City Council Postpones Rent Control Ordinance Vote

Vocal Community Turnout Demonstrates Gravity and Tension of Issue

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The Santa Cruz City Council met to vote on a proposed city ordinance, the Relocation Assistance for Displaced Tenants (RADT), that would serve as a recourse to Measure M on Sept 11. The council voted to postpone the vote to Oct 23 due to high amounts of input from community renters and landlords.

Measure M, the Santa Cruz Rent Control and Tenant Protection Act, is comprised of three branches of legislation designed to curb the power of landlords and offer protection for renters. The primary component is rent control, which caps rent increases at 0.1 – 5 percent each year. 

The RADT, which would go into effect only if Measure M failed on Nov. 6, was lauded by homeowners and landlords as a less extreme version of Measure M. The ordinance would also force landlords to pay their tenants relocation assistance fees when they are either priced out by a “large rent increase” or evicted. The ordinance defines a qualifying rent increase as more than 10 percent in one year or cumulatively more than 15.5 percent in two consecutive years.

“I speak for myself as a community organizer — I don’t get raises. I can’t support a rent increase of 10-15 percent,” said City Council candidate and community organizer Drew Glover in his comments to the council. “There’s talk about community vitality, but renters say this ordinance does not provide stability or trust in renters’ protections. The city will lose diversity, culture and will exacerbate the already horrible traffic.”

Unlike the Relocation Assistance for Displaced Tenants (RADT), Measure M contains a just cause eviction clause that prohibits the eviction of tenants for any reason not detailed by the measure. The final piece is the establishment of a rent board to enforce these laws. 

The absence of the just cause evictions clause from the RADT helps preserve the current Santa Cruz eviction laws, which require landlords to give tenants a 30- or 60-day notice to vacate. The just cause clause in Measure M prevents evictions on arbitrary or discriminatory grounds, whereas under the current city law and the RADT tenants’ housing security remains up to the discretion of their landlords. 

The gravity of the housing crisis and the impact of both the RADT and Measure M struck a nerve for many meeting attendees. As personal testimonials and arguments were posed before the council, the tension in the room grew. 

Nora Hochman, an organizer for the Movement for Housing Justice in Santa Cruz and co-author of Measure M, refused to let a representative from the California Apartment Association (CAA) and Student Union Assembly (SUA) Vice President Keshav Kumar speak, remaining in the council chambers when asked to leave by Mayor David Terrazas. She was arrested for obstructing council proceedings and was released the following day. 

“[This ordinance] is broken and toothless, completely mismatched to the needs of our community and indeed actually harmful to tenants,” said Julian Parayno-Stoll, member of Students United with Renters and UCSC fourth-year, during the meeting. “For many of us, 15 percent is textbooks, gas money, groceries, diapers. This does nothing to slow the average rate of rent increase in this city. It’s rent control without the control — it’s just rent.”

Opponents to Measure M expressed fear around housing providers who might havehaving potential trouble managing the quality of their properties as well asand the number of residents living there due to looser subletting controls. They were also concerned the number of rental properties available would diminish as tenants remained in their apartments longer or as people exited the rental business.

Lynn Renshaw, spokesperson for Santa Cruz Together, the coalition of property managers and landlords and main committee against Measure M, elaborated on the stakes of the measure.

“There is so much evidence of negative unintended consequences with far more moderate laws than Measure M,” she said. “These measures prevent people from controlling their own property, which leads people to exit the rental business. Rental housing is one part of the entire ecosystem of our local economy, and any sudden and unsteady change can affect more than rentals.”

The council voted 6-1 in favor of postponing the vote closer to the election. Councilwoman Richelle Noroyan cast the only opposing vote, citing her apprehension toward subjecting the public to endless meetings.

Meanwhile, between the Sept. 11 meeting and the vote in November, City Council candidate Drew Glover suggested an extension of the rent freeze enacted in this past February as an alternative to the ordinance proposed. According to Glover, by choosing the ordinance, the council would be doing a disservice to the people of Santa Cruz. 

“You’ll be undermining the voices of 10,000 community members,” he said.