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UC-Berkeley Professor Kenneth Rosen Doesn’t Come Clean About Close Ties to Corporate Landlords

Sep 11, 2018

In the debate over Proposition 10, UC-Berkeley Professor Kenneth T. Rosen is not the independent expert he wants Californians to believe he is. In fact, he’s closely aligned with major campaign contributors who have shelled out more than $12 million to oppose Prop 10. Worse, Rosen hasn’t been transparent about his tight connections to the corporate landlords that want to stop Prop 10.

Rosen is the chair of UC-Berkeley’s Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics, which conducts research on housing and real estate and holds conferences for real-estate professionals. It also collaborates with UC-Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation.

These are not schools that work closely with housing justice and tenant rights activists. Instead, they cater to, and receive financial support from, executives at such firms as Blackstone Group, Essex Property Trust, and Prometheus Real Estate Group. Essex Property Trust founder George M. Marcus is an “individual founding supporter” of the Terner Center. So is Prometheus Real Estate Group CEO Jackie Safier.

But Kenneth Rosen is particularly tied to corporate landlords. He’s chair of the Fisher Center’s policy advisory board, a “who’s who” of top real-estate executives who represent such multi-billion-dollar companies as AvalonBay Communities, Sares-Regis Group, and UDR, Inc.

Marcus and Safier, for example, also sit on the Fisher Center’s policy advisory board executive committee — and Terner Center director Carol Galante is a member of that committee. (Click to see members of the Fisher Center policy advisory board.) 

As noted on the Fisher Center’s website, “Critical to the success of our efforts is our partnership with our Policy Advisory Board. For over thirty years, real estate and finance leaders have provided the primary financial support for all the Center’s activities.

Guess who’s now written an 11-page report that’s critical of rent control and Proposition 10? Kenneth T. Rosen.

Prop 10 allows communities to limit excessive rents and check corporate rent-gouging. The League of Women Voters, the California Democratic Party, the California Labor Federation, the California Teachers Union, and many others have endorsed the November ballot measure, but corporate landlords hate it. So much so they have spent millions to stop Prop 10 — and many of the top executives at those firms sit with Rosen on the Fisher Center’s policy advisory board.

As of September 6, Essex Property Trust, Prometheus Real Estate Group, Legacy Partners, Prime Group/Administration, UDR, Inc., AvalonBay Communities, Blackstone Group, Coit Financial Group, George M. Marcus and affiliated entities, and Sares-Regis Group have shelled out $12,058,052 to campaign committees opposing Prop 10. Executives at all those companies are members of the Fisher Center’s policy advisory board. (Click to see the anti-Prop 10 campaign contributions and names of companies and executives.)

Those 10 corporations are among the top contributors to campaign committees opposing Prop 10:

  • Blackstone: $4.2 million
  • Essex Property Trust: $2.4 million
  • George M. Marcus and affiliated entities: $1.5 million
  • AvalonBay: $1.5 million
  • Prometheus: $785,500
  • UDR: $644,925
  • Prime Group: $362,600
  • Sares-Regis: $281,200
  • Coit Financial Group: $250,000
  • Legacy Partners: $102,980

That’s no small change — and it’s important for people to know. One would think Kenneth Rosen would be fully transparent with reporters and voters about his deep ties to corporations that are laying out more than $12 million to oppose Prop 10. After all, it would at least give the appearance that he’s not trying to fool anyone; that his analysis is truly independent. (Curbed SF notes that Rosen’s report was far from groundbreaking, covering “mostly familiar arguments” and offering one idea that was “nonsensical.”)

But Rosen didn’t come clean. In the report’s press release, there’s no mention of his close connections to Essex Property Trust, Prometheus Real Estate Group, and the other anti-Prop 10 contributors — and there’s no disclaimer in the report itself. Why is that? Perhaps because Rosen’s credibility, and the credibility of Fisher Center, would be questioned?

In the end, reporters and voters must question the motives of anyone from Fisher Center and Terner Center who criticizes rent control and Prop 10. Representatives such as Kenneth Rosen and David Garcia of the Terner Center are not independent experts on rent control and Proposition 10. They are inextricably tied to corporations that want to maintain the status quo for bigger profits while Californians struggle with the nation’s worst housing-affordability crisis.

Learn more about the corporate landlords shelling out millions to oppose Prop 10 at followthemoneytrail.org.

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