with Rent Board Commissioner Leah Simon-Weisberg) has announced his intention to introduce the "Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act" (TOPA) in 2019. In 2020, we put up a fight and were able to stop the legislation in its tracks. It was re-introduced by the Mayor in March 2021.
Originally Inspired by the Oakland Moms 4 Housing movement, its sponsors claim TOPA will "prevent displacement" and will increase ownership opportunities for tenants. But this is far from the truth.
TOPA has been in the works for years. It is clear that the true intention of the legislation is not to help underprivileged tenants, or aim to prevent homelessness at all. In reality, it's granting the city the power to dictate how properties are sold, to whom they can be sold, and even how much they can be sold for!
This is the most aggressive assault on private property rights. TOPA is eminent domain in disguise. It will have devastating effects on owners, tenants and the future of our city. This only benefits outside special interest groups, lawyers, and complicit politicians.
Modeled on the failed Washington D.C. legislation, and on the heels of total non-partisan rejection by outraged City of Richmond residents in 2019, the Berkeley bill goes as far as it can to stepping on private property rights.
First right of offer. TOPA demands you offer your property to all tenants, before it is placed on the open market. This prevents your property from going on the market for sale, until every renter waives his or her rights in writing. This will create lengthy, unpredictable time periods that will frustrate a sale and create perverse incentives for tenants.
First right of offer AND first right of refusal. In addition to offering the tenant a first right of refusal, each owner will also need to inform each and every listed "Qualified Nonprofit" - approved by the city - of the owner's intent to sell. And even if they say "no thanks" and the owner goes to the market for a buyer, the owner must notify the tenants and qualified nonprofits of the offer made by another party and give the tenant or Qualified Nonprofits the First Right of Refusal.
Any owner found in violation of TOPA could be fined $1,000 per day, per unit!