Palo Alto passes 'emergency' law to help renters

Relocation assistance would be limited to those making below median income

Responding to pleas for help from dozens of tenants facing eviction, the Palo Alto City Council passed an emergency law Monday night that could help some of them relocate to new homes.

In a public hearing that brought dozens of tenants, landlords and community activists to City Hall and that featured competing motions and sharp disagreements between council members, the council moved to approve an "emergency law" that requires landlords to provide relocation assistance based on the size of the unit. The payments would range from $7,000 for studios to $17,000 for units with three or more bedrooms.

The law applies to buildings with 50 or more units.

While the measure could provide some temporary assistance for residents of President Hotel, who are being evicted as part of a plan to convert it back to a hotel, it falls well short of what many in the community had requested and what staff had proposed last week.

The council summarily rejected an alternative ordinance drafted by staff that would have also required landlords to declare the cause for eviction. And in another surprising departure from the staff proposal, the emergency law approved by the council only apply to those residents who make below 100 percent of Santa Clara County's area median income. Those making above that threshold would get no relocation payments.

The decision to limit the relocation assistance to those making below the AMI was proposed by Councilman Greg Scharff and Mayor Liz Kniss and moved ahead despite opposition from the council majority. That's because as an "emergency" measure, the motion needed support from seven of eight council members present (Adrian Fine was absent). The high threshold gave Scharff and Kniss the leverage to effectively veto any competing proposal that would either raise the income-eligibility level or eliminate it entirely.

Scharff argued that the goal of the new ordinance should be to protect those who are "most vulnerable." He had initially proposed limiting relocation assistance to those making below 80 percent AMI -- which for an individual is about $66,150. He later agreed to raise it to 100 percent.

"I agree that what we need to do here is craft an ordinance that is citywide and does something that we're looking to do -- protect the most vulnerable in our community, who can't get the money together," Scharff said.

Councilman Tom DuBois and Councilwoman Karen Holman both made a case for either raising the eligibility threshold or scrapping it. DuBois proposed setting the eligibility level at 120 percent of the AMI. Holman suggested removing it, consistent with the ordinance drafted by the office of City Attorney Molly Stump.

DuBois called the 80-percent AMI level "arbitrary" and argued that it is reasonable for evicted tenants to get payments that amount to first- and last-month rent and a security deposit. Holman agreed.

"We're talking about people being displaced," Holman said. "We need to go to 120 percent to have a meaningful impact on people being displaced."

Many of people who would be affected by the new law attended the Monday meeting to request that the council adopt the emergency law. Dennis Backlund, 76, said he is afraid of what will happen when he has to leave his apartment.

"I have been in my apartment half of my entire life and in Palo Alto, in some ways, my entire life. The sudden loss of one's home is fairly devastating," Backlund said.

Officials from various nonprofit and pro-housing groups, including Silicon Valley at Home and the Housing Trust of Silicon Valley, also came to the meeting to support the residents and urge the council to pass an ordinance that would assist those facing eviction.

Nadia Aziz, an attorney with Law Foundation of Silicon Valley who recently represented residents of Buena Vista Mobile Home Park in their successful battle against eviction, told the council that the region is facing a "housing catastrophe" and that the council needs to take "bold action" to avoid displacement of residents.

"The people from President Hotel facing eviction will no longer be able to stay in Palo Alto ... The time is now to act," Aziz said.

On the other side of the debate were dozens of landlords and realtors who argued equally passionately against any new renter protections, measures that they argued would punish landlords by making renting more expensive and, as a result, restrict housing supply. They were particularly concerned about the prospect of the city outlawing no-cause eviction -- an idea that the council did not seriously entertain Monday night.

Some argued that the city should focus on mediating the dispute between Adventurous Journeys Property Capital, the new owner of President Hotel, and the tenants of the 75-unit building at 488 University Ave. Passing a citywide law is far to sweeping a measure, they argued.

"In the real world, issues come up every day that only apply to a special situation," said resident Linda Xu. "We don't want a citywide rule or law being forced because of one special case."

AJ Capital also pushed back against a new law mandating relocation assistance. Its attorney, David Lanferman of the firm Rutan & Tucker LLC, submitted a letter to the city on Monday claiming that such a law would violate AJ Capital's property rights by -- among other things -- "discriminating against certain property owners." Lanferman also argued that adopting the law on an "emergency" basis is improper and that the law should not be exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act, as city officials had maintained. He urged the council to reject the notion.

"Adoption of the proposed Emergency Ordinances or Ordinances in the present form would lead to many adverse consequences and may needlessly expose the City to the risk of costly legal proceedings by many affected parties," Lanferman wrote.

Timothy Franzen, principal at AJ Capital and president of its Graduate Hotels division, sent the residents another letter last Thursday to remind them that their time in the apartment building is running out and that they need to take "all appropriate steps to timely relocate your residence."

On Monday, Franzen told the council that his firm has a "unique and special expertise" in restoring historic assets, which it recognizes President Hotel to be.

AJ Capital also recognized that the proposed conversion of the apartment building back into a hotel would cause disruption to tenants, he said, which is why it gave them a five-month notice of eviction, financial assistance totaling $3,000 for relocation and the services of a relocation-consultancy firm, he said.

Franzen said that while the firm is moving ahead with its plan to convert the "architectural gem" back into its original use as a hotel, the laws being discussed by the council could prevent it from making upgrades to the building.

But perhaps the biggest critic of the new law wasn't a property owner but Councilman Greg Tanaka, who repeatedly characterized the proposal for relocation assistance as a stance against diversity. He disputed the idea that the new law addresses an actual "emergency" and argued that an ordinance like this would restrict housing supply and effectively raise the "drawbridge" and keep new residents from coming to Palo Alto.

He also said he believes the city is running a "huge legal risk" in moving ahead with the law and proposed that the council not pass anything but revisit the topic in two weeks, at the council's next meeting -- a proposal the council rejected.

"We could be making a dire legal mistake that will cause trouble for the city," Tanaka said.

In addition to passing the emergency ordinance, the council approved a virtually identical law that would take effect on a permanent basis (as such, it requires only five votes but does not take effect until after two public hearings). The council also plans to discuss other measures relating to rental protections at its next meeting on Sept. 10.


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17 people like this
Posted by Unfair
a resident of University South
on Aug 28, 2018 at 4:11 am

I live in the President hotel. It is very unfair that people who have just moved in get the same as people who have been living there for years! The payment amount should be based on how long someone is there.

29 people like this
Posted by puzzled
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 28, 2018 at 4:13 am

Plenty to chew on here, but my technical question regards AMI, area median income. Where is this number legally published? Is this amount scaled by number of dependents? Which line on a resident's 1040 determines eligibility? Or is it gross income on your W-2? Does a tenant self-declare, or is some legal signed document taken as proof? Can you deduct medical expenses? Are we assuming that personal or family assets don't count? A retiree (or trust fund baby) with $1,000,000 in the bank may be living off the interest and occasional withdrawals, showing gross income at poverty level. Looks like another invitation to game the system. But nobody around here does that, right?

44 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 28, 2018 at 4:41 am

This is comical. I have zero doubt this lackluster attempt of city council to act like they are fighting for the tenants is going to do the exact opposite of its intent. Rents are going up to solve for this nonsense. AJ capital is going to sue the city, and win in a landslide. This is a giant waste of time and money. These tenants signed a lease. If they wanted to stay forever they should have signed a 99 year lease not a month to month. This group gave the tenants 5 months to move and $3k, sounds like the law is 30 or 60 days and $0. Sounds like they are being punished for trying to go above and beyond. I have no doubt there are other landlords who recognize the implications of this hornets nest and have many many more apartment units that the president in Palo Alto than the president Hôtel and are going to be furious about this. My guess is they are rich and powerful and going to bring the hammer down on city council. The intent of this was to help assist the tenants of the president but it’s going to damage everyone. It’s not like this has anything to do w the overall project and tenants have no right to squat after the term of their lease has expired and served notice. We have a shortage of hotel rooms as well as low income housing. Why aren’t we focused on ways to incentivize developers to build more rather than punish every tenant in a large building bc of the rent increase that are coming or low income tenant looking for spaces that won’t exist bc of these fines that landlords will run away from? Greg Tanaka is right, this is a joke.

42 people like this
Posted by Rob
a resident of Atherton
on Aug 28, 2018 at 5:09 am

Ridiculous! These entitled tenants shouldn't receive a dime! Excited to see the city of Palo Alto get sued.

33 people like this
Posted by Hypocrisy Won, Housing Lost
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 28, 2018 at 5:17 am

The big winner was hypocrisy. The very Council that claims it want to help create more housing instead made it easy for housing to be taken off the market. The relocation payments being offered are negligible in a city where buildings routinely sell for over $1,000 a square foot. Developers are laughing at how little they'll need to pay. Scharff and Kniss wouldn't even agree to help tenants who earn a bit over the median county income with one cent of relocation assistance. Tanaka preposterously said such payments would harm diversity when the exact opposite was staring him in the face, namely the diverse tenants being evicted in a few months asking for his help.

Holman, DuBois, Wolbach, Kou, and Filseth tried to move in the right direction but were thwarted by the ultra-conservatives on the Council. The Council majority should not rest for one minute but keep pushing for far better protections for both renters and existing housing.

18 people like this
Posted by Amazing!
a resident of another community
on Aug 28, 2018 at 8:13 am

Only in Palo Alto can displaced renters actually be rewarded for getting evicted.

(1) Will other cities soon follow?

(2) Is this the new Age of Enlightenment for landlord-tenant relations?

(3) Does the city ordinance now supersede all existing rental/lease agreement clauses pertaining to 'no-fault' evictions?

(4) Will this scenario present a lucrative opportunity for real estate attorneys
(a) as landlords are now handcuffed when opting to sell their properties
(b) as renters can now seek various ways to explore cash opportunities

(5) Is this measure a humanistic gesture or liberalism gone bad?

Inquiring minds are somewhat curious.

28 people like this
Posted by senior citizen
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 28, 2018 at 9:30 am

Kicking dozens of city residents out of their homes at the same time in the middle of housing crisis is pure evil. The city is right to fight evil with better regulations.

36 people like this
Posted by Trickery works
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 28, 2018 at 10:16 am

Real estate lawyer Scharff was in top developer-support form.
1. He preempted any discussion by _opening_ the agenda item with a Motion. This restricts the others to responding only to his motion.

Mayor Kniss as usual violated proper procedure by allowing him to take over, and not having him wait until other council members have a chance to speak.

2. He inserts restrictions and limitations to weaken the measure, and does not accept amendments. Very effective trickery.

Kniss voted with him as usual, to support developers.

36 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 28, 2018 at 10:28 am

People here really have lost their minds in the witches brew of greed and liberal "good intentions" that has come to define the Bay Area. As a renter, you don't have an ownership stake in the property. If you want rights of ownership to "your" home, then you simply can't be a renter for life. As a landlord it only makes sense to rent out property if the costs, obligations and risks are understood and folded into the rental contract up front ... if local/state/federal governments start assigning retroactive ownership rights to renters, then that significant new risk/cost will have to get folded into the expected rent (i.e. apply more upward pressure on rents) and less rental property will be offered for rent (even more upward pressure on rents).

31 people like this
Posted by Roger
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 28, 2018 at 11:25 am

Where is the law that protects landlords from tenants who move out.
It’s one thing if either side is breaking a lease, but to have to recompense someone you ask to vacate is utterly preposterous.

34 people like this
Posted by Roger
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 28, 2018 at 11:29 am

In future in Palo Alto renters will have to fork out first-last, cleaning deposit, pet deposited and moving out costs.
Great way to make renting harder for families with small incomes.

21 people like this
Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 28, 2018 at 12:08 pm

Pat Burt is a registered user.

Commentators may want to read the staff report that was the basis for the council discussion last night, Web Link.
Renter relocation expenses and just-cause eviction requirements are common in California for multi-unit rental properties. They have been around for a long time and have worked pretty well with healthy returns for landlords.
The question facing the council and the community, including the 40% of our residents who are renters, is what sort of rights and protections are appropriate in a market that has shown drastic increases in rental housing costs and accelerating displacement of longtime residents? How do we sustain a community and a region that is pricing out or throwing out residents who provide the sort of social and economic balance that communities need to thrive in the long term? How can we have a city or region where low income and even moderate income workers no longer can live? Do we want to and how can we exist as a region with ever fewer nurses, teachers, public safety workers, shopkeepers, child care providers, health care workers and moderate income professionals able to live here?
These problems are bad today and have gotten worse with each recent year. But think about where we will be in 5, 10 or 20 years if we do not make changes. More housing and more low-income housing are needed along with moderating the rate of high income tech job growth and investments in transportation primarily funded by our big tech employers, but renter protections also need to be part of the solution.

8 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 28, 2018 at 12:34 pm

What about the rest of us? Why is CPA only interested in 50+evictions, when there are far more than that on a yearly basis across the whole town.

This is an election year. Hopefully, the incumbent candidates will be asked directly: "why didn't this legislation apply to all Palo Alto renters?"

If you come across any of the candidates during the election cycle--please ask that question and do what you can to publish the answer in one of the town's media streams.

31 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 28, 2018 at 12:39 pm

margaret heath is a registered user.

Council members Greg Scharff and Liz Kniss can show their true colors now they are termed out of their council seats. All those renters who voted for Kniss, whose stump speech was strong on housing, can see that she really meant was that she was strong on the developers who build housing, not so much for those who live in rental housing.

Was Council member Tanaka's long and passionate speech really about diversity? That diversity in Palo Alto can only be achieved if a certain group of existing residents are replaced? Or was that code for the desirability of lower incoming people making way for higher income people? Pretty cynical.

9 people like this
Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 28, 2018 at 12:44 pm

Pat Burt is a registered user.

Both the Emergency Ordinance and the permanent ordinance would apply to all rental properties throughout the city above a certain size. The proposal adopted last night was for properties above 50 units, although that number could be reduced in two weeks in the permanent ordinance when it comes back to the council for a second reading. There was some discussion last night about reducing it to 25 unit apartments, but the council felt greater outreach was appropriate before making that decision. Other communities have lower thresholds.
I should have mentioned above that attachment D in the staff report is where the ordinances in other cities are summarized.

Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 28, 2018 at 12:48 pm

“You’re trying to seduce me, aren’t you Madame (Mayor)” I actually said that it’s a public record apropos of the outrageous “The Graduate Hotel”!people and the Buck Henry /Mike Nichols / Dustin Hoffman classic movie, about the recent Princeton grad and his girlfriends mom checking in to a hotel, with just a toothbrush.
Life imitating art imitating life Clinton Kennedy Pocahontas.

19 people like this
Posted by True Colors
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 28, 2018 at 12:57 pm

Scharff, Kniss and Tanaka left little doubt on the Council dividing line between development supporters and resident/renter supporter. These three are unabashedly pro-development. With an election looming, Wolbach planted himself in the residents camp last night.

Many other cities have relocation assistance. In this economic boom we are facing exploding homelessness and some of highest housing prices anywhere - a definite emergency for those making a good living but not at the top of the big tech rat race, faced with uncertainty and fear of losing the place they can call home.

Evicting people without fault (landlords can continue to evict at the end of the lease or for a good reason) should come with consequences to landlords - providing both time and money to enable renters to find another place to live. We are seeing true displacement and the cratering of our socio-economic diversity. Many of the landlords used code words that seemed to imply they wanted to reject tenants based on racial or economic lines regardless if they paid rent on time. Multiple references were made to Oakland and Berkeley. One landlord went so far as to say they want to be able to evict in order to rent to Facebook/Google/Apple employees.

Limiting diversity appear to be what Tanaka, Kniss and Scharff unabashedly desire.

The news story missed the most interesting twist of the night - the majority of five could have passed a non-emergency ordinance with a simple majority but the timing would have delayed the law coming into place until mid October. With Holman and DuBois proposing an emergency ordinance that Scharff and Kniss had already agreed to support (which needed votes from 7 of the 8 present) and also a separate permanent ordinance which only required 5 votes, Scharff declared he would take his ball and go home by voting against any emergency ordinance if the majority passed a separate non-emergency ordinance. Faced with a choice of having Scharff block any emergency ordinance, the majority wisely decided to get something in place immediately and dropped the non-emergency ordinance vote for now. It will be interesting to see if the majority comes back to pass a broader, non-emergency ordinance at a later time.

21 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 28, 2018 at 1:42 pm

margaret heath is a registered user.

Perhaps the real story is that last December Cory Wolbach was the swing vote to deny a request from DubBois, Kou, and Holman that council have a discussion to explore what, if any, renter protections the city might put in place.

Instead, in a cynical move, the council majority (Wolbach, Fine, Tanaka, Kniss, Scharff) each reframed the request as being about RENT CONTROL as an excuse to vote no. Despite there being no mention of rent control in the request.

Many cities have requirements that tenants be offered one year leases etc. that don't interfere with just cause evictions. Last December many speakers representing landlords spoke of the desirability of renter turn over for Palo Alto to remain vibrant and economically viable, though only one speaker was so bold as to say that without renter turnover Palo Alto would stagnate.

If that conversation had gone ahead in December would there be requirements in place that would better help the residents at The President Hotel? Would there even be an offer from a buyer intending to change the building from residential into a hotel?

25 people like this
Posted by Deborah
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 28, 2018 at 2:07 pm

It’s not fair!!! City should not pass the unfair oridiance. if landlord wants to evict the tenant when the lease term is still valid, then it is fair to let landlord to pay the relocation assistance based on the remaining lease period; however, if the lease term is up, or month to month, if landlord gave the 30-day or 60-day notice, paying the relocation assistance doesn’t seem to be fair, we should implement what we have, and respect the Contract/Agreement/Lease and most importantly, respect property rights!
Respect Property Rights! !
Respect Property Rights!!
Respect Property Rights!!

17 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 28, 2018 at 2:15 pm

Annette is a registered user.

@Puzzled, David, Pat Burt, and Margaret Heath - thank you for your comments.

@Hypocrisy Won, Housing Lost - I think you have mistakenly included Wolbach as part of "The Majority". While he may be part of a majority vote on this issue, this likely would not be happening if he was not running for re-election. In fact, had he voted and advocated differently when the issue of rental protections was first raised, last night's legislative hustle might not have been necessary.

@Trickery works - thank you for clearly describing what it is that Scharff does. If I were a Trustee of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space district I would be thinking, "Please, no! We don't need that sort of gamesmanship on this board". Small wonder there's broad support for Holman amongst those Trustees.

2 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 28, 2018 at 2:24 pm

Man, this is nuts! Given the huge benefit landlords receive under Prop 13, this is all a rounding error. Also, given the huge runup in local rents, home prices and construction costs, plus the giant regional transit problems, its unlikely that this will change much.

Seriously, what this does do is give tech workers more cash towards their purchase of a used RV or van. Parking is getting tough though, so not sure how we solve that.

Tech companies will need to either start building more shower facilities, or hire more people over 40 at higher rates, or just move the jobs to other places. Maybe approving very small worker homes in vertical, high density construction on the Google, Apple and FB campuses will help. Company towns anyone?

1 person likes this
Posted by PA Renter
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 28, 2018 at 3:03 pm

[Post removed.]

5 people like this
Posted by Knss
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 28, 2018 at 3:07 pm

How large is the College Ave rental unit owned by Kniss?

4 people like this
Posted by Evergreen Park
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 28, 2018 at 3:50 pm

Evergreen Park is a registered user.

Mayor Liz Kniss excused herself during a council discussion of the Evergreen Park RPP saying she had a conflicting interest. However, I didn't see anything on the financial disclosures she filed.

67 people like this
Posted by Landowners rights
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 28, 2018 at 4:10 pm

As mentioned in other articles, I fundamentally disagree with the passing of this measure. The housing issue is a function of supply & demand, not subsidies. Adding costs into the system will only jack up the price renters pay and/or reduce the supply of rental units.

Broadly, I have issues with reactionary policy making, especially in such hasty fashion. There's no doubt this will only open up the City to a major lawsuit from AJ (btw, is there a line item in the city budget for legal defense fees? If not, better add one...if so, better increase it).

The addition of income gating was an interesting twist, though as another person mentioned, needs further clarification. The big "secret" about the hotel president residents is that most of them do just fine financially. They live in the Prez for other reasons -- the community, cheap rent, just out of college & starting jobs, etc. One just needs to Google search the residents quoted in the various articles to see that they likely do just fine financially. Regardless, this AMI limit will restrict the beneficiaries to <15 people in the Prez. Somehow, the Hotel Prez conversation is being co-opted into low income housing conversation...which isn't really the case.

Regardless, this is a mistake for the city and we can only hope that the AJ settlement is swift.

18 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of another community
on Aug 28, 2018 at 4:33 pm

"Maybe approving very small worker homes in vertical, high density construction on the Google, Apple and FB campuses will help."

I recall reading that Google wanted to add short-term housing on the Mountain View campus for years, and was repeatedly shot down by the Mountain View government. That said, I vaguely recall reading that Mountain View is starting the come around now that the housing shortage is so blatantly obvious.

Hey, better very, very late than never, eh Mountain View????

35 people like this
Posted by R. Davis
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 28, 2018 at 5:56 pm

Getting remunerated to vacate is a new one.

Ironic in that a reward for some will result in increased rent for others as landlords will now be scrambling to cover their bases.

First + Last + Security Deposit + Relocation Fee = higher rents.

74 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of another community
on Aug 28, 2018 at 6:17 pm

"Getting remunerated to vacate is a new one."

The next time I have an expired automobile lease, I'll just tell the auto dealership: "I demand you pay me to return your car to you."

Yeah, that sounds legit.

5 people like this
Posted by Gandolf
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 28, 2018 at 11:01 pm

Though the real issue in town is rent control not eviction financing I am happy that the city council is taking this step.

31 people like this
Posted by Downfall
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 28, 2018 at 11:09 pm

Downfall is a registered user.

Wow, just wow. What a ridiculous redistribution of wealth by our reactionary city council. They should respect the existing agreements the owner has with the renters and stop pandering to every sympathy case that comes along. I too am hoping the city will face legal action on this.

The most comical part of the article is Nadia Aziz now using the term "Housing catastrophe" is guess a plain old "Housing Crisis" or "Housing Emergency" just isn't serious enough any more. Its now a full blown catastrophe! What's next a "Housing Cataclysm", wait I about "Housing Apocalyse"?

13 people like this
Posted by rsmithjr
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 29, 2018 at 9:53 am

rsmithjr is a registered user.

The real news is that the city is damaging the prospects for actually getting more housing built.

Such housing must by and large be created and operated by commercial builders and landlords. Many of our residents and city council members are, unfortunately, employing rhetoric and taking positions that will only assure that builders and landlords steer clear of Palo Alto, thus making the housing crisis worse.

The city needs to reverse directions on this and find out what will interest builders in creating new housing. I suspect they will need larger scale buildings probably with new zoning and height limitations in order to make this possible given land prices, so this will not be easy to do.

The question is: do we want real measures to create more housing, or do we want to spend our efforts in measures like these rent protections, support for evicted renters, and so on? It is so much fun to trash the greedy but it is not going to help.

Like this comment
Posted by MV Renter
a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2018 at 2:44 pm

Rent rebates will make Palo Alto a very attractive place to rent providing one can afford the initial expenditures.

About time landlords had to pay the piper. Especially the ones who are charging exorbitant rates.

Like this comment
Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 29, 2018 at 3:22 pm

Pat Burt is a registered user.

It's important to note that this ordinance only provides relocation expenses for "no fault" evictions by landlords of large multi-unit apartments. It still allows evictions without reimbursements for all medium and smaller apartments or if the tenant defaulted on the rental agreement.
Many cities have large increases in housing construction at the same time they have these or other stronger renter protections. There does not appear to be evidence or a correlation between these protections for existing renters who are being squeezed out and development of new housing.

14 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 29, 2018 at 8:18 pm

Why are we blaming the landlords? They are simply the market, and have no control of the issues: too much demand and too little supply. Palo Alto is encouraging demand with lots of office construction, but providing too little supply, in the form of housing. Same with its neighbors.

We will only solve this with lots of housing located in walking distance of the offices. The only way to make the numbers work is micro-housing, or very small apartments, built on the biggest campuses, in taller buildings, with some open space nearby. I haven't heard any discussion of this. The biggest tech companies need the workers, and have the power to get needed construction permits and related approvals.

Where is creativity and reality when we need it? If we think we can solve this with same old tired solutions, it ain't gonna happen. California has already passed some bills to make housing construction approvals easier. Now it needs to tax the tech companies provisionally, and hold the tax in abeyance until they build sufficient local housing, giving them 5 years to add a specified number of housing units or fork over the tax.

11 people like this
Posted by rsmithjr
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 29, 2018 at 9:28 pm

rsmithjr is a registered user.

@Pat Burt,

We really do not know if there is any correlation or not. I can't imagine that these rent attractions help get more housing.

My real concern is more about the attitudes being expressed. We read and hear many people talking about "greedy landlords" and promoting full-scale rent control.

Most importantly, the city needs to be attracting builders and landlords. We have a huge imbalance of new office construction compared to new housing construction.

Like this comment
Posted by No Tenants Protection in Palo Alto?
a resident of another community
on Aug 30, 2018 at 10:21 am

Tragic irony that this council once more refused to consider just cause policies...right after a discussion of "Council Resolution Number 9653 Reaffirming Palo Alto’s Commitment to a Diverse, Supportive, Inclusive and Protective Community".

Without a Just Cause Eviction policy, residents can be evicted for any unspoken reason leaving the door wide open for unspoken discrimination (dislike/disapprove tenants for any reason -skin color, religion, choice of partners....-, off they go, no questions asked).

Passing such a policy ought to be a no-brainer for any community truly committed to be "Diverse, Supportive, Inclusive and Protective"

Also, how on earth did the Santa Clara Democrats ever endorse Tanaka ?

10 people like this
Posted by Marc
a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 30, 2018 at 11:12 am

@No Tenants Protection in Palo Alto?

Why do you say there are no tenant protections? If you have a lease then you are protected within the terms of the lease. Both parties know what their rights and obligations are when they sign the lease.

Once a lease expires, the are no rights or obligations between the landlord and the tenant. They both must negotiate a new lease. Just because you have a lease for a defined period of time does not entitle you to another lease. It does not obligate the landlord to grant you another lease.

If you have no lease then you have no oblications or rights. You can leave at any time and the landlord can ask you to leave at any time.

For the people that have lived at the Hotel President for years without a lease, they have known that they can leave at any time and the landlord can ask them to leave at any time. Just because they have lived there for years does not entitle them to stay.

If they wanted to assured that they could live somewhere for years, then they either have to become a property owner or negotiate a long term lease. And once they sign the lease they are obligated to the terms of the lease.


16 people like this
Posted by Pro Cyclist
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 30, 2018 at 11:55 am

@No Tenants Protection in Palo Alto? : "" residents can be evicted for any unspoken reason leaving the door wide open for unspoken discrimination (dislike/disapprove tenants for any reason -skin color, religion, choice of partners.... ""

No. The landlord cannot do this.
This is against the law.

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Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 30, 2018 at 11:55 am

Pat Burt is a registered user.

Actually, Palo Alto's existing renter ordinance requires landlords to offer a 1 year lease and they must be offered it each year. The landlord is required to receive rejection of the lease in writing. Unfortunately, the city does not act to enforce this requirement, most renters are not aware of their right and most landlords to not comply with the requirement.
The President tenants do not have leases because they were not offered them and were not aware they had the right to insist on being offered leases. Even if they had insisted, under our current rules, they would have risked eviction for exercising their rights.

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Posted by @No Tenants Protection in Palo Alto?
a resident of another community
on Aug 30, 2018 at 12:26 pm

@Pro Cyclist - Sure, housing discrimination is illegal. But, there is a huge loophole if a landlord can evict a tenant without cause (i.e. for unspoken reasons). Passing a Just Cause eviction policy would close that loophole.

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Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2018 at 2:06 pm

Legally a landlord can't "evict a tenant without cause". If a current lease (even if its month-to-month) is in force, eviction can only be made for a "breach of contract" if some explicit terms of the lease are being violated ... non-payment of rent, damage to property, drug use, etc. (and then tenant has a right to correct the breach prior to eviction). On the other side, the tenant can try to break the lease making a claim of "breach of contract" by the landlord due to things like unsafe/unsanitary conditions, drug use/crime on premises, etc. . Of course in practice the most common way tenants break a lease is by just not paying the rent and skipping out on that legal obligation.
Failure to extend a new lease after the current lease expires for any number of reasons is not "eviction". Why when you sign a 1-year lease should it be assumed that it entitles you to rent that property indefinitely?

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Posted by No Rental Protections in Palo Alto?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2018 at 3:20 pm

@Dan - Could be wrong but AFAIK no cause evictions can be done on month-to-month leases. Also, if a 1-year lease is not renewed, it moves automatically to month to month . As Pat Burt mentioned, it's probably quite frequent as the City of Palo Alto has no monitoring nor enforcement of its 1-year lease ordinance.
Passing a Just Cause Eviction ordinance would remove one big incentive for landlords to ignore PA's 1-year lease ordinance.

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Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2018 at 6:25 pm

@No Rental Protections in Palo Alto?

If you want a "Just Cause" ordinance are you willing to have the ordinance protect landlords from tenants leaving before a lease is up? And if a landlord is forced to offer a lease year after year, then the tenant is forced to accept the lease year after year.

That a lease cannot be broken by either party. If the tenant wants to leave they owe the entire lease amount, no excuses.

Why is a landlord forced to offer a lease year after year if the tenant is not forced to accept the lease?


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