After the 1977 defeat, Berkeley Citizens Action (BCA) staged a dramatic recovery. It became a membership organization, hired Mal Warwick as full-time coordinator and opened an office.
When Proposition 13 passed in June 1978, landlords received property tax reductions, but tenants got nothing. Yet the campaign for Proposition 13 had promised lower rents.
A bill by Berkeley Assemblyman Tom Bates attempted to enforce this promise, but the landlord lobby defeated it. Efforts to lower rents based upon Proposition 13 then broke out in cities all over California.
BCA, led by Mal Warwick, decided to sponsor its own Proposition 13-based, modest, temporary rent control initiative, authored by Kathy Reilley and Marty Schiffenbauer. Rent would be reduced by 80% of a landlord's Proposition 13 savings. This became Measure I.
It was to be a historic confrontation between BCA and the landlords.
Mayor Widener and his Council majority placed a rival ordinance on the ballot, Measure J. It promised tenants lower rents than Measure I, but was unenforceble and fraudulent. Even the landlords would not campaign for J.
BCA's November 1978 campaign focused on distinguishing between the two measures, as in this poster above.
There was also Larry Shapiro's button, with the immortal slogan:
I = Initiative
J = Jive
The landlords spent over $300,000 attacking Measure I in an effort to repeat their successful anti-rent control campaign of 1977. But it did not work in a climate where passage of Proposition 13 put basic fairness on the side of rent control supporters.
Measure I passed on November 7, 1978 with 58% of the vote. Measure J was crushed at 22%.
Thanks to Proposition 13, rent control was alive in California, and BCA was a political contender again in Berkeley.