Who needs satire when all you have to do is read news from Berkeley?
By law, elected members of the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board (the rent control commissars) are supposed to live in Berkeley. However, according to a report in the SF Chronicle, that legal technicality has not prevented one elected commissioner from living in Oakland (apparently for a long time). This has come to light now that he’s fighting eviction — allegedly with help from a community law center that has a contract with the Rent Board:

Over in Berkeley, Rent Stabilization Board member Chris Kavanagh, who by law should be living in Berkeley, is fighting eviction from a cottage he rents in Oakland.
And here’s a twist: Kavanagh is fighting his eviction with the help of a former vice chair of the Berkeley rent board, now an attorney for a nonprofit law firm that has a contract with the panel to represent tenants.
A contract, we might add, that Kavanagh voted for.
“It’s complete news to me,” rent board Executive Director Jay Kelekian said when we asked about Kavanagh’s eviction fight and the help he’s getting from the East Bay Community Law Center.
The eviction battle — and the fact that Kavanagh doesn’t appear to live in Berkeley — are laid out in an exchange of letters between Kavanagh’s attorney (and former board member) Marc Janowitz and H. Wayne Goodroe, a lawyer representing a couple who recently bought the cottage and a main house on 63rd Street in Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood.
In a letter last month, Janowitz said Kavanagh, who has rented the cottage since 2001, wanted to stay another year, “after which he will move.”
(Janowitz is also representing a second tenant living in the main house who’s also fighting the toss — former Black Panther Party member Johnny Spain.)
As recently as two years ago, Kavanagh — a Green Party member first elected to the rent board in 2002 — signed a campaign disclosure form, under penalty of perjury, stating that he lived in an apartment on Dwight Way in Berkeley.
Voting rolls also list him as living at the Dwight Way address, though sometime last year he notified the rent board that he was living at 2705 Webster St. in Berkeley, Kelekian said.
When we caught up with Kavanagh this past week at his Oakland digs, he was having dinner on his patio. He said he’d call us later to explain how he’s managed to live in two places at once.
He hasn’t.
As for Janowitz, he let out a long laugh when we told him what we were calling about — but said he couldn’t really say where Kavanagh lived.
“I’m just defending the eviction,” Janowitz said.
He said he didn’t see it as a problem that he’s representing a rent board member when his firm has a contract with the board. He wouldn’t say how much Kavanagh is paying him, calling that “the subject of private attorney-client communication.”
Janowitz said the real issue was that the Oakland landlords and their attorney hadn’t succeeded in evicting Kavanagh or Spain and now are “attempting to influence the litigation by resorting to extrajudicial gossip — you being the monger.”

What interest might San Francsico Chronicle reporters Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross have in attempting to “influence the litigation” one way or another? Are they partners in the property in question? Janowitz does not say, and I think it’s more likely that they have no interest at all in the outcome of the litigation (which appears to involve the new owners trying to evict tenants so they can move in). Unless I am reading the piece wrong (or these reporters have not disclosed an ownership interest in the Oakland property), their interest is simply in the story of a Berkeley Rent Board member who is not living in Berkeley where the law requires him to live, but is instead living in Oakland, where he’s allegedly using a non-profit firm the Rent Board has a contract with to defend an eviction in Oakland.
It would appear to be a very newsworthy story. Newsworthy enough for Judith Scherr of the Berkeley Daily Planet to investigate further:

Glen Kohler, manager of the apartment building at 2709 Dwight Way, responded to the Planet’s inquiry, saying: “No, he doesn’t” live at that address.
Questioned about how long the elected official had been “gone,” Kohler answered: “I don’t know if ‘gone’ is the correct word,” explaining he meant that during the two and one-half years that he had been managing the apartment, Kavanagh had, to his knowledge, never lived there.
A postal worker delivering mail while the Daily Planet was at the Dwight Way apartment house said Kavanagh had previously received mail there, but hadn’t for more than a year and a half.
The mailbox at apartment No. 16, where Kavanagh has said he lives, bears no name.
Asked if he knows where Kavanagh lives, Rent Board Executive Director Jay Kelekian told the Daily Planet on Monday, “To my knowledge he resides in Berkeley.”
Kelekian said that Kavanagh had informed the rent board of a change of address to 2705 Webster one time, but had informed Kelekian that address is actually a box at the Elmwood Post Office and that he continued to live at the Dwight Way apartment.
Kelekian said Kavanagh picks up his rent board materials at the rent board office.
If it is determined that Kavanagh doesn’t meet the residency requirements of the City Charter, Kelekian said he thinks the rent board would agree that he should step down.
Determining residency is not the rent board’s call, he said, explaining it is up to the city clerk’s office to investigate.
Rent Board Chair Jesse Arreguin said he is aware that this is not the first time the question has been raised. Reporting a conversation with Kavanagh on the topic, Arreguin said, “He assured us that he rents an apartment in Berkeley and stays with his girlfriend in Oakland.”
Apparently the question of Kavanagh’s residence has not come before the city’s Fair Campaign Practices Commission. “It’s never been drawn to our attention,” said Eric Weaver, FCPC chair.
“We looked at the fact that he is the most chronic late filer,” Weaver added.

As to why Janowitz hasn’t accused Judith Scherr of attempting to influence the litigation, I’m not sure.
I don’t know anything about the merits of this litigation, and I’m only speculating that the new owners want to move in. If their goal is to live in their own house, I’d support their right to do that.
So, while that would appear to place me on the side of the property owner, I really wouldn’t want to “attempting to influence the litigation by resorting to extrajudicial gossip,” nor do I think I could. This is only a blog post, and while I don’t reach as many Bay Area people as the local press there, I think the legal system can and should run its course regardless of what is said in any report or blog post, whether involving “extrajudicial gossip” or newsworthy facts.