Two weeks ago, San Jose’s City Council voted 6-5 to outlaw no-cause evictions for virtually all tenants—not just those in rent-controlled units. On Tuesday, those same elected officials will decide when to enact the new rule.
An urgency ordinance, which implements a decision the very next day, requires eight votes. Anything less could leave renters in limbo for at least another month. Already, some landlords have taken advantage of the delay to oust tenants for no stated reason.
According to the city’s housing division, property owners have reported nine no-cause evictions—six from the same apartment complex—since the council’s divided April 18 vote to ban them. There may be more, but the city has no way of knowing because it relies on landlords to self-report no-cause evictions.
“This is an abnormally high number of notices for such a short period of time,” city Housing Department Director Jacky Morales-Ferrand wrote in a council memo.
However, some council members who opposed the ban on no-cause evictions have indicated that they support its immediate implementation. Mayor Sam Liccardo and Councilman Chappie Jones voted against the so-called “just cause” law, but pledged to support an urgency ordinance.
“The implementation of a ‘just cause’ ordinance invited controversy regarding its propriety and implementation, with strong feelings on all sides, including those who sought to find middle ground with a modified formulation,” Liccardo and Jones wrote in a shared memo. “Regardless of the merits of any position, the council has spoken, and the question before us relates to the timing of implementation of the measure.”
The pair also recommended additional protections for families of non-citizens. They cite a state bill introduced by Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) that would make it illegal for landlords to disclose a tenant’s immigration status.
“Should that measure fail to pass, it seems sensible to include such protections in this ordinance,” Liccardo and Jones wrote.
Freshmen council members Sergio Jimenez and Sylvia Arenas pushed for full just cause protections last month, taking city staff’s recommendations a step further by making them automatic for every renter in the city. After four hours of impassioned public testimony and debate over a couple of compromise measures, Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco and council members Don Rocha, Raul Peralez and Tam Nguyen backed their proposal.
Carrasco, Rocha and Peralez said they agree that the ordinance they approved last month should go into effect as soon as possible. The recent flurry of no-cause evictions underscores the need for an urgency ordinance, they said.
“This number may seem small, but the after effects are huge and devastating for those affected,” they wrote in a memo. “The number of individuals and families who are now left to fend for themselves against an unsympathetic housing market demands approval of the tenant protection ordinance now.”
The city’s housing staff cited displacement from February’s Coyote Creek flood as further evidence of the need for stronger renter protections. Rock Springs—a low-income neighborhood of largely immigrant renters—was one of the hardest hit by the disaster.
Most of the tenants were long-term residents who paid below market-rate for apartments covered by the city’s rent control laws, which limit annual rent hikes on older buildings to 5 percent. That amounted to about $900 a month for one-bedroom apartments and $1,100 for two–bedroom units.
For Rock Springs residents displaced by the flood, it has been all but impossible to find new housing in one of the most expensive rental markets in the nation. Of the 170 households relying on city assistance two months after the flood, only 17 found permanent housing. That leaves 90 percent of the households in temporary shelters. Two families that want to return to their homes were slapped with no-cause evictions.
“Without the immediate financial assistance provided by the San Jose flood relief fund, many Rock Springs residents would have been facing homelessness due to the lack of affordable housing available in San Jose,” Morales-Ferrand wrote in her policy memo.
She added: “Displacement through evictions destabilize the living situation of renters and have a direct impact on the health of San Jose’s residents by uprooting children from schools, disrupting social ties and networks that are integral to citizens’ welfare and the stability of communities, and create undue hardship for low income residents through additional relocation costs, stress and anxiety, and the threat of homelessness due to the lack of alternative housing.”
In San Jose, about half of all renters pay more than a third of their household income to keep a roof over their heads, according to the city. A quarter of them pay more than half of their income on housing.
Council members Lan Diep, Dev Davis and Johnny Khamis opposed the just cause ordinance last month, citing concerns about market distortions and property rights. In an interview with San Jose Inside, Diep noted that he supported the idea of just cause but would rather wait a year before implementing the policy.
Khamis, a landlord, predicted that tightening regulations would discourage new housing investment and prompt landlords to quit the rental business.
In a newsletter to members, the California Apartment Association (CAA), which represents the landlord lobby, called San Jose’s new ordinance “draconian” and “a double threat” to rental housing owners.
“Immediate implementation of ‘just cause’ eviction controls and the implementation of inflation-based rent control ignores the direction of the previous council and amounts to an attack by a wing of the council on the rental housing industry,” CAA spokesman Anil Babbar wrote in the May 3 email. “Earlier this year, the council voted to take recommendations from the housing department and pursue a simpler form of just cause, however, it is now poised to immediately adopt a much more punitive version. The current council majority has openly expressed its lack of concern over how property owners would be affected. “
Under the just cause ordinance approved last month, landlords must now cite one of 12 reasons for refusing to renew a lease. Those include non-payment, property damage, nuisance behavior and any material or habitual violation of the lease.
More from the San Jose City Council agenda for May 9, 2017:
- The San Jose Police Department’s ramped-up recruiting efforts appear to be paying off. With a budget of $1.7 million, the department has managed to boost the number of academy applicants to numbers not seen in years.
- Mayor Liccardo could have his salary raised from $125,000 a year to $137,000. According to recommendations from the city’s Salary Setting Commission, council members are also slated for a sizable pay bump, from $92,000 to $102,000 a year. Several members of the council—namely the mayor and vice mayor, Jones, Peralez and Arenas—suggest amending the city charter to strip the council of the authority to give itself raises. “Two facts appear equally true,” they wrote in a memo. “First, our residents reasonably do not want to read that their council just voted themselves a pay increase, yet service on the city council must not require either independent wealth or severe financial sacrifice. Inevitably, only one of those facts gets much air time in public, creating a dynamic that makes it impossible for the council to reasonably act in the best long-term interest of the city without inviting public suspicion.”
WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260