In an effort to address concerns that landlords are trying to push out tenants before new statewide renter protections take effect in January, San Mateo city officials adopted an emergency ordinance Monday to extend a “just cause” eviction provision consistent with Assembly Bill 1482.
Sparked by concerns aired by a resident who informed the City Council at its Oct. 21 meeting he had been served with a 60-day notice of termination of his tenancy and would be required to move out Dec. 1, the discussion of whether to impose a “just cause” eviction provision and rent cap consistent with AB 1482 drew dozens to San Mateo City Hall Monday. Several renters and tenant advocates urged officials to adopt a measure that would maximize protections shielding renters from economic evictions they claimed have spiked since AB 1482’s passage, while property owners cautioned officials against putting even more restrictions on landlords and applying parts of the emergency ordinance retroactively.
Assembly Bill 1482 was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom Oct. 8 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, according to a staff report.
In an effort to provide some relief to renters who may be affected but reduce pressure on landlords, the council voted 4-0 to put a “just cause” eviction provision in place that is consistent with AB 1482 and effective Oct. 1 to Dec. 31. Though a provision that would have restricted landlords’ abilities to increase rent more than 9% and a clause allowing a tenant to bring a civil suit against a property owner if the owner has violated the ordinance’s provisions were included in the proposed emergency ordinance, councilmembers decided not to include them in the ordinance they approved.
Councilman Eric Rodriguez said he shared many of the concerns expressed at the meeting about the effects of AB 1482, including a concern the bill creates an incentive for property owners to raise rents or evict tenants right before the law takes effect. He felt the state Legislature should have anticipated these impacts and acknowledged it’s now up to cities to deal with the aftermath of state officials’ oversight.
Though he felt compelled to enact an ordinance that night, Rodriguez said he felt more comfortable adopting an emergency ordinance more closely resembling the one adopted by Redwood City in late October. Rodriguez said he didn’t think including a cap on the rent increases landlords can impose in the emergency ordinance made sense since on Oct. 26 Gov. Gavin Newsom put in place an emergency declaration due to high winds and fire conditions. Dubbed Penal Code 396, the emergency declaration prevents price gouging for goods and services, including rent increases of more than 10% at the time of the declaration and for 30 days afterwards.
“I do not want to see anybody needlessly have to leave San Mateo because they are directly affected … from AB 1482,” he said, according to a video of the meeting. “But I do feel like we need to do something in a fair and balanced way.”
As a resident of Lesley Plaza at 120 N. San Mateo Drive, Patty Smith confirmed that residents in the building home to many low-income seniors were told Nov. 1 that their rents were going up by 10%. Several other residents stepped forward with claims they had been given an eviction notice or informed about a significant rent increase in recent weeks.
“To pay a 10% increase in rent is going to create such hardship that a few people are going to have to leave San Mateo and California,” said Smith, emphasizing the importance of the emergency ordinance up for review before officials Monday. “There’s many people in the city of San Mateo that are going to be terribly and tragically affected otherwise.”
Gina Zari, spokeswoman for the San Mateo County Association of Realtors, took issue with parts of the emergency ordinance that applied retroactively and urged officials not to adopt the proposed ordinance. She looked to a section in the ordinance that could nullify “for-cause” evictions — a clause officials ultimately opted not to include in the ordinance they approved — as unfair and advocated for officials to accept the new state law as it is.
“We cautioned that this was going to happen, our property owners saw this coming,” she said. “Once you take away the ability for a property owner to handle his property the way he sees fit, he is then forced to do what the law allows.”
Councilman Rick Bonilla acknowledged most landlords in the city don’t participate in price-gouging and are supportive of creating housing opportunities for residents. Though he noted the council is focused on ensuring housing is built to meet the city’s housing needs, Bonilla said protecting housing is another priority for officials as they work to ensure people who are struggling with the high cost of housing have a roof over their heads.
“It’s this economy. It just doesn’t work for everybody,” he said. “But this law is … there Jan. 1, the state has put it into place. All we’re asking is fair play until it gets there.”
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