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Pacifica City Council Approves Temporary Rent Control Ordinance

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 (Getty Images)

The Pacifica City Council narrowly approved an ordinance that will temporarily protect tenants from high rent increases and certain evictions, while the city works out details of a possible ballot measure for November.

The peninsula city is the latest in the Bay Area to adopt similar renter protections that limit the amount landlords can raise rents. Opponents argue the laws hurt small landlords and prevent future development, while supporters say it's one of the few ways to protect residents from being displaced. The debate over rent control in Pacifica -- where a third of residents are renters -- is likely to be as contentious as it has been in other cities, where lawsuits have been filed.

"I think these rent stabilization issues are contentious in any city they're brought up," said Councilman John Keener, who supported the ordinance in Monday's 3-2 vote.

Pacifica has seen a 51 percent rise in rents from 2010 to 2015, while household income has not kept pace, according to city staffers.

"We've tried to draft this in a way that's fair to property owners and tenants," Keener said.


The temporary ordinance -- its provisions begin in 45 days -- limits rent increases to the Bay Area's consumer price index, which is 3.4 percent. Property owners can petition for an increase up to 10 percent, subject to approval from a panel yet to be established.

The law also mandates that evictions have a just cause, such as if a tenant fails to pay rent or is involved in criminal activity. Pacifica's ordinance covers only about 16 percent of the city's housing stock, or 2,288 units. It exempts single-family homes, condominiums, duplexes and in-law units.

Pacifica staffers estimate the startup costs to establish and run the rent commission that would rule on renter and landlord petitions would be $697,300. Under the ballot proposal there would be a $19 monthly fee charged to landlords for each unit, which could be passed on to tenants that would pay to keep the city's rent program running.

Pacifica Mayor Mike O'Neill opposed the temporary rent control ordinance, saying there are mom-and-pop landlords who aren't charging the high rents.

"You get the corporations who come in and they buy the big 50-unit apartments and they jack the price up," he said.

Still, O'Neill said that pending final language, he would support the issue moving to the ballot for voters in November.

The council will likely vote on whether to place permanent rent stabilization and eviction laws on the ballot during their May council meeting. There are still some legal issues left to work out, Keener said.

Last November, five Bay Area cities placed rent control on the ballot. Mountain View and Richmond passed their renter-supported measures. The measures failed in Burlingame and San Mateo. Alameda passed a city-supported measure, which tenant groups argue doesn't go far enough to protect renters.

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