History: EBCLC and TOPA

Since 2015, EBCLC’s Community Economic Justice Clinic has been researching and drafting model Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) policies with community groups for Bay Area cities, and specifically Berkeley, as part of its mission to develop meaningful anti-displacement and affordable housing preservation policies that prioritize the needs of low-income communities of color. In all of our work, EBCLC’s Community Economic Justice Clinic develops meaningful and effective anti-displacement and affordable housing preservation solutions through a thoughtful and collaborative process that prioritizes the needs of vulnerable tenants and advances racial justice. Communities of color have long advocated for increased opportunities for homeownership in Berkeley and the Bay Area. TOPA is one tool – not the only tool – to advance these goals of housing and racial justice.

  • Since 2015, EBCLC has been working in coalition with land trusts, and tenants rights groups to  bring TOPA policies to Bay Area cities, modeling after the successes of Washington D.C.’s TOPA enacted in 1980. We were proactively examining not only TOPA but also accompanying funding programs like the Small Sites Program (SSP) as potential local and regional strategies to prevent the displacement of vulnerable Bay Area communities facing advanced gentrification and to preserve lasting affordability.
  • EBCLC has been researching TOPA and SSP’s effectiveness and discussing with the City and elected officials in Berkeley since 2015.
  • In 2017, Berkeley City Council identified TOPA and the Small Sites Acquisition Program as top priorities in their affordable housing implementation plan.
  • In 2018, EBCLC assisted  Oakland-based organizations to research and draft a foundational TOPA policy that could work for both Oakland and Berkeley.
  • In 2019, the SF Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a similar policy – the Community Opportunity to Purchase Act.
  • Since 2019, EBCLC, along with the Northern California Community Land Trust (NCLT) and the Bay Area Community Land Trust (BACLT), have been working more closely with the Mayor’s Office of Berkeley and consulting with tenants and tenant advocates, to develop Berkeley’s TOPA policy – one that stays true to Berkeley’s vision of democratic, community controlled affordable housing.
  • In February 2020,  Mayor Jesse Arreguin and the TOPA Working Group held a press event, announcing the policy, which was drafted by EBCLC attorneys.
  • On March 5, 2020, the policy was introduced to Berkeley’s Policy Committee on Land Use, Housing & Economic Development.
  • In March 2020, the City of Berkeley received a Challenge Grant to work with EBCLC and community groups to support TOPA passage and implementation. This included the support of a 2-year Fellow.
  • From March 2020 – March 2021, EBCLC, the TOPA Working Group, the City, and the Fellow conducted extensive outreach and education and EBCLC revised the policy in response to community feedback.
  • In May 2021, Berkeley’s Land Use Policy Committee made a qualified positive recommendation for TOPA to City Council.


For more information on EBCLC’s TOPA work, click here.

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