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Santa Cruz City Task Force, Rent Control, Just Cause for Eviction – Where We are Now?

If you’ve been following the Santa Cruz City Council legislative process, there’s no doubt that you’re curious where the Council stands today on Rent Control and Just Cause for Eviction legislation, the Rental Housing Task Force, the Housing Blueprint, and other legislative measures that have been proposed and accepted or rejected along the way. In this article we’ll give a broad overview of the City’s legislative actions related to these housing-related topics and discuss where the Council stands today.

Rent Control and Just Cause for Eviction Legislation

Discussion about Rent Control and Just Cause for Eviction became a central topic of debate around the time Measure M was introduced as a potential ballot measure (then called The Santa Cruz Rent Control and Tenant Protection Act). Shortly after it’s proposal, the Santa Cruz City Council passed a temporary rent freeze and just cause for eviction ordinance, which expired when Measure M was rejected by voters in the November 2018 Election.

Subsequently, the Santa Cruz City Council passed an amendment to the Relocation Assistance For Displaced Tenants ordinance. Under the ordinance amendment, if a tenant vacates a rental unit due to an inability to pay rent after the landlord raises the rent more than 5% in one year or cumulatively more than 7% in any two consecutive years, the tenant will be eligible for two months’ fair market value rent (for relocation assistance) as posted by HUD or the tenant’s actual rent, whichever is higher. You can see a redlined version of the ordinance here to see what has changed. A very important note about this amendment:  the Council states that this is not technically rent control, therefore it applies to all rental property including single-family homes, condos, and townhomes.

No other rent increase restrictions or just cause for eviction legislative actions have been passed in the City since the time of writing (June 24th, 2019).

Santa Cruz City Task Force

On February 12th, the Santa Cruz City Council voted to enter into a sole source contract with the Sacramento State Consensus and Collaboration Program (CCP) for background and scoping services to support the City in creating a Rental Housing task force. According to the City Website, the intention behind the Task Force was “to address local issues affecting tenants and landlords”. The “scoping services” included a feasibility analysis to assess the likelihood that such a task force would be successful. David Ceppos, serving as the Managing Senior Mediator and principal investigator for this assessment, found that under current circumstances and using the Council’s current goals as a target, it is very unlikely that a task force will be successful. Therefore, the City Council voted not to move forward with creating a task force.

Rental Listing Data Collection

In the same meeting in which the Task Force was cast aside (June 11th, 2019), the Council directed City Staff to bring back recommendations to pursue an online rental lease, rental increase, notice to quit, and eviction submission and tracking program. Note these these types of programs exist in parts of the Bay Area, however they almost always coincide with a rent control and/or just cause for eviction programs.

In the June 25th, 2019 meeting, City Staff presented City Council members with this presentation, and the City Council then voted to have Staff use this document for further analysis. City Staff are expected to return with a presentation, and possibly recommendations at the next City Council Meeting.

The Housing BluePrint

In 2017, the City of Santa Cruz embarked on an extensive public outreach effort to educate the community about housing and engage with community members to learn more about perspectives, priorities and solutions related to the housing crisis. From this outreach effort, the City developed the Santa Cruz Voices on Housing Fall 2017 Community Engagement Report which included 99 recommendations generated by the community regarding the housing crisis*.

From this report, the City Council wanted to prioritize recommendations, and so they put together the Housing Blueprint subcommittee. The subcommittee consisted of Council members and Planning Staff, and was tasked with reviewing these 99 recommendations and determining what can be done, what will produce the greatest benefits for the community, what the City was already doing and what we cannot be done.

This subcommittee produced    Housing Blueprint Subcommittee Recommendations (Housing Blueprint) which was accepted by the Council, making the recommendations within a substantial part of the City’s work plan for 2018 – 2020. Some of the recommendations included are: moving the Ocean St Area Plan forward (also known as the Corridor Project), a variety of suggestions to make it easier to build and/or permit Additional Dwelling Units (ADUs), incentivizing downtown housing development, and modifying parking requirements to encourage development. A majority of these recommendations address the supply side of the housing crisis – increasing the number of affordable units.

A number of the items in the Housing Blueprint have already been addressed, but with a new City Council prioritizing tenant protections, there may be a slow down in the amount of time Planning Staff are able to dedicate to the Housing Blueprint. Time will tell if, and how soon these items will be addressed.

*Fun Fact: City received the American Planning Association California Chapter 2019 Award of Merit in Public Outreach for these efforts.

How to Get Involved

You can find City Council agenda items and recordings of Council meetings here. If you attend a meeting, you will have an opportunity to make a “public comment” and voice your opinions to the Council Member. If you’d like to contact the City Council via mail, email or phone, you can find their contact information here.

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