Calif. Dem leaders come out swinging against statewide rent control measure

Democrats are normally in full support of rent control in California, but they are warning against a “trojan horse” measure they say would end all housing production.

Top California Democrats are opposing a ballot initiative that would remove state limits on rent control. 

State Sen. Toni Atkins (D–San Diego) and Asm. Buffy Wicks (D–Oakland) have come out in opposition to the measure,  which is funded by AIDS Healthcare Foundation president Michael Weinstein. 


The backstory: Weinstein’s measure, the Justice for Renters Act, would allow cities to enact rent control on newer apartments. 

  • In March, Huntington Beach councilman Tony Strickland, said the measure would give local governments ironclad protections from the state’s housing policy and overreaching enforcement. 
  • While Democrats have been historically supportive of rent control, issues center on Weinstein himself, who has bankrolled various ballot measures in the past and currently faces a measure that would specifically prevent him from using his foundation to funnel millions of dollars into future initiatives. 

The big picture: Atkins is the former President Pro Tem of the state Senate, while Wicks is the chair of the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Atkins is also running for governor in 2026. 

  • They view the measure as a “sneak attack” on state housing laws, arguing that it would allow wealthy cities to ignore state housing laws to build their fair share of housing. 
  • They join a coalition of affordable housing advocates who previously came out against the measure. 

What they’re saying: Atkins called the measure “as deceptive as it is dangerous.” 

  • “Conspiring with wealthy cities to undermine vital state housing laws is bad enough – lying to voters about it is even worse,” Atkins said. “This initiative is one giant loophole that lets some select local governments off the hook for affordable housing and opens the door to erase every inch of progress we’ve made on housing over the last 20 years. All I can say is don’t be fooled.” 
  • Atkins also called for Weinstein to remove the initiative from the ballot. 
  • Wicks had terse words of her own, saying the initiative would end housing production in California “full stop.” 
  • “We will not end the housing crisis unless we build millions of new homes at all levels of affordability,” Wicks said. “We’ve passed critical new laws to streamline housing construction, protect tenants, and give working families access to affordable, transit-friendly homes, all of which will be in jeopardy if this ballot measure passes. Vote no on this anti-housing measure.” 
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