Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (center) addresses the tenant rally, with State Sen. Mark Leno (left) and Supervisors David Campos and John Avalos (behind Ammiano) looking on.

By Tim Redmond

Last year, when Dean Preston tried to put together a march and rally for tenant rights in Sacramento, he got, he recalled, “Maybe 35 people.”

Wow, things have changed.

More than 500 people filled the sidewalks around the state capitol Tuesday, arriving on buses from San Francisco, Oakland, and Fresno, coming in carpools, seniors and young people … and a lot of folks who don’t make a practice of lobbying the state Legislature.

“The last time I was at a rally up here, it was for AB1 (an early LBGT rights bill) and Willie Brown was our representative,” Linda Post, a longtime Democratic Party activist, told me. That was 1985.

The state Legislature isn’t known as a friendly place for tenants. As Assemblymember Tom Ammiano told the crowd, it’s hard even to get renter-rights bills out of committee – and then “you get embarrassed by the small number of votes on the floor.”

But 2014 is the Year of the Tenant in San Francisco, and we may be making some progress in Sacramento, too. Preston, the director of Tenants Together, the statewide lobbying organization for renters, was impressed and encouraged by the turnout – and the possibility that several critical bills will emerge from the legislative maw by the end of this session. (more after the jump)