A group of renters in the expensive suburb of Berkeley, California, stormed an event where landlords were celebrating the end of the COVID-era ban on evictions, plunging the event into violence and sparking a fight in which an elderly homeowner was punched in the face.
The bayside city was among the last in Alameda County to abolish the protection that landlords say served as a cover for widespread rent evasion.
They are prohibited from evicting anyone who has not paid their rent, but landlords say it has cost them tens of thousands of dollars over the past three years.
Berkeley’s unemployment rate is 3.8 percent — comparable to the national average — and the median rent is $3,800. It is known for being a wealthy enclave with a deeply academic community thanks to its namesake college.
To celebrate the completion of this milestone, the Berkeley Property Owners Association (BPOA) hosted a party at a bar.
But more than 100 angry tenants stormed the evening, calling it “profoundly cruel”.
Berkeley tenants stormed a party thrown by landlords to celebrate the end of a COVID-era moratorium that banned evictions for non-payment of rent.
Tenants complained ending eviction ban would lead to ‘homelessness’
Violent protests met landlords arriving to celebrate end of Covid-era tenant protections
Landlords faced the challenge of protest to reach the event that marked the return of their eviction powers.
“I went everywhere and told our members to stay quiet and peaceful and not engage, and they didn’t,” BPOA President Krista Gulbransen said. Berkeley side.
“I don’t know how it went from there, but then I know people were scrambling.”
Gulbransen herself was pushed to the ground as “multiple scuffles” broke out after a group of protesters decided to enter the venue an hour after the party started.
An owner allegedly slapped a protester in the face, while another protester ripped off her glasses.
“We have no hesitation in celebrating the end of the eviction moratorium,” Gulbransen said.
“We celebrate the end of tenants who could have paid rent and chose not to.”
The BPOA, which has about 750 members, said an elderly participant was punched in the face.
The Berkeley Property Owners Association organized the event to talk about ending the moratorium, which they say has cost property owners thousands of dollars.
BPOA President Krista Gulbransen said she was pushed to the ground when protesters entered the party. She is one of those who was happy to see the end of the moratorium
And he criticized Berkeley police for refusing to remove protesters after they arrived on the scene.
“One officer said he wouldn’t do anything because it was ‘political,'” spokeswoman Becky Warren added.
“We don’t think barging into a local restaurant to disrupt, throw things and push people is political, it’s wrong.”
She said Gulbransen found her car broken into after returning to it and that some members had received “threatening messages and calls online” since the event.
“Hostile dissidents disrupted a private gathering at a local restaurant to intimidate, harass and physically assault our members who are law-abiding small business owners.
“Their protest plans included remarks celebrating the slaughter of landlords, guillotine celebrations, and references to landlords as parasites.
“Their tactics of escalation, intimidation and harm impacted not only our members, but also restaurant employees and customers dining at the restaurant.”
Rent payments have been protected during the pandemic by California’s Covid-19 rental assistance program, with many subsidies going directly to landlords.
The Eviction Defense Center in Berkeley says landlords in the city received more than $5 million from the project.
But it’s been 18 months since the program was closed to new applicants, and Warren said tenants taking advantage of the moratorium have now cost some of her members tens of thousands of dollars.
“When (a landlord) only owns one or two properties, it’s a huge difficulty,” she told DailyMail.com.
“No landlord wants to evict a tenant unnecessarily.”
The median household income in suburban Frisco exceeds $97,000 according to the U.S. Census.
But nearly one in six people live below the poverty line in a college town where fewer than half are homeowners and the median rent is nearly double the national average.
An hour after the event began, some protesters decided to follow the owners into
Some owners and tenants took the time to chat on the sidelines of the event.
Leah Simon-Weisberg of the Rent Stabilization Board in Berkeley said the BPOA has produced no evidence that landlords have lost out because of the eviction ban.
“Although the moratorium is lifted, COVID-19 continues to spread in our community,” she told SFGate.
It seems very insensitive to those who might find themselves homeless to ever celebrate their eviction.
She called the party “completely compliant” with the BPOA, but said most landlords in the area had been “very generous and patient and really worked to help tenants” during the pandemic.