San Jose City Councilmember Sylvia Arenas today declared her candidacy for the District 1 seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.
“Since the day I took office, I have been a tireless advocate for making the needs of children and families the priority at San Jose City Hall. Together we have achieved real results,” Arenas said in a statement. “However, there is so much more that can only be done by the county and their health and social services agencies.”
“San Jose and south county families need a passionate advocate on the Board of Supervisors,” she said. “They need a tireless fighter for the needs of our most vulnerable. They need someone who is ready to go from Day 1 to serve in this critical role. That’s why I’m running, and why I’m confident that the voters will again put their faith in my dedicated service to our community.”
In late December, the Board of Supervisors voted to move all of Evergreen to be part of the new District 1, which is an open seat. Evergreen will join with South San Jose, Morgan Hill, and Gilroy in this new district, with San Jose City Council District 8 as the biggest political subdivision – representing almost 1 in 4 likely voters.
Arenas joins a crowded field in District 1, which has the most candidates, including former San Jose Councilmember Johnny Khamis, Morgan Hill Mayor Rich Constantine and Santa Clara County Board of Education trustee Claudia Rossi.
Overall, almost two-thirds of District 1 voters will be San Jose residents. In her announcement, Arenas pointed out that she is the only candidate in the race who has served on the San Jose City Council and lives in the new district boundaries.
Arenas lives in the Evergreen section of San Jose with her husband Jose, her son Andres and her daughter Ana. She’s a lifelong resident of San Jose, a former public employee in the SJ Parks Department, and a former team member of First5 Santa Clara County. Before serving on the San Jose City Council, she served on the Evergreen Elementary School Board of Trustees.
Arenas was first elected to the city council in 2016. Her current term ends at the end of 2024.
There could quite possibly be no worse candidate for any office than Ms. Arenas.
I understand the desire to fix every problem you see and believe that passing laws will only result in positive outcomes. But the reality is much different and politicians like Ms. Arenas proudly proclaim they will not learn and cannot change.
A case in point was her steadfast support of the counterproductive Causa Justa movement. Not only does causa justa nullify the contracts clause of the constitution and essentially give away life estates for free, but its core intention was to resolve all landlord/tenant disputes in the courtroom. Now, I have no problem with all disputes being litigated, it’s just that if you think there is an asymmetry in the power in the marketplace, in a court of law, that asymmetry is far worse. Mostly for the simple fact that landlords do not pay attorneys to lose open and shut cases such as nonpayment of rent and while a tenant may have many things going on with their job and life, it is the landlord’s job to comply with legal ordinances and unambiguously collect rent.
So, predictably, the results of this galactically bad idea had devastatingly negative results for tenants, let’s review.
There are roughly 70000 units under the Tenant Protection Ordinance (TPO) and the goings-on are tracked by a specialized group in the Housing Department, the 2020-21 report attached above. On page 20, you will see the statistics on JCE(s):
2017-18 : 8,807 Just Cause Evictions (12.5% of TPO)
2018-19 : 9,716 Just Cause Evictions (13.8% of TPO)
2019-20 : 8,621 Just Cause Evictions (12.3% of TPO)
2020-21 : 9,717 Just Cause Evictions (13.8% of TPO)
On page 21, you will see the breakout from FY 2020-21, in which 93.2% of tenants were evicted for non-payment of rent. Now it is important to remember that Eviction Lab, an Ivy League project that lies with statistics in favor of tenants, had San Jose at 576 evictions the year before this ordinance passed, and had San Jose at an eviction rate of 0.42%. Charts published by Eviction Lab showed it was 5.5x more likely to be eviction in the Greater United States than in San Jose.
San Jose DID NOT have an eviction problem.
Based on statistics published by the city, of the TPO units, over 4 years, you are looking at an average eviction rate of ~13%, up from 0.42%. That is an eviction rate 30x higher than before Causa Justa was passed, thanks to Ms. Arenas and some of her compatriots at NGOs and the City Council.
San Jose most certainly DOES have an eviction problem now, thanks to Cause Justa.
Ms. Arenas is noted as being someone who “has her mind made up” before entering any City Council meeting and suffers no debate or counterarguments to her conclusions. I am sure Ms. Arenas has heard from constituents who may have valid conflicts with their landlords or may have heard stories about bad things that happen to tenants, like a landlord threatening to evict a family for potty training their kids (a claim stated in an actual City Council meeting).
But the hard case makes bad law. The thing is San Jose is a large complicated system and you can’t pass laws to fix an isolated case, because you may fix that one person’s problem, but the negative side effects (which ALL laws have) are inflicted on the entire market. What you can do is look at rules and incentives to construct a system that maximizes your desired goals. It is clear through her recent support to “cancel rent”, neither the fact of unintended consequences nor the capacity for systematic thinking has penetrated her thinking and since she prides herself in not listening to anyone else, I doubt it ever will.
The rental market in San Jose does not have to look like it does, but the constraints on supply and the over-regulation of landlords end up constructing a system of high rents, low vacancy, high switching costs, high barriers of entry, and frequent litigation between tenants and landlords. All bad for tenants, some bad for mom-and-pop landlords, and all good for corporate landlords.
If San Jose is a complicated 1M person system, Santa Clara County is a far more complicated one requiring a much more subtle and nuanced approach to rules, incentives, and payoffs. If you elect her, you will see far more evictions (just or unjust it does not matter in my opinion), much higher rent, far more obstacles to opening and operating a small business, and domination by corporate landlords such as JPMorgan, Equity, and Blackrock of the class B and C rental market.
It is quite disheartening to read the quotes in this article and the comments talking about the fact Ms. Arenas is a latina, as if that were relevant to any of the major issues going on. I am sure there are many latinas who can understand and navigate economics, game theory, listen to people who have experience in relevant fields, and construct laws and ordinances which will result in a better San Jose or Santa Clara County. It is just that Ms. Arenas, like many people who are neither latino nor female, is not one of them.