Two members of the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) who helped push for the city’s hotly-contested rent control ordinance — with the aim of preventing landlords from profiting at the expense of low-income tenants and the city – have been accused by the mayor of ignoring the law they helped create.
In a statement that has created a firestorm on social media among those tapped into local politics, Richmond Mayor Tom Butt revealed that married couple Eli Moore and Claudia Jimenez, who are influential political operatives for the RPA, are also unlicensed, unregistered landlords in Richmond.
“When Jimenez and Moore became landlords themselves in July of 2017, renting out two residential units, they failed to take out a business license, failed to register their units for both safety inspections and rent control,” Butt wrote on his popular e-forum newsletter over the weekend. “Public records indicate that at least one of the units was constructed without a building permit, and they are not paying property taxes on it. Jimenez and Moore were flying under the radar, fully dodging Richmond regulation, taxes and fees.”
In emails and Facebook posts, Jimenez and Moore acknowledged they are renting out their house and have not registered with the city since moving to Colombia in July, as required by law.
“We rent out our house to a beautiful family we are friends with, and another friend,” the couple said in one email response, adding, “We have nothing to hide. We are looking into whether there are some forms we need to file.”
The RPA touts establishing renters’ protections as one of the group’s most significant political victories. Both Moore and Jimenez played a significant role in helping pass Richmond rent control ordinance, Mayor Butt noted.
A program manager for the Hass Institute, Moore “was a primary author of several studies about Richmond…that served as manifestos on which rent control was based…,” according to the mayor.
Meanwhile, Jimenez is an RPA steering committee member who, along with former mayor Gayle McLaughlin, signed a notice of intent to circulate a petition for the rent control initiative.
That initiative, Measure L — which in part places a limit on annual rent increases for about 10,000 units in the city and requires landlords to have a “just cause” when evicting tenants — subsequently passed in the November 2016 election.
Supporters and members of the RPA, who have participated in protests in front of homes of landlords the group has deemed as unfair to tenants, says Mayor Butt’s outing of Moore and Jimenez is nothing more than a political witch hunt. Moore and Jimenez were particularly incensed that the mayor sent an email to Moore’s employer asking if they were aware of the alleged licensing violations.
In one of several e-forum newsletter reports on the issue, Butt said the couple was “ratted out” as unlicensed landlords by supporters of the Richmond ferry, which were not pleased with statements Moore made about the project in a recent Richmond Confidential article.
“Why is this important?” the mayor said. “Two RPA members [McLaughlin and Jovanka Beckles] are campaigning for state office, touting the ‘Richmond miracle’ that they want to spread statewide. The so-called ‘Richmond miracle’ has a side they aren’t talking about. It includes ordinances that are so poorly drafted they cannot be interpreted or applied, and it includes leaders of the RPA who hold themselves above the law.”