Palo Alto bans residential evictions during pandemic. Small business may be next. | News | Palo Alto Online |

News


Palo Alto bans residential evictions during pandemic. Small business may be next.

Urgency law would require renters to pay back rent within 120 days after emergency ends

In order for all area residents to have important local information on the coronavirus health emergency, Palo Alto Online has lifted its pay meter and is providing unlimited access to its website. We need your support to continue our important work. Please join your neighbors and become a subscribing member today.

Palo Alto landlords will not be allowed to evict residential tenants whose ability to pay rent is being hindered by the coronavirus pandemic under a law that the City Council unanimously approved on Monday night.

The city's moratorium on evictions will remain in effect until the city's state of emergency expires. After that, residents would have 120 days to make full payment of the back rent.

The City Council's vote follows similar actions in San Francisco and San Jose. San Francisco Mayor London Breed issued on March 13 an executive order that places a moratorium on residential evictions and giving renters up to a month after the order's expiration to pay the back rent (though they can request numerous monthlong extensions). The San Jose City Council approved last week a 30-day moratorium on residential evictions for nonpayment of rent.

On Tuesday, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors passed its own eviction ordinance that applies to both residential tenants and small businesses. The county ordinance would apply to all cities within the county except those that have already adopted their own, more stringent, protections.

One difference between the county's ordinance and Palo Alto's is the expiration date. The county law expires on May 31, while the city's would remain in place until the city lifts its state of emergency, which could potentially be later.

Under all four ordinances, residents are required to offer documented proof that their inability to pay rent is attributable to the coronavirus pandemic, which has brought the Bay Area economy to a near standstill.

"It could be anything from a reduction in hours, a loss of job, reduction of income from businesses, illness of yourself or family member, the need to stay home because you fall under those categories under state order or because you have minor children who are home, who you must take care of," said City Attorney Molly Stump, whose office drafted the ordinance.

In approving the ordinance, the council acknowledged that it is making a tradeoff. While the move may help renters, it may harm small landlords who depend on rent to make their mortgage payments. Vice Mayor Tom DuBois pointed to Fannie Mae's announcement of a new mortgage forbearance policy for owners of multifamily buildings, with the conditions that they suspend all evictions for renters who are unable to pay rent because of the coronavirus — a move that could help some landlords.

But Councilman Greg Tanaka said he was very concerned about someone like his neighbor, a lady who owns one rental unit and who relies on it to pay for her home.

"How do people like her survive, now that they're not going to pay the rent? I think we should definitely think about the unintended consequences. … I'm just worried that now, landlords aren't going to have a backstop,” Tanaka said.

But while some of his colleagues shared his concern, they said it's a worthwhile tradeoff, given the imperative of keeping people housed during a pandemic.

The moratorium will help people like Umbelina Martinez, a single mom who has lived at Buena Vista Mobile Home Park in Palo Alto for 13 years. She shares a home with her three daughters and mother.

Martinez hasn't worked for two weeks. She was an on-call banquet server at the Four Seasons Hotel, which she said will be closed until June. As the sole financial provider for the household of five, Martinez is trying to figure out how she'll pay the next rent.

"I think we have enough food. ... The only thing that most of us are worried about is the rent," said Martinez, who on Tuesday morning hadn't yet heard about the city's eviction moratorium. "Most of us don't have an income since two weeks ago."

While numerous nonprofits, including SV@Home and Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, submitted letters to the council to move ahead with the ordinance Monday, not a single member of the public addressed the council on Monday night. Instead, for the second straight week, the Council Chambers was largely empty, with residents following the statewide shelter-in-place order. Only two council members – Mayor Adrian Fine and DuBois – attended the meeting, with the remainder joining them remotely through video conferencing software via Zoom.

"I think it's a health and safety measure," DuBois said. "And I believe mortgage forbearance is available, and it will become more readily available."

The council approved the urgency law by a 6-0 vote, with Councilwoman Liz Kniss recusing because she owns a rental property. The council also signaled its desire to create a similar moratorium for commercial tenants, again following in the footsteps of San Francisco and San Jose.

That decision, however, became less urgent on Tuesday morning, when the county adopted a moratorium that applies to both residential tenants and small businesses.

Are you a Palo Alto resident who will benefit from the eviction moratorium? Tell us about your situation by sending an email to editor@paweekly.com.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

---

Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Editorial Assistant Lloyd Lee contributed to this report.

We need your support now more than ever. Can we count on you?

Comments

35 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 24, 2020 at 5:19 am

Since the city is sitting on a surplus from the previous year, they should pay the person's rent, instead of saying the landlord should wait for the rent. then the tenant can repay the city in 120 days.

Same for commercial tenants/small businesses. this would help alot of small businesses survive this pandemic.

How easy is it for the council to give away other people's money


13 people like this
Posted by Angie
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 24, 2020 at 6:13 am

This is a little misleading about the public comment. People did not attend the meeting but they got a record number of emails from residents about this - not just 2 nonprofit letters.


13 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2020 at 9:02 am

When business is before the Council, there ought to be some notice by the City Clerk of the number of emails and letters received by the Clerk's Office. This number would then be in the public record, as well as known to the Council before discussing and voting on City business.


31 people like this
Posted by Rambutan
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 24, 2020 at 9:19 am

Thank you Council for taking action to protect the health of our entire community by preventing more people from becoming homeless.

Economic recovery will have to wait as we prioritize our health.


12 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 24, 2020 at 1:22 pm

I would like to reiterate what was posted by "common sense" (quoted below). It is an unfair burden to put on rental property owners, not when it's the City that should be helping its citizens. This is basically making rental property owners give out short-term loans without any compensation (interest, etc) or regard for their ability to do so, shouldn't that be the City or County's job?

"Since the city is sitting on a surplus from the previous year, they should pay the person's rent, instead of saying the landlord should wait for the rent. then the tenant can repay the city in 120 days.

Same for commercial tenants/small businesses. this would help alot of small businesses survive this pandemic.

How easy is it for the council to give away other people's money"


3 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2020 at 1:30 pm

Posted by Concerned, a resident of Downtown North

>> I would like to reiterate what was posted by "common sense" (quoted below). It is an unfair burden to put on rental property owners, not when it's the City that should be helping its citizens. This is basically making rental property owners give out short-term loans without any compensation (interest, etc) or regard for their ability to do so,

>> Same for commercial tenants/small businesses. this would help a lot of small businesses survive this pandemic.

I'm happy to force XYZ Corp with billions in assets to defer rents, but, not happy to force the little people to do it.

>> How easy is it for the council to give away other people's money"

Any such program should focus on helping with the hardest case: the little people who owe rent to other little people, including, for example, non-profit low-income housing providers, and retired people who rent out small units to working people.


13 people like this
Posted by Family Friendly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 24, 2020 at 1:41 pm

The writing's been on the wall for quite some time about people who rent out their homes. If the rent control advocates don't get you, the "emergency measures" will.

As I've said before, though, a healthy community is built by long-term owners -- not short-term renters. If this encourages people to sell their homes to new Palo Altans, so much the better.


6 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2020 at 2:16 pm

Posted by Family Friendly, a resident of Old Palo Alto

>> As I've said before, though, a healthy community is built by long-term owners -- not short-term renters. If this encourages people to sell their homes to new Palo Altans, so much the better.

I'm not sure I understand your point, so, excuse me if I got it wrong. But, it *sounds* like ageism. Thanks, but, no thanks.


23 people like this
Posted by laura farabough
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 24, 2020 at 2:38 pm

I deeply appreciate the non-eviction mandate.
I have lived in my 1-bdrm apt in Palo Alto for 8 years
I am terrified of eviction. I am a 70 yr old gig-economy worker. I work as a dog walker and pet/house sitter to supplement my SS. My business has disappeared. Live in my car at this age?
Because of the generosity of my friends, I will be paying my rent in April and May.
June? Who knows.
My landlady, who is a kind person, has to care for both her parents who suffer from advanced dementia.
They live at home and refuse to move into a "memory care" assisted living facility.
She pays for a 2-person 24hr care program that depends on the income from her rental property.
What are either of us supposed to do?
I think rental owners should also be given some support if they meet certain criteria (i.e., they are not corporate
rental outfits).



Like this comment
Posted by Churb the Coal
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 24, 2020 at 3:55 pm

I like Palo Alto.


7 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 24, 2020 at 11:57 pm

What if a requirement of any sort of mortgage moratorium or forbearance also required this benefit to be passed down to renters too? In other words, if you're going to receive some sort of exemption for paying a mortgage on your rental property, then you should be required to do the same with your tenants?


2 people like this
Posted by 40YearsARenter
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2020 at 9:07 am

Long term renters also contribute to healthy community. I huddle. Will fork over my social security check and then some , but I’m gonna roll back rent, take it or leave it, to 2017 amount. Take it or leave it. Arbitrary increases devastated. “We shall not be moved...” Stand up for justice, not property owners’ cruises...!


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2020 at 11:04 am

Posted by 40YearsARenter, a resident of South of Midtown

>> Long term renters also contribute to healthy community. I huddle. Will fork over my social security check and then some , but I’m gonna roll back rent, take it or leave it, to 2017 amount. Take it or leave it. Arbitrary increases devastated. “We shall not be moved...” Stand up for justice, not property owners’ cruises...!

It is difficult to understand what you are really trying to say here, but, well, if you are talking about one of the ginormous management corporation -- well, do your thing. Don't be surprised if their lawyer is better than yours in court, though. OTOH, If you are talking about a "small" landlord who really needs that income to survive, then, I have a problem with your attitude. In fact, I would go so far as to say that in that case you are harming *yourself* morally as well as victimizing another person of limited means. We are all depending on each other's good behavior to survive this calamity. Don't create more casualties.


Like this comment
Posted by C
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 25, 2020 at 4:28 pm

>> The writing's been on the wall for quite some time about people who rent out their homes. If the rent control advocates don't get you, the "emergency measures" will.

That's why landlords have to charge high rent, before they're forced not to.

>> As I've said before, though, a healthy community is built by long-term owners -- not short-term renters. If this encourages people to sell their homes to new Palo Altans, so much the better.

That's why rents are higher. Fewer rental units means less supply. A decrease in supply with no decrease in demand means higher rental prices.

Can't speak for other landlords, but our tenants include two parties of high-tech workers, and a doctor. Silicon Valley is pretty much named after tech companies, and I'm pretty sure the doctor will be contributing to community pretty darn soon, perhaps to a family member of a Palo Alto home owner very soon.


Like this comment
Posted by 40YearsARenter
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2020 at 6:05 pm

Hello "C" and y'all:
Yenta the Renter here, "Can't speak for other landlords, but our tenants include two parties of high-tech workers, and a doctor. Silicon Valley is pretty much named after tech companies, and I'm pretty sure the doctor will be contributing to community pretty darn soon, perhaps to a family member of a Palo Alto home owner very soon."

*Doctors, tech-workers, all Chiefs, No Indians. Everybody contributes, now or later. Build Back Better, build some more affordable rentals, BMR studios, so the community can retain what (little) diversity it has - and Grandma can stay put, and hope that some of the kids some of the time will be able to fly and visit...or bike and visit.

Does that mean Palo Alto might one day look like Queens...? (Hmmm). I heard that once even Rome fell.


Like this comment
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Downtown North
2 hours ago

I am a landlord and I never buy property that I can't afford to sustain on my own. If I buy it, then I'm responsible for it. Of course, rent helps me pay my mortgage, but it's my mortgage and I'm responsible for it, not my renter. I'm fine with the City's efforts to help our renters. Also, I rent to nice people whom I'm sure will pay me when they can, and I'm happy to give my tenants a break on the rent, as I don't need to make a profit during a pandemic. On the off chance that someone will not pay after 120 days or makes no effort to pay rent, then as a landlord, I have legal avenues that I can pursue, but most people are embarrassed to not pay rent and most people want to pay their bills. This shouldn't be a forum for renters vs landlords, or who is the victim, we are all in this together Palo Alto, please let's remember this!


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields


Get fact-based reporting on the COVID-19 crisis sent to your inbox daily.

Singapore's oldest cafe was about to open in Palo Alto. Then, the coronavirus hit.
By Elena Kadvany | 3 comments | 6,581 views

A Pragmatic Approach to A Trillion Trees
By Sherry Listgarten | 4 comments | 4,254 views

Repairing a Disagreement with your Beloved & “Physical” vs. “Social” Distancing
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 2,956 views

Coronavirus: my early April thoughts – and fears
By Diana Diamond | 12 comments | 2,684 views

Profiteering off medical equipment and its export unimpeded (COVID-19)
By Douglas Moran | 9 comments | 2,037 views