Council Approves Temporary Eviction Moratorium

Ordinance was rushed through in two back-to-back Council meetings overnight

Published : Tuesday, November 5, 2019 | 5:39 AM

In what some rent control activists called a “triage victory,” the Pasadena City Council Monday unanimously approved an expanded Tenant Protection Ordinance that will place a moratorium on evictions without just cause and rolled back rents retroactive to March 15, 2019 for tenants still in the eviction process.

The ordinance also capped Pasadena rent increases to match the impending Tenant Protection Act of 2019, known as AB 1482. The State bill goes into effect on January 1, 2020. Pasadena’s new ordinance will go into effect this Thursday.

A number of local residents reportedly were facing almost-immediate evictions after receiving 60-day notices issued by landlords aiming to raise rents before AB 1482 is in effect.

Reacting to what City staff described as a “recent surge” in evictions and the urgency required to address them, the Council held the five-and-half hour-long meeting in which Councilmembers heard public comment, discussed, voted, and approved the expanded ordinance, along with approving its first reading.

A second meeting was convened at 12:05 a.m. this morning to approve the Ordinance’s second reading, which was the final required step to make the ordinance official, following publication on Thursday, November 7.

The Council heard more than three hours of emotional testimony from a wide range of residents, all of whom decried the City’s high rents and spoke in favor of the expanded ordinance.

“I can’t afford to rent a garage in the community I helped build,” said Deborah Johnson, a longtime community member and activist. Johnson, who said she owns property in Pasadena, told the Council, “Put yourself in our shoes.”

Another resident, commenting on the rising rents in the city, remarked, “Tenants should have the same security as homeowners. When we get a raise at work, why can’t we keep it? Why does it have to go to the landlord?”

Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, the resident continued, “There’s want, there’s need, and there’s greed.”

Though pledging to continue to fight for a local rent control ordinance with a lower cap than the state law, local activists appeared thrilled with their victory, which they saw as nigh impossible only five weeks ago.

“We discussed this and I said, ‘this is going to be an uphill battle,’” said Ed Washatka, of POP!, Pasadenans Organizing for Progress. “There is no way then that we could have envisioned this moment happening!”

But Washatka also remarked that, “This is just a triage victory,” and that there is still much work to accomplish, in terms of rent stabilization, for example.

Allison Henry of the Pasadena Tenants Union (PTU), agreed, saying that the state cap on rent increases is “still pretty high, and the rent can be raised twice a year to get to that cap.”

Henry said that the PTU would like to have a lower rent cap in Pasadena and limit the number of rent increases to once every twelve months.

Henry also noted that the passage of the expanded local ordinance would give “momentum” to local efforts to pass a rent control ordinance in 2020.

“We’ve seen the appetite of the citizenry,” said Henry. “And we also see where we could fill in some gaps for Council. There are some information gaps.”

The ordinance will apply to tenants who received a 60-day termination notice without cause, retroactive to March 15, and in cases where any eviction lawsuit has not been completed.

According to a City staff report, the ordinance would be a measure that tenants could use to defend against an unlawful detainer action, in defending against applicable no-cause evictions.

But, said the report, the viability of the City’s ordinance may be eventually determined by a court.

The ordinance would remain in effect until January 1, 2020, at which time AB 1482 would become effective. AB 1482 will be in effect for 10 years.

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