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U.S. District Court Upholds Rent Control for Barnhill Marina

Rent control protections apply to houseboats and liveaboard vessels

In a decision issued by Chief Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California confirmed the City of Alameda’s Rent Control protections for houseboats and liveaboard vessels at floating home marinas. This landmark ruling, the first of its kind regarding rent control for maritime purposes, shields approximately 49 residential units at Barnhill Marina & Boatyard (“Barnhill”) from unreasonable rent hikes and unjust evictions.

Alameda Post - Barnhill Marina homes
Barnhill Marina homes. Photo Adam Gillitt.

Valley Investments-Redwood LLC (“Valley”) acquired the largest floating home marina, first established by Audley Vernon “Barney” Barnhill, in 2021 and “immediately initiated a campaign of tenant harassment,” according to a City of Alameda statement in a press release, attempting constructive evictions through rent increases as high as 178%. In response, Alameda’s City Council swiftly enacted ordinances to extend full Rent Control protections to maritime residential units, including the 49 units at Barnhill, aiming to safeguard vulnerable residents from imminent displacement. Barnhill then filed a federal lawsuit against the City that challenged the constitutionality of its Rent Control Ordinance. Governor Gavin Newsom also signed Assembly Bill 252 (AB 252) into law on September 28, 2022, to impose rent control on floating home berths in San Francisco Bay.

The court dismissed Valley’s lawsuit with prejudice, determining that the City’s Rent Control Ordinance is “drawn in an appropriate and reasonable way to advance a significant and legitimate public purpose.” The court further found that the ordinance is “rationally related to the legitimate and non-punitive legislative goal of providing safe and habitable housing” and serves a “legitimate non-punitive purpose of protecting vulnerable populations from the risk of displacement—particularly amid a housing crisis and a pandemic.” The full court order is available as a PDF.



City Attorney Yibin Shen explained, “The City of Alameda’s Rent Control Ordinances is a centerpiece of the City’s strong policy of protecting and preserving affordable housing in our community.” Shen added, “The City Attorney’s Office, including the Rent Program, is committed to justly enforcing state and local housing laws and ensuring that Alameda remains a place that people from all backgrounds and income levels can call home.”

Alameda Rent Program Director Bill Chapin further shared that “the entire Rent Program team is pleased with the Court’s affirmance of the City’s Rent Control Ordinance. Program staff stands ready to work with Valley Investments and the management of Barnhill Marina to bring the property into immediate compliance with the Court’s decision, and to answer any and all questions from tenants at Barnhill regarding the Rent Control protections afforded to them.”

Residents of Barnhill, or any other rental property in Alameda, seeking information about the City’s Rent Control protections can contact Rent Program staff at 510-747-7520 or [email protected] for assistance.

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