ALAMEDA — Anxious residents of the Barnhill Marina floating home community contacted the city earlier this month after learning their rent could be increased by at least 30% by the port’s new owner.
But they can stop worrying for now as City Council unanimously decided on Thursday to apply Alameda’s rent stabilization order and Covid-19 eviction moratorium to dockside homes. of 66 marina residents near 2394 Mariner Square Drive.
“I am and work hard to address homelessness in our city…and one of the ways to prevent homelessness is to not allow it to happen in the first place,” said Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft. .
Floating community residents, half of whom are over 65 and many are low-income, compared their situation to that of mobile home residents who also typically own their homes but rent space in the few affordable pockets. remaining in the Bay Area.
Barnhill Marina Fair Rental Team member Mayumi Stroye told Thursday’s meeting that the average monthly rent was $608 and the new owner wanted to increase it to $1,074. A member of the new owner’s management team said in an interview that he could neither confirm nor deny these numbers.
The council’s action was a relief to marina residents.
“As an elderly single woman I feel very safe here, and there’s a great community that looks out for others and is very comforting,” said Betty Gladden, who moved to Barnhill Marina in November. “When you walk in, just a few months ago, thinking of one thing, then suddenly you turn around and [get] slapped with something else, it’s a little hard to swallow.
When they went to City Manager Eric Levitt, marina residents demanded that he push for an emergency ordinance freezing their rent for 90 days while the city considers expanding the ordinance. rent stabilization to include houseboats.
The council did them better by immediately expanding the scope of the order and making it retroactive to April 14.
Passed in 2019, the ordinance limits the amount of rent that can be increased each year, protects tenants from eviction without cause, requires relocation assistance if tenants need to be moved, regulates buyout agreements and prohibits retaliation by landlords against tenants.
In a letter to new marina landlords sent a few weeks ago, Special Counsel Adam Radinsky of the Alameda City Attorney’s Office warned that state law prohibits residential landlords from raising rents at the above specified rates – typically by more than 5% over a 12 month period. .
The marina had long been owned by the Barnhill family. Its patriarch, Audley Vernon “Barney” Barnhill, bought the then dilapidated dockyard in the 1960s and renamed it Barnhill Marina and Boatyard.
With the help of naval architect and yacht broker Richard Boland, Barnhill designed and built many of the houseboats that still stand at the marina. Since his death in 2014, Barnhill Construction Co. has closed. Barnhill’s wife, Lai, was the company’s CEO when it broke up in January.
In December, the Barnhill family sold the property to a Wyoming limited liability company called BHM&S LLC for $9.1 million. Seven days later, BHM&S sold three of the marina’s four plots to Valley Investments-Redwoods of Richmond for $12.75 million, according to an email Levitt forwarded to that news agency.
BHM&S leases the fourth parcel to Valley Investments for $7,800 per month, according to sale documents.
The Barnhill family did not respond to interview requests but noted marina residents had known about their desire to sell the property for two years.
Drishti Narang. the daughter of Valley Investments-Redwood director Amar Narang told city council that she had recently purchased a houseboat in Barnhill Marina.
In an interview, Narang said she had “done a lot of work trying to engage with this community.” She added that the management team met with residents to assess their vision for the marina.
The Barnhill family did not run a profitable operation, she said in an email.