Photo: Christina Murphy / Courtesy

Two years after appointing a new commissioner to serve out the term of a departing one, the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board finds itself in the same situation.

Commissioner Christina Murphy, who was elected in November 2016, has stepped down. She told the board in an email that she could no longer afford the rent in Berkeley and was moving to Vallejo.

“I regret to inform you that I must resign from the Rent Board,” wrote Murphy. “It [has] been an honor and a privilege to serve on the Board. While I have been primarily interested in serving my South Berkeley community, I have taken my responsibility to all Berkeley renters and property owners seriously. My life has changed –I have a good job and still can’t afford the rent in Berkeley. I will live for some time in Vallejo at my late father’s home and hope to return to Berkeley sometime soon.”

Murphy’s last day was June 1.

At its June meeting, the Rent Board voted to start the process of figuring out how to select a new commissioner to replace Murphy. That person would serve until Nov. 30, 2020. If he or she or they wanted to stay on the board, they would have to run for election in 2020.

The Rent Board last went through this process in 2017 when Commissioner Katherine Harr resigned because of health reasons. An ad hoc search committee of the Rent Board solicited nominations of people to replace her. While the committee recommended the Rent Board appoint Poki Namkung, an epidemiologist who had served as a health officer for the cities of Berkeley and Santa Cruz, it instead appointed Maria Poblet, a former executive director of Causa Justa: Just Cause, a regional housing and immigrant rights organization. Poblet was elected to a four-year term on the board in 2018.

But the process caused “friction” among the commissioners, because there was “a lack of certainty and consistency,” according to a June memo written by Paola Laverde, the chair of the board, and John Selawsky, a commissioner.  The memo urged the Rent Board to agree to a process for selecting a new commissioner before proceeding.

The Rent Board voted to install Laverde, Selawsky and Commissioners Leah Simon-Weisberg and Alejandro Soto-Vigil on the ad hoc search committee. It will probably make a report on how to proceed at its July 18 meeting, said Jay Kelekian, the executive director of the Rent Board. He laid out possible pathways for the board at the June 20 meeting.

The Rent Board publicly commended Murphy on June 20 for her dedication to helping the community and fighting for the rights of the vulnerable. Murphy told the board that when word got out that she was moving to Vallejo, she got about 15 offers of a place to live in Berkeley.

Murphy thanked her fellow commissioners for their work, fellowship, and community they had created.

“It’s emotional to leave Berkeley and the Rent Stabilization Board because we were the transformers of our community,” said Murphy. “I knew I could trust the people on the board because everybody had the same outlook, which was to help people in the community. That’s where the tears are coming from. I love you all.”

This article was updated after publication to clarify that the ad hoc search committee is still determining the process by which a new commissioner will be selected.

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...