Suzanne Moore, Treasurer of Pacifica Housing 4 All, received the final word from the Fair Political Practices Commission in a letter dated 6/26/18 from the commission. The letter referred to an FPPC ruling against Fair Rents 4 Pacifica. “I hesitated to make a statement until we received their decision. Filings to the FPPC are complaint-driven in nature, and this complaint originated from a Pacifican in opposition to rent control. We were fined for not changing the name of our committee to reflect support for Measure C – we simply did not know this was necessary. The FPPC said there was no evidence of intent to mislead the public, and I can certainly affirm that. I believe that we were new to the campaign rules and we did our best to comply – we freely admit the clerical errors and have paid a $3500 fine.”
A complaint filed by Fair Rents 4 Pacifica with the San Mateo County District Attorney in June 2017 was of a different caliber. It resulted in District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe issuing felony charges against Brad and Jentry Jasperson for falsifying signatures in a Pacifica petition drive. Criminal proceedings against the Jaspersons are active with the San Mateo County Superior Court.
The signature drive was initiated and paid for by those in opposition to Pacifica Ordinance 814, a temporary moratorium adopted 5/8/17 by Pacifica’s City Council. The ordinance would have halted high rent increases and no fault evictions until the November 2017 vote on Measure C. Former Pacifica Mayor, Peter Loeb says, “ We are attempting to ascertain who ran the campaign against the ordinance. Since the evidence of fraud by the Jaspersons, we have a discrepancy among those claiming responsibility for the drive. We have been unable to find FPPC campaign financial statements and have asked the FPPC to investigate.”
The petition drive narrowly collected enough signatures to overturn the city council ordinance. The drive was halted by early submission of signatures: 1100 were rejected by the San Mateo County Election Board including what were later identified as the Jasperson’s fraudulent signatures. “We were easily collecting more requests to have signatures removed from the petition,” says Gloria Stofan, former Fair Rents 4 Pacifica Steering Committee member. “We had 50 letters asking for names to be removed from the petition because people were misled by the petition signature gatherers.” If those 50 letters had been accepted by the San Mateo County Election Board, a mere 13 signatures decided the fate of the ordinance.
Many tenants in Pacifica received hundreds of dollars in rent increases as a result of the ordinance defeat. Again, Peter Loeb: “The community deserves to know who paid for this campaign, who contributed to it, and how much money was spent. The tenants hurt by this drive should have this information.”
The FPPC will investigate the complaint against the California Apartment Association, San Mateo County Association of Realtors, and the Coalition For Housing Equality. All were implicated in a California Apartment Association’s newsletter 5/18/17 as resources in opposition to the Interim Ordinance 814. Loeb reports, “We know from District Attorney Wagstaffe that several thousands of dollars alone were paid to the petition signature gatherers. We know that a public relations firm, Griffiths Olson, was hired to run the campaign. A lot of outside money came into Pacifica to defeat this ordinance. It was hurtful, and we are seeking to find out who was responsible.”
In a recent letter I drafted, I summarized the common tactics of realty lobbyists experienced by many California communities seeking tenant protection. Communities including Redwood City, San Mateo, Burlingame, Mountain View, Richmond, Alameda, Oakland, and Santa Rosa can submit evidence of these observations in common:
– hundreds of thousands of dollars spent to oppose tenant right legislation in multiple individual communities,
– denigration of tenants comparing them to criminals and drug users,
– physical threats,
– misleading statements by opponents,
– misleading mailers including an unauthorized use of a Legislative Analyst Office logo.
What can we learn from our experience and that of neighboring communities?
– Recognize the realty lobbyists as biased representatives to protect the profits of their membership. They are not experts.
– Ask local city councils and legislators to decline funds from these lobbyists.
– Seek accountability from our legislators.
The Fair Political Practices Commission and the San Mateo County Superior Court will take months to come to conclusions on their charges and investigations. In the meantime, we can notify our legislators of our concerns, monitor corporate campaign financing, and vote in November.
Monica Olsen is a Pacifica homeowner and resident for 55 years. Monica is a member of Pacifica Housing 4 All and Faith In Action, Bay Area. She is a retired teacher from Terra Nova and Mercy High Schools.