City Council will vote tomorrow on an urgency ordinance to implement a 45-day ban on certain evictions and rent increases over 3 percent for residential tenants, to take effect immediately. The moratorium will require a ‘yes’ vote from six of the seven council members.
The vote’s outcome is likely to be determined by three councilmembers who have historically opposed rent control: Mayor Tom Butt, and Councilmembers Nathaniel Bates and Vinay Pimple, both of whom are up for reelection in November.
“I’m not going to vote for it,” said Bates. “Most of these apartment owners are senior citizens who supplement their incomes with these rental units; they’re not some big person from Wall Street.”
The Contra Costa Taxpayers Association, which filed the primary argument against Measure L, an ordinance to establish rent control for the city that will appear on the ballot in November, also opposes the urgency ordinance. “There is no emergency,” said the association’s executive director and president, Jack Weir. “We think an emergency measure is completely inappropriate.”
Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin, who placed the moratorium on the upcoming city council meeting agenda, said it would protect tenants from what she says is a recent increase in residential evictions. She said she is concerned that landlords are attempting to find tenants who can afford to pay higher rents before Richmond residents vote on Measure L.
“What we want to do is really give the will of the voters a chance to prevail,” said McLaughlin. “Let’s stabilize the situation before we have the vote on Election Day.”
Twenty organizations in the Fair and Affordable Richmond Coalition also support Measure L, as well as the proposed interim moratorium.
“Folks who are right now the most vulnerable are people who are getting eviction notices and rent increases,” said Edith Pastrano, a Richmond resident and part-time organizer for the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) Action. “Anyone in their situation would look to this urgency moratorium as pretty much the verdict of whether or not they’re going to be homeless.”
Mayor Butt, who plans to vote against the moratorium, questioned the motivation behind it, calling it a “publicity stunt” to bring attention to Measure L, which he also opposes.
“Rent control never works,” the Mayor said, adding that the only solution is to increase the number of available properties, and let the housing market drive prices down.
Pimple also plans to vote ‘no’ on the urgency ordinance. “I think it’s an improper use of the law,” said the councilmember, referring to Section 65858 of California’s Government Code. The law states that an urgency measure may be adopted to protect the public interest while the city council and planning commission study the related measure—but in this case, said Pimple, the study period has already ended.
Even if the urgency ordinance passes, the 45-day ban will fall 11 days short of Election Day—which means the council will have to vote once again in late October to approve an extension.