Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that $7,500 of the $15,000 Stefan Elgstrand raised came from a loan he made to his campaign.
In a race for five open seats on the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, three independent candidates are hoping to break up a slate of five that has been selected by the Berkeley Tenants Convention.
The pro-tenant slate pools its resources, nearly $50,000 altogether, to purchase advertisements on behalf of all five of its candidates — making it the most powerful force in the race. A pro-tenant slate swept the rent board race in 2020 against a homeowner’s slate backed by real estate groups. A homeowner’s slate is not on the ballot this year.
But Stefan Elgstrand, who’s running on an independent platform, has the most cash — $15,057 — to spend of any of the eight candidates in the race. Elgstrand, the legislative aide to Mayor Jesse Arreguín, is the only candidate who opted out of public financing, reasoning that it would be challenging to raise enough money for an at-large race with the $60 donation limit. He raised half his funds from contributions averaging about $150, and the other half from a $7,500 loan he made to his campaign.
The other two candidates running independently of the tenants slate, Wendy Saenz Hood and Carole Marasovic, both opted into public financing and have each raised more than $2,400 as of Oct. 22. They’ve maxed out the city’s matching funds for rent board candidates at $8,000, like all but one of the candidates.
Soli Alpert, the only incumbent in the race, is the only candidate on the tenants slate to have raised more than $2,000. The rest of the candidates have raised between $1,350 and $1,850, plus matching funds.
Unlike in 2020, when the National Association of Realtors and another group with ties to a state association for landlords spent $150,000 on behalf of candidates on the homeowner’s slate but failed to win a single seat, there have been no independent expenditures made in this year’s rent board race.
It’s the first year that candidates for rent board are eligible for the city’s public financing system, which aims to limit the influence of money in Berkeley politics and give candidates with fewer resources a shot at winning. Most of the money in the race has come from Berkeley residents making donations of $60 or less.
Wendy Saenz Hood, the only candidate endorsed by the Berkeley Property Owner’s Association, has received donations from almost the entire board of directors of the organization, in addition to donations from real estate agents and property managers.
Elgstrand is backed financially by local elected officials, including Mayor Arreguín and four city councilmembers, as well as by attorneys employed by organizations like the East Bay Community Law Center and the Eviction Defense Center, while Marasovic has contributions from councilmember Susan Wengraf, commissioners on the Homeless Services Panel of Experts and one realtor.
Former councilmember Max Anderson donated to all the candidates on the tenants slate. Many also have received donations from current pro-tenant rent board commissioners like John Selawsky, James Chang and Paola Laverde. Councilmember Rigel Robinson donated to Soli Alpert’s campaign.
Stefan Elgstrand (Independent)
Stefan Elgstrand leads the field of candidates for rent board in terms of funds raised. He has $15,057 to spend so far based on donations from 48 donors donating an average of $145 and a $7,500 loan he made to his campaign.
Almost all of the funds Elgstrand has raised have come from the Bay Area, including 57% from Berkeley residents, many of whom are elected officials, attorneys and retired people. The top zip code his donors have come from is West Berkeley.
His donors include Mayor Jesse Arreguín; councilmembers Sophie Hahn, Rigel Robinson, Terry Taplin and Kate Harrison; Marc Janowitz, a tenants rights lawyer at East Bay Community Law Center; Anne Omura, a lawyer at Eviction Defense Center; and Cherilyn Parsons, executive director of the Bay Area Book Festival.
Soli Alpert (Tenants slate)
Alpert, the only incumbent in the race, has raised $10,558 to spend on his campaign. He maxed out the city’s matching funds at $8,000, like most of the other rent board candidates. The rest has come from 23 donors contributing no more than $60 each.
All but two of his donations have come from Berkeley residents.
Other donors include councilmember Rigel Robinson; rent board commissioners John Selawsky and James Chang; school board directors Ty Alper and Ana Vasudeo; former councilmember Max Anderson; Alfred Twu, who is running for a seat on the AC Transit board; Mike Chang, a candidate for school board; and Vanessa Marrero, who is running with Alpert as part of the tenants union slate.
Wendy Saenz Hood (Independent)
Saenz Hood has $10,535 to spend on her campaign, $2,535 of which she has raised from 39 donors who contributed no more than $60.
Though she is now a renter, she ran on a property owner’s slate in 2020 and this year is the lone candidate endorsed by the Berkeley Property Owner’s Association. Almost the entire board of directors of the association donated to her campaign.
More so than any other candidate, Saenz Hood has received contributions from property managers and real estate agents. Donors include Cliff Orloff, CEO of Orloff Property Management, and his wife; Ann Plant, a realtor with Red Oak Realty, and her husband; and Jonathan Weldon, a realtor with Cedar Properties.
All of her donations have come from Berkeley residents.
Carole Marasovic (Independent)
Marasovic has $10,535 to spend on her campaign, $2,436 of which she has raised from 56 donors who contributed no more than $60.
All but three of her donors are Berkeley residents.
Her donors include councilmember Susan Wengraf; commissioners from the Homeless Services Panel of Experts, including Michael DelaGuardia, Alice Feller, Mary Ann Meany, Cameron Johnson and Paul Kealoha-Blake (who co-owns the Bay Area Media Center); Mark Humbert, who’s running for city council in District 8; Reichi Lee, a candidate for school board; Ira Serkes, a realtor with Berkeley Homes; and Alfred Twu, a candidate for the AC Transit board.
Vanessa Danielle Marrero (Tenants slate)
Marrero has $9,883 to spend on her campaign, $1,833 of which she has raised from 20 donors who contributed no more than $60.
All but three of the people who contributed to her campaign are Berkeley residents.
Her donors include former councilmemeber Max Anderson; rent board commissioners Paola Laverde, Soli Alpert and James Chang; rent board candidate Negeene Mosaed; and school board director Ana Vasudeo.
Negeene Mosaed (Tenants slate)
Mosaed has $9,778 to spend on her campaign, $1,778 of which she has raised from 22 donors who contributed no more than $60.
Everyone who donated to her campaign is a Berkeley resident. Her top donor zip code is in Central Berkeley.
Her donors include rent board commissioners Soli Alpert and James Chang, along with Elana Auerbach, a politically active Berkeley resident who listed her occupation as “Priestess.”
Nathan Mizell (Tenants slate)
Mizell has $9,369 to spend on his campaign, $1,369 of which he has raised from 14 donors who contributed no more than $60.
All but one of his donations are from Berkeley residents.
Rent board commissioners Soli Alpert, James Chang and John Selawsky donated to his campaign, as did Berkeley school board director Ana Vasudeo, former councilmember Max Anderson, school board candidate Mike Chang, and Barnali Ghosh, a Walk Bike Berkeley advocate and co-leader of the Berkeley South Asian Radical History Walking Tour.
Ida Martinac (Tenants slate)
Martinac has $9,286 to spend on her campaign, $1,684 of which she has raised from 20 donors who contributed no more than $60.
All but two of the people who contributed to her campaign are Berkeley residents.
Her donors include rent board commissioners Paola Laverde, Soli Alpert and James Chang, and former city councilmember Max Anderson.
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Vanessa Danielle Marrero‘s last name. It is Marrero, not Morrero. It also incorrectly stated that Wendy Saenz Hood donated to Soli Alpert’s campaign. The donor was Wendy Bloom, not Wendy Saenz Hood.
The deadline to register to vote online or by mail in Alameda County is Oct. 24, and the election is Tuesday, Nov. 8. We put together a guide to the essentials of how to register and vote, what’s on the ballot, voters’ rights and more.
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- The city of Berkeley’s election portal and candidate statements
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