The Nexus between Rent Control and Incorporation in East Palo Alto

David Skidmore
Department of Political Science

Drake University

August, 2021

In the early 1980s, East Palo Alto was a small community of 18,000 people (today over 30,000) nestled amidst the growing and increasingly prosperous cities of Silicon Valley (Golden, 1982). When East Palo Alto incorporated in 1983, it gained a place among the early minority-majority cities in California and joined Richmond as one of only two cities in the state with a Black majority population (Camarillo, 2007). Within a year after incorporation, East Palo Alto became just the third municipality (joining Berkeley and Santa Monica) to pass a comprehensive rent stabilization and just cause eviction ordinance.

The incorporation of East Palo Alto thus stood at the confluence of two major social movements: the struggles for Black liberation and economic justice. The channeling of these movements through electoral politics and legal reform required the construction of multi-racial and cross-class coalitions that rested upon compatible, if nevertheless distinct, sets of interests and identities. The story of East Palo Alto’s founding as a city close to four decades ago remains relevant today for the lessons it offers about building complex political coalitions that can successfully pursue progressive change in the face of unreceptive institutions and entrenched opposition. These lessons have gained renewed currency during a time when the forces of progress and retrenchment have each mobilized to heightened levels of intensity.

This study examines one particular facet of the incorporation struggle – the role that the fight for rent control played in the incorporation campaign and in the early life of the city. Rent control was not initially a major focal point of the incorporation campaign, but came to play a central role due to both the housing crisis of the early 1980s and its potential for reshaping electoral coalitions at the margin in favor of incorporation amid a tightly contested political landscape.

This account rests upon personal recollection[1], interviews with key participants, contemporary documentary sources, press reports and prior studies of incorporation.

Historical Background

East Palo Alto’s history has been defined by constantly changing demographics. Communities marginalized within the broader society found a home in East Palo Alto. These groups often sought bottom-up empowerment through social and political movements that struggled against the constraints, and sometimes outright exploitation, placed upon them by external forces.

In 1916, Charles Weeks founded Runnymeade Little Farms Colony, a utopian agrarian community that focused on poultry. The colony, located within the historic boundaries of East Palo Alto, peaked at one thousand members in the 1920s before ultimately failing. During the 1930s, Japanese and Italian immigrants launched successful flower-growing operations. The substantial Japanese population of East Palo Alto was removed and placed in internment camps during World War II (Berman, 2010; Daeenabi and Sosa-Ramos, 2019).

After the war, East Palo Alto grew rapidly from a population of 1,500 in 1947 to 12,000 in 1953 (Berman, 2010). Most of the newcomers were members of the White working class. While East Palo Alto participated in the general economic boom of the post-war years, its status as an unincorporated area of San Mateo County left it politically vulnerable and inhibited the development of a strong sense of identity.

In 1949, neighboring Menlo Park annexed the Belle Haven neighborhood, which had traditionally been considered a part of East Palo Alto. In one fell swoop, East Palo Alto lost one quarter of both its population and its property value (Berman, 2010; Anning, 1998). In subsequent years, Menlo Park annexed the Menlo Oaks and North Palo Alto neighborhoods while Palo Alto took land to the south for the purpose of building a municipal golf course (Lowe, 1983).

A more devastating blow came in 1958 with the expansion of the Bayshore Freeway, which led to the erasure of East Palo Alto’s main business district and the closure of over fifty shops, only a few of which reopened in new locations within the community. Appeals by local residents to shift the route eastward to spare the business district were rejected. Construction of the freeway also prompted neighborhoods to the West of the Bayshore to leave Ravenswood School District, which served East Palo Alto and parts of Menlo Park, and to join the Menlo Park School District. This only worsened existing patterns of racial segregation in the schools (Coolidge, 2012; Lowe, 1983; Berman, 2010).

Demographic Change

During the fifties, a number of Black migrants from the rural South found that housing in working class East Palo Alto was both more affordable and more accessible than in neighboring cities. Yet Black residents were clustered into two small enclaves and the 1960 census found that East Palo Alto’s population remained 70% White (Post, 1997).

Over the course of the following decade, however, East Palo Alto transitioned from a predominantly White to a predominately Black community as a result of discriminatory housing practices. In 1958, the NAACP conducted a survey which found that 19 of 20 peninsula real estate agencies discriminated against Blacks in new developments and prosperous neighborhoods (Post, 1997). Race-restrictive housing covenants were also common in established White neighborhoods. Between 1925 and 1950, a majority of subdivisions in neighboring Palo Alto mandated: “No person not wholly of the White Caucasian race shall use or occupy such property unless such person or persons are employed as servants of the occupants (Sheyner, 2019).”

White flight out of East Palo Alto arose from concerted “block busting” campaigns carried out by local real estate agencies during the years 1962-64 (“Housing Discrimination…,” Cutler, 2015; Rothstein, 2018). Agents blitzed crowded Black neighborhoods in San Francisco with fliers advertising the bucolic charms of East Palo Alto. Organized bus tours drove Black prospective home owners through White neighborhoods in East Palo Alto. Once the racial exclusivity of an area was broken, realtors played upon the fears and prejudices of White residents to buy out whole neighborhoods at low prices, only to then sell these homes to Black purchasers at much higher prices. Once Black homeowners came to predominate various East Palo Alto neighborhoods, the Federal Housing Administration stopped approving Federally-insured loans for Whites who might wish to buy homes in those areas (Rothstein, 2018: 12-13; Post, 1997). By the 1970 census, the White population of East Palo Alto had fallen to 20% in what was now a majority Black community (Post, 1997).

Historian Herbert Ruffin II (2014: 97) observes that East Palo Alto’s transition to a Black majority was accompanied by growing social distress: “East Palo Alto became a ghetto overnight, falling victim to White flight, capital flight, unfair taxation, debased city services, and divestment in the housing market.” Ironically, passage of the Fair Housing Act, which ended racially restrictive covenants and outlawed housing discrimination based upon race, contributed to East Palo Alto’s woes during the 1970s as middle-class Black families moved to more affluent cities (Cutler, 2015).

San Mateo County, of which East Palo Alto is a part, was among the richest counties in the United States in the early 1980s. During this period, East Palo Alto stood out as a 2.5 square mile enclave of poverty, with a 25-30% unemployment rate (60% among teenagers) and 30% of San Mateo’s welfare cases despite comprising only 4% of the county’s population. East Palo Alto’s median family income fell 40% below that of the county as a whole (“Incorporation of Coast Town….,” 1983; Biddulph, 1983c; “Racism Charges….,” 1983; Skidmore, 1983).

Although East Palo Alto had the density of an urban area, it relied wholly upon San Mateo County for services due to the community’s unincorporated status. Instead of representing specific locales or districts, San Mateo supervisors were chosen through county-wide elections. As a result, no supervisor specifically represented East Palo Alto. Nor did the votes of East Palo Alto residents carry sufficient weight to ensure political clout. As a result, the community’s interests were routinely ignored. Community leader Barbara Mouton noted: “We have been the stepchild of San Mateo County, and have not gotten the services we need and merit … The county supervisors are not equipped to run a municipality (Golden, 1982a).” As an example, the county Sheriff Deputies who policed East Palo Alto’s streets did not live in the community and could not readily be held accountable by its residents. Indeed, San Mateo treated East Palo Alto as a dumping ground (literally) for the county’s problems as exemplified by the siting of a waste treatment plant and the country landfill in East Palo Alto (Kahan, 2015, Cutler, 2015).

Black Empowerment

This confluence of economic distress, rapid demographic change and political disenfranchisement took place against the backdrop of rising Black power consciousness and the struggle for civil rights. East Palo Alto became a hub for Black political and cultural expression.

A two-year Nairobi College and a Nairobi Day School (K-12) were opened in the late sixties under the leadership, respectively, of Bob Hoover and Gertrude Wilkes.[2] In 1968, voters narrowly rejected a proposal to rename the community “Nairobi.” Pan-African cultural nationalism competed with the Marxist-influence nationalism of the Black Panthers, which established a chapter in East Palo Alto. Political and intellectual figures such as Bobby Seale, Stokely Carmichael and Jesse Jackson regularly passed through East Palo Alto (Berman, 2010; Olewe, 2015; “A Structure for Survival…., 1972; Cutler, 2015).

In the sixties and seventies, a number of significant civil rights and Saul Alinsky-style community organizing groups were either based or active in East Palo Alto. Examples included the San Mateo County Black Action Council, Mid-Peninsula CORE, the Community Action Council and the Palo Alto Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. In the late sixties, East Palo Alto hosted several Black Action Conferences, which drew over one thousand attendees (Berman, 2010; Ruffin, 2014).

In short, even as East Palo Alto struggled with economic distress and political marginalization, it also began to develop the racial consciousness, local institutions and community leadership necessary to challenge these conditions.

Housing Costs and the Rising Demand for Rent Control

The demographic transformation of East Palo Alto coincided with an emerging housing crisis that took increasingly intense form as one moved from the national level to the Bay Area and finally to East Palo Alto itself. The political expression of this crisis took the form of growing popular support for rent control.

Nationally, median rents increased by 13% in 1982, compared with an overall inflation rate of 4.7%.[3] In East Palo Alto, rents rose 15% per year during the late seventies and early eighties, creating financial strain and housing insecurity for local tenants, who constituted 55% of the population of East Palo Alto.[4] Average family income among renters stood at only 55% that of homeowners. Three quarters of renters had low or very low incomes using standards set by San Mateo County. If, as is customary, we consider 25% of overall income devoted to rent as the upper bound of affordability, then one third of all East Palo Alto renters and three quarters of those with low incomes struggled with unaffordable rents. Overall, rent consumed an average of 32% of renter income.

A mismatch between housing supply and demand helped drive up rents. During the 1970s, the workforce in San Mateo County grew by 37% and in neighboring Santa Clara County by 82%. Meanwhile, multi-family construction permits issued by San Mateo County for unincorporated areas fell from 1440 during the first half of the seventies to 220 in the second half of the decade. In East Palo Alto, the rental vacancy rate in the early eighties hovered between 1% and 3% – anything below 5% is considered a serious housing shortage. In this environment, property values for multi-family rental complexes rose rapidly. As a result, money was diverted from new construction to speculative investments in existing properties. Speculation was further fueled by tax laws that allowed accelerated depreciation.

These conditions were not confined to the Bay Area. Between 1977 and 1980, surveys of Californians showed a dramatic flip in public views regarding rent control – from two thirds opposition to two thirds support (Shearer, 1982). The first rent control ordinances were passed in Santa Monica in 1979 (Shearer, 1982) and Berkeley in 1980 (“History of Rent Control in Berkeley”).

It is not surprising, then, that housing gained currency as an issue in the incorporation struggle. But among the many significant challenges facing the community in those years, why did housing affordability rise to the top of the agenda, especially preceding the 1983 incorporation vote? And why did the new City Council take up rent control as its first act in office and pass a sweeping law within its first year in the face of determined and well-funded opposition?

These questions are all the more puzzling when one considers that the political center of gravity in East Palo Alto rested among the long-term Black homeowners who occupied single-family houses on the East side of the Bayshore Freeway. These voters were divided on incorporation. Why, then, did leaders of the incorporation campaign come to embrace rent control?

The Fight to Incorporate East Palo Alto

To answer these questions, we must look first at how the campaign for incorporation unfolded. Following years of advocacy by the East Palo Alto Citizen’s Committee on Incorporation (EPACCI) and a failed effort in 1982, East Palo Alto was incorporated as a city on July 1, 1983. The June 7, 1983 victory came with a margin of only 15 votes out of the 3,459 cast. Barbara Mouton was selected as the city’s first mayor (Gordon, 2007). Other members of the initial Council were Omowale Satterwhite, Ruben Abrica, and James Blakey (Batchelder, 1994; Grieve, 1983; “Incorporation of Coast Town…, 1983).

This victory was a close, hard-fought thing. Opposition to incorporation was substantial. Divisions emerged among long-time friends and allies. The organizational expression of the opposition to incorporation took the form of a group called Citizens Coalition Against Incorporation Now (CCAIN). Three members of the pre-existing Municipal Council – a powerless body set up to advice the county on community issues – came out against incorporation: Gertrude Wilks, Henry Anthony and Pat Johnson (Biddulph, 1983b).

Among the skeptics, many worried that a cash-strapped city might raise taxes or fees on homeowners or small businesses. Wilks, a revered figure in East Palo Alto for her work in education and social services, was the most vocal on this point, contending: “Self-determination and pride will not finance a city … I represent people on a fixed income and they can’t afford to pay for a city (Biddulph, 1983b).” These fears were, however, largely misplaced as Proposition 13, a statewide initiative passed in 1978, severely limited the ability of local governments to increase property taxes.

Wilks argued that San Mateo County sought to wash its hands of East Palo Alto’s dire social and economic problems: “The powers that be will stop at nothing to rid themselves of the poor and black and other minority people in East Palo Alto (Biddulph, 1984).” Of the pro-incorporation campaign itself, Wilks saw it as an example of “exploitation” of “black people by black people (“Incorporation of Coast Town…, 1983).” Realtor Arn Cenedella similarly contended that in view of the financial drain East Palo Alto placed upon San Mateo, county officials supported incorporation in order to get East Palo Alto “off the books (Golden, 1982a).” Perhaps swayed by such considerations, the East Palo Alto Homeowners Association opposed incorporation.

Although housing affordability was one among many issues that EPACCI listed in its campaign literature, rent control was not on the agenda prior to the 1982 vote (Romero interview, 2021). Nevertheless, real estate interests stepped up as the primary funders of CCAIN. The mostly White and mostly absentee (83% of multi-unit rental housing in East Palo Alto was owned by out-of-town landlords [Harrington, 1984]) landlords who owned apartment buildings on the sliver of East Palo Alto that lay on the West side of the Bayshore Freeway fought the hardest to avoid inclusion in the new city. At this point, landlords were concerned that incorporation would foreclose the possibility of the West side joining more prosperous Menlo Park.  At the time, two local realtors candidly told a reporter that the same property on the West side would have a higher market value with a Menlo Park address than with an East Palo Alto address (Golden, 1982c).

When EPACCI petitioned San Mateo County’s Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) in 1981 to seek approval for a ballot measure on incorporation, one quarter of West side property owners (including owners of both multi-unit buildings and single-family homes) asked LAFCo to leave the West side out of the boundaries of the proposed city. Responding to pressure from the West of Bayshore Committee for Annexation to Menlo Park, LAFCo initially announced its intention to set the Western boundary of East Palo Alto at the Bayshore Freeway. However, after a financial feasibility study concluded that the exclusion of the West side apartment buildings, which accounted for almost half of the apartment units in the community, would decisively weaken the financial viability of East Palo Alto, LAFCo reversed itself. Now it would exclude only a small area of the West side that consisted of single-family homes (Golden, 1982a).

While this was a victory for EPACCI, LAFCo structured the ballot in ways that seemed designed to frustrate incorporation. In addition to a vote on incorporation itself by residents who lived within the proposed boundaries of East Palo Alto, LAFCo required that voters also approve four other measures dissolving sanitation, recreation, water and county service districts. Although the latter three districts coincided with the boundaries of the proposed city, the sanitation district covered areas not within East Palo Alto. LAFCo required that all five measures be approved before incorporation could move forward. It was in part because of this confusing ballot that community leader Barbara Mouton declared that LAFCo “did everything they could do to defeat us (Golden, 1982a).

In the event, four of the five measures passed, including the main question on incorporation, which gained 1587 votes in favor versus 1238 votes against. Only the measure providing for dissolution of the sanitary district failed to gain an overall majority in favor, falling short of passage by 41 votes. As incorporation proponents had feared, the sanitary district measure did pass among voters residing within the boundaries of East Palo Alto, but failed due to opposition by voters living within the district but outside of the proposed city (Springen, 1982; Golden, 1982d).

Following the 1982 defeat, EPACCI successfully petitioned for a second vote the following year. LAFCo gave approval, also agreeing to allow a straight up-and-down vote on incorporation. The campaign prior to the second vote took on a different complexion. Rent control now moved to the forefront of the debate.

The Formation of the East Palo Alto Council of Tenants (EPACT)

From a political and organizational point of view, the East Palo Alto Council of Tenants (EPACT), formed in 1982, played a crucial role in mediating the relationship between incorporation and rent control. Among the prime movers in EPACT’s creation were Ruben Abrica, Lon Otterby and Carlos Romero. Abrica was an educator who was later elected to East Palo Alto’s first city council. Otterby was a machinist and political activist with experience in the anti-Vietnam War movement. Romero was a Stanford student. Others who worked on local housing issues, whether through EPACT or separately, included Sharifa Wilson, Nate Branch and Duane Bay (Abrica, 2014).

Abrica recalls: “I went through every single apartment on the west side two or three times. I started finding out how abusive some of the managers and landlords were (Real, 2015-16).” EPACT provided tenants with information on their legal rights, mediated tenant disputes with landlords, and helped tenant’s navigate government bureaucracy. In one such case, for instance, Otterby contacted government agencies on behalf of a tenant who was threatened with an eviction notice after refusing to sign a landlord’s petition to annex the neighborhood to Menlo Park (Otterby, 1983). EPACT met with Stanford law students working at the East Palo Alto Community Law Project to help them better understand the kinds of issues that faced tenants and the sorts of legal assistance that was most needed.

Canvassing was a major way that EPACT informed and organized tenants. Members distributed leaflets at the doors of apartments to invite people to meetings or events and to encourage them to become politically active in support of tenant’s rights. EPACT aimed to have at least one person in each building who would volunteer to open locked security gates so that canvassers could gain access to the building (Lon Otterby interview, 2021).

In addition, EPACT members participated in voter registration drives, spoke before official bodies on behalf of incorporation, wrote on rental issues for a community newspaper called the East Palo Alto Progress (published by historian Bob Lowe), carried out workshops on renter’s rights, staffed information tables at the local supermarket, lobbied City Council members, helped research and design rental legislation and served on the East Palo Alto Rent Stabilization Board.

EPACT, Coalition-Building and Incorporation

While EPACT was, from one point of view, a natural outgrowth of the housing crisis that enveloped East Palo Alto at this time, it also connected to strategic moves within the pro-incorporation camp. The decision to elevate the salience of rent control in the incorporation campaign owed much to the peculiar geography and demographics of East Palo Alto.

Since the freeway was completed in the late fifties, the ties between this West side outcropping of East Palo Alto and the rest of the community had grown increasingly tenuous. Among the 4,000 residents of this area, only 20% were Black, with most of the remainder White or Latino (Golden, 1982a; Biddulph, 1983a). Most West side renters were short-term residents, such as the bulk of the estimated 350 Stanford students who lived in East Palo Alto (Biddulph, 1983b). In 1980, only 15% of East Palo Alto renters had occupied their apartments for more than five years, while 54% had lived in their unit for less than sixteen months (Kazak, 1995).

After the 1982 defeat, EPACCI not only needed to convince LAFCo to allow another vote a year later, but also had to show that there was support for incorporation on the West side so as to insure that LAFCo would not remove the West side from the boundaries of the proposed city, as it has originally planned. The emergence of EPACT as a voice for renters along with the incorporation campaign’s embrace of rent control gave West side tenants a reason to support incorporation and gave EPACCI a stronger hand in making the case to LAFCo that the West side should be included in East Palo Alto.

When it came to the actual vote on incorporation, the rent control issue would potentially drive away more East side homeowners. For this reason, it became even more crucial to offset these possible losses by registering and turning out West side voters. EPACCI therefore needed to broaden its appeal to White, short-term residents who lived in West side apartments. Once again, EPACT played a crucial role, especially in registering West side voters, thereby contributing to the overall doubling in the number of registered voters in East Palo Alto over the course of the incorporation campaign (Skidmore, 1984c).

Rent control gained salience in the campaign preceding the second incorporation vote not only because it was a key to winning votes on the West side, but also because the prominent role of White absentee landlords on the anti-incorporation side provided the pro-incorporation forces with a useful foil. In a Black majority community, it was not hard to generate resentment against the White, wealthy absentee landlords who were bankrolling the anti-incorporation campaign. As Satterwhite asserted: “We’re in the midst of the Black Power movement. And so, yeah, we weren’t going to capitulate to some White landlords (Satterwhite interview, 2021).”

It is difficult to know precisely what difference EPACT and rent control made to the successful incorporation vote of 1983. Ruben Abrica (Abrica interview, 2021) recalls that a slight majority of West siders voted in support of incorporation. Tenant activist William Webster (Webster interview, 2018)  argues: “No EPACT, no East Palo Alto.” On the other hand, the margin of victory in 1983 was only 15 votes while the pro-incorporation margin in 1982 was 349. It is possible that rent control cost more votes for incorporation than it gained. Certainly, CCAIN’s slogan – “Save Our Homes” – explicitly appealed to homeowner fears that rent control would harm property values (Baer, 1983).

In any case, the new City Council enacted a 90 day ban on rent increases as one of its first acts in order to allow time for the crafting of a new rent control ordinance. The Rent Stabilization and Just Cause Eviction ordinance passed by the East Palo Alto City Council on November 23, 1983 allowed landlords to increase rents once per year at a rate no greater than the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The costs of major improvements could be passed along in addition to the CPI. The law also protected tenants from arbitrary evictions and required that interest earned on security deposits be returned to tenants annually. Newly constructed units were exempt from the law, as were landlords who rented out four or fewer units. Implementation of the law would be overseen by a Rent Stabilization Board appointed by the City Council (Abrica, 2014; Harrington, 1985; Skidmore, 1984b).

This did not end matters as landlord-funded groups fought tooth-and-nail against the city. The Tri-County Apartment Owners Association (San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz), representing 3,200 landlords, solicited a fee of $2 per unit toward a war chest to fight rent control in East Palo Alto. Similarly, the Palo Alto Park Association, representing landlords owning 2400 units of rental housing, assessed a $20 per unit fee to raise funds for the anti-rent control fight (Skidmore, 1984a). Following the election, CCAIN, represented by former U.S. Congressional Representative Paul McCloskey Jr., challenged the outcome in court with charges of voting fraud. In the end, a San Mateo judge ruled against the challenge and allowed the incorporation vote to stand (Biddulph, 1983a; Alexander, 1984, Kazak and D’Agostino, 2003; Lynch, 1983). The case was appealed to the California Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the city (Gordon, 2007).

A landlord group called the “Private Property Rights Committee” spent $20,000 on collecting signatures to force a referendum that proposed to reverse the rent stabilization ordinance previously passed by the City Council (Abrica, 2014; Skidmore, 1984b). Mayor Barbara Mouton confided to Ruben Abrica her worries over whether the referendum – cynically titled the “Property Owners Civil Rights Initiative” might succeed. Abrica, who had quit his job in order to campaign full-time to defeat the referendum, reassured her that it would fail (Abrica interview, 2021; Harrington, 1985).

Abrica proved prophetic as the initiative was defeated on April 10, 1984 with 58% voting in favor of rent control. Notably, West side voters rejected the referendum by a 328 vote margin, while the pro-rent control margin on the more populous East side was only 35 votes (Abrica, 2014; Skidmore, 1984c).


Through many permutations and against varied kinds of resistance, rent control East Palo Alto has continued over the past four decades to provide legal protection for the rights of tenants and mitigate the economic distress associated with the Bay Area’s brutal housing market. A study of the rent control law’s impacts a decade after it went into effect concluded: “In East Palo Alto, the data is particularly compelling. The law protects tenants and the affordable housing stock (Kazak, 1995).”

Rent control had other impacts. Once the city was established, municipal leaders faced the task of ensuring a reasonable degree of cohesion and common identity between the West side and the East side of East Palo Alto. Ruben Abrica has observed that: “The one thing that integrated the west side to the east side much more was the rent law. By having a law that protects tenants, people became acutely aware that they were part of the city of East Palo Alto (Goebel, 2012).” Even West side renters who did not plan to put down long term roots in East Palo Alto quickly understood that they depended upon the city to protect them from exorbitant rents.

East Palo Alto’s struggles to incorporate as a minority-majority city and to protect the economic interests and rights of renters both foreshadowed the state of California’s future direction. Together, the state’s Black, Latino and Asian residents now constitute a majority of the state’s population. Meanwhile, rent control – once considered radical – is now the law of the land as California’s legislature passed a statewide rent control law in January, 2020 (Barta, 2021). In these ways and others, East Palo Alto served as a forerunner of broader social changes.

Finally, the story of how the forces of racial and economic justice converged in the campaigns for incorporation and rent control in East Palo Alto forty years ago underscores the potential for building similar multi-racial and multi-class coalitions for progressive change today.



Author Interviews:

Ruben Abrica (2021)
Duane Bay (2018)
Robert Lowe (2020)
Diane Otterby (2021)
Lon Otterby (2021)
Carlos Romero (2021)
Omawale Satterwhite (2021)
William Webster (2018)

Ruben Abrica, “Political Independence and the Struggle to Adopt and Protect the First Rent Stabilization and Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance in the City of East Palo Alto,” March 26, 2014.

Vicky Anning, “Reversal of Misfortune,” Stanford Magazine, January/February, 1998.

Paul Baer, “East Palo Alto Should Incorporate,” Stanford Daily, May 11, 1983.

Chris Barta, “Updates on California Rent Control Laws,”, January 11, 2021

Batchelder, Lily, The Incorporation Movement of East Palo Alto: Renegotiating the Boundaries of Community Organizing Theory. May 1994

Mike Berman, “Race, Ethnicity and Inter-Minority Suburban Politics: East Palo Alto, 1950-2002,”, 2010

Jeff Biddulph, “McCloskey Urges East PA Vote Delay,” Stanford Daily, January 28, 1983a.

Jeff Biddulph, “Students Lobby for EPA Cityhood,” Stanford Daily, February 7, 1983b.

Jeff Biddulph, “East Palo Alto’s Economic Woes Overlap into Politics,” Stanford Daily, February 24, 1983c.

Jeff Biddulph, “Court Ruling Halts East Palo Alto’s Incorporation Vote,” Stanford Daily, April 11, 1983d.

Jeff Biddulph, “Court Approves EPA’s Cityhood Election,” Stanford Daily, May 23, 1984.

Alberto M. Camarillo, Cities of Color: The New Racial Frontier in California’s Minority-Majority Cities,” Pacific Historical Review, 76(1), 2007.

Jake Coolidge, “Jake Coolidge Cartography,” 2012,

Kim-Mai Cutler, “East of Palo Alto’s Eden: Race and the Formation of Silicon Valley,” TechCrunch,” January 10, 2015.

Imahn Daeenabi and Maria Sosa-Ramos, “History of East Palo Alto” San Mateo Board of Supervisors, Summer, 2019

Bryan Goebel, “Divided by a Highway, East Palo Alto Looks to Reconnect Its West Side,” StreetsBlogSF, October 25, 2012 (

Jeffrey Golden, “East Palo Alto Voters to Decide Community Status,” Stanford Daily, March 30, 1982a.

Jeffrey Golden, “The Fight Continues in East Palo Alto Incorporation Dispute,” Stanford Daily, March 31, 1982b.

Jeffrey Golden, “Residents’ Pride, Hope Spur E.P.A. Move to Incorporate,” Stanford Daily, April 1, 1982c.

Jeffrey Golden, “EPA Voters Approve and Reject Incorporation in Elections,” Stanford Daily, April 16, 1982d.

Rachel Gordon, “Barbara Mouton – First May of East Palo Alto, Whose “Heart and Soul” was Serving Community,” SFGate, March 19, 2007.

Tim Grieve, “Incorporation Starts for East Palo Alto,” Stanford Daily, June 24, 1983.

Susan Harrington, “Rent Control Debate Heats Up,” Stanford Daily, January 5, 1985.

“History of Rent Control in Berkeley,” TenantNet, 1995,Proposition%2013%20in%20June%2C%201978.

“Housing Discrimination: A Closed Door in Palo Alto,”, updated

“Incorporation of Coast Town Divides Community,” New York Times, August 17, 1983.

Michael B. Kahan, “Reading Whiskey Gulch: The Meanings of Space and Urban Redevelopment in East Palo Alto,” OC-CA-SION, August 31, 2015

Don Kazak and Bill D’Agostino, “Palo Alto Weekly” September 10, 2003

Don Kazak, “Rent Control: 10 Years Later,” Palo Alto Online, February 22, 1995

Lisa Lynch, “Opponents Challenge EPA Cityhood,” Stanford Daily, October 5, 1983

Dickens Olewe, “American City Was Almost Renamed Nairobi,” The Star, July 19, 2015

Lon Otterby, “Local Tenant Claims Harassment,” East Palo Alto Progress, May 1983

Alison Post, “From White and Blue to Black: A History of East Palo Alto,” Stanford Daily Magazine: Arcade, Spring 1997, pp. 10-16

 “Racism Charges Cloud Vote on Coast,” New York Times, August 3, 1983.

Ellie Real, “Profile of Ruben Abrica, the First Latin Mayor of East Palo Alto,” EPA Today, Fall 2015-January 2016

Richard Rothstein, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, New York: Liveright, 2018.

Herbert G. Ruffin II, “East Palo Alto, California (1925-),” BlackPast, October 28, 2011

Herbert G. Ruffin II, Uninvited Neighbors: African Americans in Silicon Valley, 1769-1990, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2014

Gennady Sheyner, “Housing’s Troubled History of Discrimination,” Palo Alto Weekly, March 29, 2019

David Skidmore, “Rent Control Needed,” Stanford Daily, October 1983a.

David Skidmore, “Gouging, Speculation, Unfair Evictions Signal Need for Rent Measure,” East Palo Alto Progress, Winter, 1983b.

David Skidmore, “Landlords Force Referendum on Rent Law,” East Palo Alto Progress, January 1984a.

David Skidmore, “Provisions of Rent Ordinance,” East Palo Alto Progress, January 1984b.

David Skidmore, “A New Spirit in East Palo Alto,” Stanford Daily, Spring, 1984c.

Karen Springen, “EPA Incorporation Loses by Close Vote,” Stanford Daily, April 14, 1982.

“A Structure for Survival: East Palo Alto Branch Black Panther Party, Opens with Community Survival Day,” The Black Panther Intercommunal News Service, vol. VIII, no. 27, September 23, 1972

[1] My wife and I lived in East Palo Alto from 1981-84, covering the time period discussed here. I was an active participant in the campaigns for rent control and, to a lesser extent, incorporation. I served on the Rent Stabilization and Just Cause Eviction Task Force appointed by the East Palo Alto Council City Council in 1984. The Task Force report provided the recommendations that were incorporated into the city’s first rent control law.

[2] Both schools were firebombed and burned down in 1975, the same year that Ravenswood High School was closed, after which East Palo Alto students were bused to high schools in neighboring districts (Cutler, 2015).

[3] Data in this paragraph and the next drawn from Skidmore, 1983b.

[4] Between January 1978 and August 1979, average rent on two-bedroom apartments in East Palo Alto rose 36.6% while the average rent for studio apartments rose 45.5% (Harrington, 1985).


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Comments are closed.