Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board candidate Bahman Ahmadi
Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board candidate Bahman Ahmadi. Courtesy: Ahmadi campaign

Name: Bahman Ahmadi, 70, retired engineer

What office/district are you are running for? Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board commissioner

What is the main reason you are running? Decades of expanded regulation in Berkeley has taken their toll. The city has notoriously blocked attempts to create additional alternative units in favor of new luxury apartments that are exempt from rent control. We need to provide a variety of housing options including backyard cottages (ADUs) and “missing middle” housing (house-scale buildings with multiple units) to address the present crisis. Instead of constricting the small owner’s ability to invest in alternative housing, we must advocate for policies that incentivize and encourages them to invest in affordable housing.

I am inspired to run because I want to incentivize property owners to put their units on the rental market, not take them off. I was discouraged to learn that for many years, the Berkeley rent board has only been represented by tenants. For a public agency that is supposed to represent both owner and renter, I fail to see how tenant-only representation leads to good rental housing policy.

Why are you qualified? As a first-generation immigrant who has benefited from the tremendous opportunities offered by the city of Berkeley, I aspire for the next generation to share the same prospects. As a Berkeley resident of 50 years, I look forward to the opportunity to preserve the safe, affordable, and diverse community that Berkeley residents, like myself, have cultivated with great care over the last several decades.

What sets you apart from other candidates? I offer 45 years of leadership experience as a retired engineer who has implemented multi-million dollar gas, electric; and, telecommunication projects throughout PG&E’s service territory. I interfaced on behalf of the company with the public utility commission (PUC) and during the construction of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plants with the nuclear regulatory commission (NRC).

I am accustomed to the presentation of complex technical and business topics to diverse audiences, exploring different perspectives and priorities to arrive at a solution that has everyone’s support.

I am an experienced small rental housing provider who understands the unique relationship between owner and tenant.

If elected, I would advocate for:

  • Fair and Balanced Representation – both tenants and housing providers are stakeholders in policy outcomes. So, both perspectives need to be considered to arrive at a fair and balanced solution.
  • Evidenced Based Decision Making – that are informed, uses actual empirical data where assumptions are clearly articulated.
  • Transparency and Accountability – both on the work of the commissioners as well as the rent board staff to garner confidence.

What brought you to Berkeley and when did you come? After immigrating to the United States, I pursued my childhood dream of graduating from UC Berkeley, arriving on campus in the early 70s as an international student. I had to overcome many obstacles, one of which was finding affordable housing. Once I graduated from U.C. Berkeley with an Engineering degree I raised my family and didn’t leave far from the campus.

What are the three biggest challenges for Berkeley in the next five years? Our most immediate problem is protecting our most vulnerable community members during the pandemic and providing them with a safe place to shelter. There are both renters and owners that have been financially impacted by the pandemic. This has both an immediate and a long-term impact on the state of affordable housing. It may take a long time before the industry reaches financial stability and, in the meantime, many mom-and-pop affordable housing providers could be forced out of business.

What are your ideas to begin to solve them? 1 – Educate stakeholders – the rent board must retool itself to become a problem solver in the rental housing community and to play a constructive role as a fair mediator between tenant and landlord. There is an exceptional opportunity during the pandemic to facilitate a constructive relationship between the landlords and the tenants to collaborate on mutually beneficial agreements.

2 – Commit to proactive problem-solving – the rent board must truly represent both owner and renter, taking both stakeholders into consideration when crafting policy. This can only be achieved by a more balanced representation on the rent board and a commitment to proactively solving problems with evidence-based decision making.

3 – Transparency and balanced policy-making – critically, the rent board has never been audited. The contributors to any organization, whether public taxpayers or private stakeholders are entitled to know about the cost structure and efficacy of the organization’s services. A performance audit of the rent board and its budget is a necessity. The housing providers are entitled to understand why Berkeley’s rent board charges the highest registration fees in the Bay Area.

What is your most inspired/unique idea for Berkeley? Making downtown Berkeley car-free (pedestrian/bicycle zone) for better accessibility, enhanced shopping, and improved aesthetics of the environment (air pollution, and noise level). To encourage upgrades rental housing that promotes green and sustainable living for both renter and owner.

How will you be accessible to constituents? I will always be available all constituents in a variety of ways. I will maintain a website that will speak to the proposals I plan to put forth as a rent board commissioner. I will provide opportunities for feedback and concerns from any community member.

Why should voters choose you over the incumbent? It’s clearly time for a change. The rent board has not had property owner representation for many years. This has resulted in unbalanced and misinformed policies. As a newly appointed board member, I will offer a fresh perspective on issues. My approach to problem-solving is not based on any specific ideology but rather a desire to examine empirical data to better understand and define the problem. That would entail collecting the relevant information about ALL the variables to form the right hypothesis and to examine it, ensuring that we are solving the right problem.

How much money do you expect to spend on your campaign? As this is my first campaign, I intend to raise and spend what is necessary to communicate my strengths as a candidate.

Share a personal interest or passion people might be surprised to learn about. I participated in a UC Berkeley Karate team competing in the Budokan Japan tournament in the early 80s. I have been an avid diver, diving the northern California coast for over 30 years. Among my passions is also Argentine Tango dancing which allowed me to meet people from all over the world.

Learn more about Bahman Ahmadi online: WebsiteRead more about Bahman Ahmadi on Berkeleyside. See complete 2020 election coverage on Berkeleyside.

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