Palo Alto to reconsider relocation assistance in evictions

City Council considers loosening or removing 'means restriction' limiting relocation payments to those below area median income

The Palo Alto City Council signaled on Monday that it plans to revisit and possibly revise a newly adopted law that limits relocation assistance for evicted tenants to those making above the area median income.

The issue of relocation assistance has become urgent in recent months for residents of President Hotel, who are facing eviction by Nov. 12 as part of the new property owner's plan to convert the apartment building into a hotel. To address the issue, the council passed on Aug. 27 an "urgency" ordinance requiring landlords to pay between $7,000 and $17,000 to each unit in relocation assistance, depending on unit size.

The urgency ordinance, which required support from seven of eight council members to pass, was ultimately limited to those making about the area median income, which means those making about $90,000 or more would not qualify. That restriction was proposed by Councilman Greg Scharff and adopted despite opposition from the council majority, which wanted protections to apply more expansively. Given that the ordinance requires seven votes and that Councilman Greg Tanaka has opposed every proposal dealing with renter assistance, Scharff's vote was necessary to get anything passed on an urgency basis.

The council also passed on Aug. 27 an almost identical ordinance on a permanent basis. Unlike the urgency ordinance, this one would require a simple majority to modify. On Monday night, instead of adopting the permanent ordinance on a "second reading" (a typically routine procedure), the council agreed to hold a fresh hearing on it on Sept. 17 and potentially revisit the issue of income eligibility, or "means restriction."

Five council members --Tom DuBois, Adrian Fine, Karen Holman, Lydia Kou, and Cory Wolbach -- and nearly every member of the public who spoke on this item on Monday urged the council to do so that very evening. But Mayor Liz Kniss and Scharff, citing a busy agenda, opted to delay the hearing to a future date. Scharff said that because the emergency ordinance remains in effect, the city can take more time on amending the permanent one.

"If we wait two or three weeks, does it really matter?" Scharff asked.

For those on the other side of the debate, the answer was yes. Former Mayor Pat Burt described the tactic by Kniss and Scharff to delay the changes to the "means restriction" issue as "catch and kill" legislation. By delaying the vote, the council will effectively keep President Hotel residents from benefiting from a potentially more expansive proposal with either looser income requirements or none at all.

A group of residents from President Hotel also asked the council to take up the item Monday night. Iqbal Serang said some of his fellow tenants have no place to go after eviction and will soon be homeless. Chris Kellogg asked the council to stop "kicking the can down the road" and noted that the city's recently approved contract with its new city manager, Ed Shikada, includes a monthly $4,000 housing allowance, in addition to a $356,000 base salary.

"You guys clearly agree it's expensive to live here. ... But somehow you create a means test for someone who earns $91,000 to get nothing," Kellogg said.

Kou concurred and said that the longer the council waits, the higher the anxieties will be for tenants. The situation, she said, is urgent.

Kniss, who as mayor has the purview over agenda, rejected requests from the council majority and moved to hold a hearing at a future meeting. The council is now scheduled to take it up on Sept. 17.


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6 people like this
Posted by Concerned Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 11, 2018 at 11:08 am

Does this mean that every individual or family who can no longer afford to live in Palo Alto because of rental costs, will get an "assistance check" from the city? Fair is fair!!

3 people like this
Posted by Really?
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 11, 2018 at 12:33 pm

I agree with Concerned Observer: Yes fair is fair. Everyone should receive some financial compensation. We all know there is a percentage of people that qualify for different financial benefits, low cost housing etc. that make “under the table” money that they don’t declare. Don’t punish those that honestly declare all of their income. And, by the way, anyone making under $100,000 a year is low income for Palo Alto unless they bought 40 years ago or inherited a house!

40 people like this
Posted by Tyler L. Sean
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Sep 11, 2018 at 1:37 pm

Nobody is forcing a person making $91k a year to live in Palo Alto. If that's what he/she is making, that's what the society thinks his/her contribution is worth. Period. Don't blame the city or the landlords.

Learn some new skills so as to raise your income. Network more to find more opportunities, etc. etc. If those are not options, move to Fresno or Arizona.

Or move to a socialist country like Venezuela and see the damages the rob-the-rich -to-pay-the-poor policies did to its people firsthand.

8 people like this
Posted by Council full of DINOs
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2018 at 1:48 pm

Kniss' recusal policy is puzzling. How could she opine on relocation assistance while recusing herself on a colleague's memo that touched on the same general topic.

19 people like this
Posted by A Renter For All Seasons
a resident of University South
on Sep 11, 2018 at 1:50 pm

It is economic discrimination to limit relocation rebates to only those making $90K or less. Every displaced Palo Alto renter should be eligible regardless of his/her gross income level.

If anything, those making less than $90K should receive even more remuneration based on a sliding scale.

It is time to overturn the Czarist mentality and ruthless practice of countless developers and landlords in Palo Alto.

24 people like this
Posted by Jennifer Liu
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 11, 2018 at 2:20 pm

Many people think that as long as we have rent control and squeeze the landlords, the housing problem is solved. Does it really work? San Francisco has the most strict rent control in the US for 40 years. What’s the rent like? It’s the most expensive in the nation! Why? Because the severe rental policy backfire and investors have no motivation to be landlords.

Rent Control (RC) and Just Cause Eviction (JCE) increase the crime rate of a community. Which cities have longest history of RC/JCE? San Francisco, East Palo Alto, Oakland, Berkeley. What do they have in common? High crime rate! Do you want Palo Alto to be like them? Think twice!

20 people like this
Posted by Oh Really?
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 11, 2018 at 2:44 pm

>> Because the severe rental policy backfire and investors have no motivation to be landlords.

Spoken like a true landlord.

The investor mentality is the problem. Motivation = gouge the renters while real estate prices continue to escalate. Then cash-out and evict.

The crime correlation is merely a scare tactic. Lowering or controlling PA rents will not have an adverse effect on crime because it will still be an expensive place to live.

Not buying it.

4 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 11, 2018 at 2:49 pm

I assume the $7,000 to $17,000 relocation assistance paid by any landlord would be a deductible expense against their income. The recipient would be served with a 1099 showing taxable income at the end of calendar year, reported to the Franchise Tax Board and to the IRS. Does tax law explicitly exempt this income?

11 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 11, 2018 at 3:42 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

@Oh Really - do you expect people to purchase an apartment building out of the goodness of their hearts and not want to make money? I would bet that if you ask most apartment building owners why they bought the building, they tell you it was to make money or to diversify their investments.
I'm sure if you own your home, when you decide to sell it, you'll take the best offer and you won't lower it to what you think is a fair price in order to provide affordable housing.

12 people like this
Posted by Old School
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 11, 2018 at 6:08 pm

>> I'm sure if you own your home, when you decide to sell it, you'll take the best offer and you won't lower it to what you think is a fair price in order to provide affordable housing.

Depends on who's buying it. When someone waves CASH in my face, it is a natural turn-off.

4 people like this
Posted by Bye bye
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 11, 2018 at 6:22 pm

Former mayor pat Burt loves to second guess the council. However he did nothing to address these issues during his 8 years on the council.
Iqbal says the tenants will have nowhere to go and will be homeless. Really? Have they looked for other places to live in the area? Are they making plans to deal with the inevitable or are they expecting the city council to somehow guarantee that they can live as long as they want in a property they do not own?

10 people like this
Posted by Trouble bubble
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 11, 2018 at 8:20 pm

@Oh Really, what aren’t you buying?

That rent control has NOT resulted in affordable housing in SF, Oakland, Berkeley?

That rent control areas aren’t fraught with crime? That rent control properties typically slide into disrepair?

That rent control results in LESS affordable units in the market?

Look to Mountain View. Since it was enacted last year older properties have been sold off for newer, more expensive construction.


8 people like this
Posted by Asher
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 11, 2018 at 8:39 pm

Trust your heart when it comes to questions of basic fairness and morality. After a hurricane you see gas stations charging $20 a gallon, those are your "market forces" at work.

1 person likes this
Posted by Profiteering
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 11, 2018 at 10:00 pm

Palo Alto has been an expensive place to live for at least 50 years, because of the value it provides. In the past the value was largely quality of life,Stanford, weather, location, bookstores, etc. Now it’s a place to make money. But it’s value for money spent, not profiteering.

Basic fairness and morality says a few lucky people should get the value while most people must struggle for decades to afford property. Because poor people or the young or the old deserve special attention. Oops, they are not poor or young or old. Anyway they are here so they should get $17,000.

Money makes it moral!

Like this comment
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 12, 2018 at 8:26 am

"It is time to overturn the Czarist mentality and ruthless practice of countless developers and landlords in Palo Alto. "

Czarist mentality? Which Czar? Do you mean Catherine II? Or perhaps Peter I?

17 people like this
Posted by R. Davis
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 12, 2018 at 8:58 am

Sometimes it's worth the extra money to pay certain people to go away (i.e. in-laws, deadbeat offspring, ex-wives etc.).

As far as renter remunerations are concerned, rental agreements between landlord & tenant should be conducted on an individual/private basis covering 'no-fault' eviction considerations + any pre-established/agreed-upon relocation rebates based upon a specific % of the actual rental rate.

Getting the PACC involved with these nebulous blanket guidelines only serves to p*ss even more people off.

A well spelled-out rental contract + competitive & fair pricing to attract quality long-term tenants is really all that's needed.

To the landlords...don't be overly greedy.

And to prospective tenants...don't expect everything for free.

15 people like this
Posted by The PA Carpetbaggers
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 12, 2018 at 2:17 pm

>>> The investor mentality is the problem. Motivation = gouge the renters while real estate prices continue to escalate. Then cash-out and evict.

^^^ These are the true carpetbaggers of Palo Alto. The newbie landlords.

The old-time landlords are/were usually more reasonable to deal with as many purchased their properties decades ago before the housing boom & they recall when people were making far less money. A sizable number of them also did the handyman repairs at the rental properties on their own.

Not so today as developers, property managers/RE agents + the newbie landlords are all clamoring for the biggest piece of the rental pie.

Add to the fact that when most of these older landlords pass on, their kids simply opt to 'cash-in' by either selling the rental property for mega bucks or jacking up the rents even higher.

Excessive rents + convenient evictions in order to sell = the problem we are discussing here.

Like this comment
Posted by Freebird
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Sep 12, 2018 at 8:02 pm

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by R. Davis
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 12, 2018 at 8:40 pm

^^^^ I imagine that someone had to say it...but you strike me as an individual without conscience or any sense of moral integrity. I've heard of similar family scenarios & I suspect that they are not as uncommon as many of us would like to believe.

A word of caution...there is a distinct difference between the ephemeral
'enjoyment of things' vs a true personal sense of 'happiness'. Some learn to differentiate between the two during the course of their lifetimes, while others never do.

Like this comment
Posted by R. Davis
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 12, 2018 at 8:43 pm

Please disregard my last post which was in response to a very disturbing entry that the moderator tastefully 86'd.

Like this comment
Posted by Curious
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 13, 2018 at 2:14 pm

What did the previous (deleted) poster write?

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