SAN JOSE (BCN) — San Jose City Council narrowly passed two measures Tuesday night designed to protect hundreds of thousands of renters in the city with stricter regulations for evictions.
After more than three hours of rapid-fire public comment and two hours of discussion among the council members, the Tenant Protection Ordinance and Ellis Act Ordinance both passed 6-5.
Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco and council members Sergio Jimenez, Raul Peralez, Tam Nguyen, Donald Rocha and Sylvia Arenas supported the ordinances.
Mayor Sam Liccardo and council members Chappie Jones, Lan Diep, Dev Davis and Johnny Khamis voted against both.
The Tenant Protection Ordinance ensures that tenants are given a “just cause” for eviction, which opponents say makes removing problem tenants a hassle for landlords.
The Ellis Act Ordinance gives renters the right to return to their units if a property that has been taken off the market is rented again within 10 years.
If the property is rented again within five years, the rent has to be set at the prior rate. Landlords of rent-controlled units also have to provide between four and 12 months of notice before evicting.
A memo issued by Arenas and Jimenez on Friday said that landlords had evicted tenants from 55 San Jose units since the start of the year.
“That equates to a no-cause eviction every other day. The displacement of several hundred or more families a year without cause is an unbearable and unnecessary hardship for our families and our communities,” Jimenez and Arenas said in a statement.
The memo also said that the ordinance applies to 97,901 units, which, if each unit houses three or more residents, could equal 30 percent of the city.
In public comment at the meeting, a man who said he owned several buildings in San Jose described evicting tenants with 90 days notice before the end of their lease to vacate the apartments for his daughters after they graduated from college.
But Jeffrey Buchanan, director policy for Working Partnerships USA, pointed out that such owner move-in evictions still count as a just cause and will be allowed under the new ordinance.
In council discussion, Arenas and Carrasco described the desperate rental conditions they had seen children growing up in, including a 5-year-old who had not been potty-trained because of limited access to a bathroom.
These situations arise when renters fear retaliatory no-cause evictions when they complain to landlords about habitability issues, Latinos United for a New America activist Chava Bustamante said.
“This is an issue that affects the people that we work with, that we advocate for,” Bustamante said, describing LUNA’s work knocking on doors in San Jose’s low-income Santee neighborhood. “This was an issue that kept coming up consistently.”