After faltering its prior two attempts, the Palo Alto City Council approved on Monday night an urgency ordinance prohibiting landlords from evicting tenants without just cause.
The ordinance, which was proposed in November by council members Tom DuBois and Lydia Kou, was initially scheduled to be adopted on Nov. 18, though the council decided to defer the vote to Dec. 2 because members were under the impression that they would need six votes to pass an urgency ordinance and only five were participating in the discussion (they actually needed five votes as stated in city code).
As an urgency measure, the ordinance required support from four-fifths of the council members present at the meeting. Councilwoman Liz Kniss recused herself and Vice Mayor Adrian Fine was absent.
On Dec. 2, with six members participating and seven present, the council had another chance to pass the ordinance but failed to do so after Councilman Greg Tanaka demanded that the city take another week for community outreach. With him dissenting, the ordinance received five votes but needed six to pass.
The ordinance finally advanced on Monday, when the council approved it on its "consent calendar," where a list of generally non-controversial items get passed with a single vote and no discussion. All six council members voted to adopt the ordinance (Kniss once again recused herself because she owns a rental property), which will only remain in effect until Dec. 31.
In the new year, the ordinance becomes obsolete because Assembly Bill 1482 will take effect, making evictions without just cause illegal statewide.
In proposing the ordinance, DuBois and Kou cited reports of an "escalation of harassment by landlords in order to encourage tenants to move out voluntarily." The two council members wrote in the memo that since Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill on Oct. 8, there has been a "surge of calls and inquiries from community advocates and tenants facing steep rent increases," some as much as 30%. Some tenants have also reported increases in costs of parking, lock services and other bundled amenities.
"While landlords may properly evict tenants for cause under the provision of state law, landlords should not be able to evict tenants in good standing without cause simply to avoid the limitation on rent-gouging afforded to renters under the new law," the memo stated. "Hence, it is imperative for the City of Palo Alto to issue an emergency ordinance to keep people housed and provide a sense of stability."
Palo Alto isn't the only city to adopt an urgency measure in preparation for AB 1482. Los Angeles, Redwood City and Menlo Park had all passed similar measures since the bill was signed.