South Bay Landlord Group Accused of Illegal Lobbying

A group of landlords that spent the past couple of years campaigning against stronger tenant protections in San Jose have been accused of illegal lobbying. The Bay Area Homeowners Network—called BAHN and led by real estate agent Jenny Zhao and landlords Dan Pan and Irene Smith, among others—coalesced sometime in 2016 as the City Council began debating whether to lower the rent control cap and banning no-cause evictions. One of their first recorded meetings with an elected official took place in April 2016 at Councilman Chappie Jones’ house—the only meeting the District 1 rep took at his own home that year, according to his public calendar. But BAHN apparently failed to report that or any other meeting with city officials. According to a recent claim submitted by an unnamed “former member” to San Jose’s Ethics Commission, BAHN—whose members have called tenant protections communist—ducked transparency requirements by attempting to shape public policy without registering as a lobbyist or filing required disclosures. The complaint also notes that BAHN raised more than $40,000 to fund a “public relations campaign with the intent of urging direct communication with city officials in order to influence a legislative action.” The complaint includes several attachments, including a fundraising ledger and emails urging members to convince District 7 Councilman Tam Nguyen—considered a crucial swing vote—to keep the yearly rent control cap at 5 percent (which he did) rather than tying it to the rate of inflation. City Clerk Toni Taber declined to comment on the claim except to note that it has yet to be assigned to an evaluator. BAHN members told Fly that the complaint was news to them. “Technically, we are not lobbying,” Zhao said. “Our main goal is to help mom-and-pop businesses.” Granted, as a nonprofit trade association under the same IRS classification as a chamber of commerce, BAHN can legally work as a lobbying group. The question is whether they should register as such.

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12 Comments

  1. How hard is it to play by the rules? These guys are total amateurs…seen them in action in other cities and they say the same thing over and over again. Part of trying to gain political power and influence means playing by the rules set up. If you cant figure them out or play by them, well a fine will never hurt. And, its a shame how transparent they are about trying to buy votes. Shameful. Slimy.

  2. You haven’t been watching the goings on in DC lately. Rules are for losers and people who should have lost!

  3. > recent claim submitted by an unnamed “former member” to San Jose’s Ethics Commission,

    In other words, an absolutely useless, worthless “claim”.

    Might as well have been submitted by a space alien or a talking porpoise.

    The Fly needs to express some remorse for basing a “news” story on this piece flimflam.

  4. This is a disgusting, journalistic malpractice hit piece. A complaint has been filed and before its even vetted this rag is writing the guilty verdict! Sounds like SJ Insider should be sued. Anyone can accuse anyone of anything, doesn’t make it true. Very lopsided article based on nothing more than an accusation

  5. A complaint has been filed… A copy of the complaint should at least be linked here so we can see what it is and decide for ourselves. However many people are afraid to come forward and make these complaints, it is too bad the person wanted to be anonymous but we need to have more people standing up and being watchdogs of how these groups try to skirt the rules.

  6. So, in view of Fly’s baseless indictment, should the Internet Rag’s name be changed to “Fly-Sh*t?”

  7. 1) The Bay Area Homeowners Network (BAHN) is a registered 501(c)6 non-profit grassroot organization representing mom and pop property owners in the Bay Area. 2) There is none professional lobbyist in BAHN at all. Thus the complain was baseless and invalid. 3) BAHN never got any request to remove any member from its member list. So there is no such thing as former BAHN members. 4) BAHN is just a grass root organization with all volunteers to express concerns and suggestions and make our communities better. Those are just the responsibilities of the citizens in the US. 5) BAHN as an organization never gets involved in the political campaign of any candidate. This media is just trying to take away US citizens’ rights to voice their opinions.

  8. 1) The Bay Area Homeowners Network (BAHN) is a registered 501(c)6 non-profit grassroot organization representing mom and pop rental property owners in the Bay Area. 2) There is none professional lobbyist in BAHN at all. Thus the complain was baseless and invalid. 3) BAHN never got any request to remove any member from its member list. So there is no such thing as former BAHN members. 4) BAHN is just a grass root organization with all volunteers to express concerns and suggestions and make our communities better. Those are just the responsibilities of the citizens in the US. 5) BAHN as an organization never gets involved in the political campaign of any candidate. This media is just trying to stop US citizens’ rights to voice their opinions.

  9. William sounds like someone who supported a losing candidate and still can’t get over it as he cries in his safe space.

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