An assemblyman and a group of Redwood City residents are calling for an urgency ordinance to stop large rent increases and no-fault evictions amid fears that landlords are trying to push out tenants before new statewide renter protections take effect in January.
Assembly Bill 1482 was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last week and starting Jan. 1, it will prevent landlords from raising rents by more than 5% a year plus the regional consumer price index. The bill had a retroactive clause that caused all rents to freeze to the level they were on March 15, 2019, so any increase now would have to go back to that level come Jan. 1 when the law takes effect. So, for the next two-plus months, landlords can raise rent by any amount in Redwood City and tenants could be displaced if they cannot afford the increase — what’s often referred to as an economic eviction.
On Monday, Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, who authored AB 1482, urged the Redwood City Council to pass an urgency ordinance to protect renters from economic evictions before his bill takes effect.
“To protect neighbors and the community, particularly during the holiday season, we encourage the Redwood City Council to immediately consider an urgency ordinance that would cap annual rent increases and apply eviction standards in line with AB 1482’s language and Costa-Hawkins state law on allowable rental units,” he wrote.
In the letter, Chiu said there is evidence excessive rent increases and evictions have already begun in Redwood City in anticipation of AB 1482’s implantation. Several residents said as much during a City Council meeting Monday.
Resident Coty Ortiz, who’s lived in Redwood City for 14 years, said her rent recently shot up by $500.
“I have two children and they were raised here in Redwood City. I want them to stay and not have to move to another place,” she said during public comment.
Ortiz was joined by others facing similar rent hikes, some of whom are also dealing with uninhabitable living conditions, such as bedbugs and cockroaches, according to testimony given during the public comment period. Those residents echoed Chiu’s call for an urgency ordinance.
“Action is needed now at the local level to make sure the benefits of [AB 1482] protections are not undercut,” said resident Stasha Powell.
After the meeting, Redwood City Mayor Ian Bain said city staff is investigating the reported rent increases to determine if they violate the provisions of the new law.
“They are analyzing this from both a legal and policy perspective and once that analysis is complete I can provide more information on what steps the city might take,” he said in an email. “I support AB 1482, but I am surprised and disappointed that lawmakers didn’t anticipate potentially negative consequences. This puts cities in the position of having to hastily react.”
Councilwoman Diana Reddy did not want to comment on any potential vote by the council, but suggested action needs to be taken.
“I’m always supportive of anything that could protect our renters,” she said. “Many renters are getting economic evictions so I’m proud of those cities considering moving AB 1482 up in order to protect tenants earlier.”
One of those cities is Los Angeles. On Tuesday, its City Council instructed staff to draft an urgency ordinance with similar protections afforded in AB 1482.
Once AB 1492 takes effect in January, tenants who have faced rent increases higher than what’s allowed in the bill after March 15 will not be reimbursed. The bill also does not apply to buildings constructed in the last 15 years.
Redwood City last year passed two renter protection ordinances, including relocation assistance and minimum lease terms.
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