Santa Cruz City Council Defies Voters

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Information in this report was provided courtesy of the Santa Cruz County Association of REALTORS.

On Tuesday, January 8th 2019 – a night which will live in infamy – the Santa Cruz City Council defied voters who recently rejected control and Just Cause Evictions when they soundly rejected Measure M by 61% to 39%.   They did this by passing a first reading of an “emergency” just cause evictions ordinance.  Councilman Brown made the motion, Krohn seconded, and Cummings and Glover voted yes. Watkins, Meyers, and Mathews voted No.

The term of the draft Just Cause Eviction Ordinance was extended to one year. A few changes to the draft ordinance were made from the dais:

  •  If the owner lives on the same property, it is exempt from JCE. Good temporary news for those with ADUs or duplexes.
  • Partner was legally defined as registered domestic partner. However renters can still move in other family members without owner permission, beyond the number on a lease, and up to the federal occupancy limit.

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The relocation ordinance passed a second reading with hardly any discussion at 11:50PM.  Rent increases are limited to 5% in one year and 7% over two years. Higher increases, that cause renters to move, trigger relocation fees of two months actual rent.  This passed unanimously.  The Council states that this is not technically rent control and that it can therefore be applied to all rental property including single-family homes and condos (and so not be in violation of Costa Hawkins, the repeat of which was rejected statewide by California voters this past November).

Rent Control Task Force Planned

The City Council asked staff to plan a professionally mediated task force to craft a future rent control policy.  They recommended a group of 11-14 stakeholders to study the issue and make recommendations. Staff will create a proposal and bring it back to City Council.

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Relocation Assistance for Displaced Tenants

“The City Council finds that tenants who are required to vacate structures rented for residential purposes due to unsafe or hazardous living conditions, or due to illegal use of the structure as a residence, or tenants who relocate due to a large rent increase, oftentimes confront difficulties in finding temporary housing while said structure is being repaired, and/or difficulties in finding other permanent affordable housing. Further, said difficulties create a financial hardship for said tenants. The City Council also finds that property owners who do not maintain rental properties and who allow said structures to become unsafe or hazardous, or who terminate a tenancy for reasons other than the breach of the terms of a rental agreement, should bear responsibility for the hardship their actions create for said tenants. Therefore, the City Council finds and declares it necessary to enact this chapter to protect the public health, safety and welfare.”

“Large rent increase” shall mean a rent increase of more than: five percent (5%) in one year or cumulatively more than seven percent (7%) in any two consecutive years (seven percent over two consecutive years includes compound interest, e.g., for a maximum five-percent increase (5%) in one year followed by a one-and-nine-tenths- percent increase (1.9%) in the following year); or (2) such other percentage or amount as may be established by City Council resolution.

For tenants who relocate due to a large rent increase, or who are required to vacate due to the termination of a tenancy for reasons other than the breach of the terms of a rental agreement, except for continuing to occupy a residence after the expiration of the lease term, the immediate payment of two (2) months of the tenant’s actual rent, or such other amount as established by City Council resolution, prior to the effective date of the large rent increase, at the time of relocation or sooner if applicable pursuant to Section 21.03.030(a)(2), or other arrangements of equal benefit which are agreeable to the tenant as evidenced by a written agreement between the tenant and the property owner.  Report:  PASSED

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Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance Amendments

The Santa Cruz city council did approve a few more real-estate related issues at the meeting as well.  Council will be pursuing amendments to the ADU ordinance that would:

1) The first is a change to the circumstances in which an ADU built above a garage is eligible for the state-mandated setbacks of no more than five feet from the side and rear property lines. The current Municipal Code allows this concession for a second story ADU only when the ADU is proposed to be built above a garage that was constructed before 2017, and otherwise requires a rear setback of 10 feet for the second story. The reading of the State statute at this time is that these setbacks should be available to ADUs built above any garage, existing or new. The amendment therefore deletes the dates of construction such that the reduced setbacks are available to any ADU built over a garage, consistent with State law provisions.

2) The second change is an amendment to the exceptions from required parking. The Government Code states that no parking can be required for any ADU that is “part of the proposed or existing primary residence or an accessory structure.” This means that an ADU that is attached to the primary home, a garage, or another legal structure on the property will not trigger the requirement for a parking space. This exception was omitted from the final version of the proposed ordinance and has been added. Report: ITEM CONTINUED to 1/22

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