For years, the Pacifica City Council had been opposed to rent control measures. The balance of power shifted last year when new members were elected to the Council, including City Councilwoman Deirdre Martin who campaigned on a platform that included tenant protection measures. The new council majority has stated that passing rent control is its top priority this coming year.
The new council took a major step forward in that direction last week. After four hours of testimony where those opposed to rent control outnumbered those in favor of rent control by more than two to one, the Pacifica City Council voted to impose a temporary rent control ordinance.
The ordinance, which passed by a narrow 3-2 margin, limits rent increases to the Bay Area’s consumer price index, currently 3.4 percent. Property owners may petition for an increase of up to 10% subject to the approval of a rent control board that has yet to be established. The temporary ordinance also established eviction protections for tenants, requiring landlords to have “just cause” before evicting a resident.
The temporary ordinance is intended to stop rental property owners from imposing substantial rent increases in advance of the public vote on rent control this fall. City leaders will host a hearing on May 8, 2017 to determine whether to take a more permanent rent control policy to voters in November.
Pacifica Mayor Mike O’Neill has expressed his reservations about adopting a permanent rent control policy. He noted it will cost nearly $600,000 annually to run a rent control program, plus upwards of $100,000 to get the program off the ground. Lawsuits challenging the ordinance, similar to those filed in other Bay Area cities that have recently adopted rent control policies, could drive the costs up even higher.
“I think it’s unfair to the property owner,” O’Neill said. “We’re a small city that has its fiscal issues and it’s going to cost us [to administer the program].” What’s more, rent control asks landlords to subsidize affordable housing. “You put rent control on private citizens for affordable housing, that’s what rent control is,” he explained.
City councilors brought up the same concerns last year. When asked to consider a rent control ordinance early last year, city councilor Karen Ervin said “a town of 40,000 just doesn’t have the resources” to enforce a rent control policy. She also expressed grave concerns over the unintended consequences rent control will have on the housing market. “This may tighten our housing market even more,” she said at the time. The city council went on to vote 4-1 against a proposed rent stabilization ordinance after considering ordinances from other nearby cities.
Mayor O’Neill and others are calling for the city to permit more housing instead of adopting rent control. The city hasn’t issued a building permit for a new multi-family housing complex of five or more units since 2013. The mayor has spoken aboutprojects like MidPen Housing’s proposed affordable housing development in El Granada that would add badly-needed affordable housing, but the proposal experienced significant pushback from residents who don’t want affordable housing in their backyards.
Tom Thompson, a Pacifica property owner and member of the Pacifica Rent Advisory Task Force, says rent control will have worse impacts on the neighborhood than affordable units.
“Rent control takes away property owners’ rights to manage their property and removes their financial incentive to keep their places up,” he wrote in an op-ed for the Pacifica Tribune. “Owners can’t remove gangs, drug dealers, loud or dangerous neighbors and deal with overcrowding. Care to live down the street from a rent-controlled property? No thanks!”
Thompson also agrees that rent control will only exacerbate the affordability crisis. Instead, policymakers should be trying to eliminate rent control throughout the Bay Area. Doing so “would resolve our housing/jobs imbalance virtually overnight,” he says. “This worked in Boston and Cambridge. It would work here too.”
Despite last week’s 3-2 vote in favor of the temporary ordinance, the policy is not yet a done deal. The temporary ordinance requires a second vote on April 24, 2017.
CONCERNED? HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO
We urge all Bay Area rental property owners and managers to call/email Pacifica city councilors or otherwise publicly speak out against the ordinance. The preliminary vote was won by a slim margin; it is possible to overturn the decision before the temporary ordinance goes into effect on May 24, 2017.
- Call the Mayor and City Councilors listed below before April 24, 2017!
- Identify yourself and state the city that you live, work, own or manage residential rental property in.
- Ask the Mayor and City Councilors to VOTE NO on the “Interim Ordinance Establishing a Temporary Moratorium on Certain Residential Rent Increases and Requiring Just Cause for Tenant Evictions Within the City” and thank staff for their time.
Please call and/or email all of the following policymakers:
Councilor Deirdre Martin