With doubts over the efficacy of an urgency proposal designed to defend renters feeling threatened by rapacious landlords, San Bruno officials avoided adopting a measure mirroring the state’s new tenant protection law.
The San Bruno City Council unanimously agreed to let die a proposed urgency ordinance designed to bridge the remaining month before Assembly Bill 1482 goes into effect.
The proposal, which resembled a similar initiative considered recently by officials throughout the Peninsula, would have established just cause eviction protections and other shields for tenants fearing displacement during the holidays.
While sympathetic to the concerns raised by San Bruno renters who fear evictions or unsustainable rent increases issued by landlords looking to clear units in advance of the new state law, councilmembers suggested the ordinance would miss its mark.
Moreover, Councilwoman Laura Davis said she feared the urgency ordinance would adversely affect the many local landlords who look out for the best interest of their tenants.
“This urgency ordinance is for a small minority and I don’t think should pass an urgency ordinance for the majority,” she said, according to video of the meeting Tuesday, Nov. 25.
Her colleagues apparently agreed, as a motion made on the ordinance did not collect a second — meaning the urgency ordinance proposal died before a vote occurred. The ordinance would have required unanimous support to go into effect, since Vice Mayor Irene O’Connell recused herself from voting because she is a landlord.
Assembly Bill 1482, which takes effect at the start of the new year, prevents landlords from raising rents by more than 5% a year plus inflation. The bill has a retroactive clause that causes all rents to freeze to the level they were on March 15, 2019, so any increase now would be rolled back to that level. The bill also includes just cause protections for tenants who have lived in their unit for 12 months or more. That means a landlord needs a valid reason, such as failure to pay rent, to evict a tenant.
The San Bruno measure intended to establish a similar set of policies locally over the time elapsed from state officials adopting the law and its implementation. But with concerns the ordinance would not effectively meet the needs of tenants, officials preferred alternative measures.
Noting the short time window before the state law takes hold, former mayor and Realtor Larry Franzella discouraged officials from adopting the proposal which could limit the private property rights of landlords.
“This is just an ordinance you don’t need to bother with,” he said.
That perspective was balanced against a variety of tenants who, during public comment at the meeting, called on councilmembers to approve the measure, ostensibly protecting them from the threat of displacement.
Officials recognized those fears, but suggested they would prefer to pursue policies and support systems which they believed would be more effective than passing an ordinance which could have negligible impacts.
Councilman Michael Salazar said he’d rather focus on directing threatened tenants to programs which would offer displacement defense or relocation assistance rather than approving an ordinance he considered symbolic legislation.
“That is not going to cut it,” he said, referring to the opportunity to pass the urgency ordinance which he suggested would only be useful in potentially clearing the conscious of elected officials.
His colleagues ultimately agreed, claiming tenants fearing eviction should reach out for assistance from those in City Hall who can direct them to local support organizations.
Councilman Marty Medina shared a similar perspective to Salazar, expressing his interest in offering residents more impactful programs and services protecting their stability.
“Those people here who are renting, what are they going to do? They are coming here, they are asking for a filler of the gap that the law didn’t provide,” he said. “The law, my understanding of it, did a poor job of creating this situation and once again cities are left dealing with the mess that the state generated. And I’d like to fill that gap,” he said.
In other business, the meeting was the last for O’Connell, who was not re-elected last month. After more than two decades, she will be replaced on the San Bruno City Council by Planning Commissioner Linda Mason.
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