Federal Court Affirms City's Rent Ordinance for Maritime Residences

Published on November 30, 2023

In a landmark decision by Chief Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California affirmed the City of Alameda’s Rent Control protections for houseboats and liveaboard vessels at floating home marinas. This decision, the first of its kind with respect to rent control for maritime uses, protects approximately 49 such maritime residential units at Barnhill Marina & Boatyard (“Barnhill”) against exorbitant rent increases and unjust evictions.

Valley Investments-Redwood LLC (“Valley”) purchased the largest floating home marina in 2021 (“Barnhill”), and immediately began a campaign of tenant harassment and attempted constructive evictions through rent increases as high as 178%. In response, Alameda’s City Council promptly adopted ordinances extending full Rent Control protections to maritime residential units, including to the 49 such units at Barnhill, in order to protect vulnerable residents from imminent displacement. Barnhill sued the City in federal court, challenging the constitutionality of the City’s Rent Control Ordinance.

The court dismissed Valley’s lawsuit with prejudice, concluding the City’s Rent Control Ordinance 1) is “drawn in an appropriate and reasonable way to advance a significant and legitimate public purpose;” 2) “is rationally related to the legitimate and non-punitive legislative goal of providing safe and habitable housing;” and 3) serves a “legitimate nonpunitive purpose of protecting vulnerable populations from the risk of displacement—particularly amid a housing crisis and a pandemic.” A copy of the Court’s order is available here.

“The City of Alameda’s Rent Control Ordinances is a centerpiece of the City’s strong policy of protecting and preserving affordable housing in our community,” said City Attorney Yibin Shen. “The City Attorney’s Office, including the Rent Program, is committed to justly enforcing state and local housing laws and ensuring that Alameda remains a place that people from all backgrounds and income levels can call home.”

Alameda Rent Program Director Bill Chapin further shared that “the entire Rent Program team is pleased with the Court’s affirmance of the City’s Rent Control Ordinance. Program staff stands ready to work with Valley Investments and the management of Barnhill Marina to bring the property into immediate compliance with the Court’s decision, and to answer any and all questions from tenants at Barnhill regarding the Rent Control protections afforded to them.”

Residents of Barnhill—or any other rental property in Alameda—who have questions about the City’s robust Rent Control protections may contact Rent Program staff at 510-747-7520 or rentprogram@alamedaca.gov for more information.


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