Apartment Association Ends Legal Challenge Against Rent Control in Richmond and Mountain View

Giselle Penuela, 10, and Alexander Penuela, 6 attend an October 2015 vigil in Redwood City outside the City Council chamber calling for rent control and other renter protections. (Farida Jhabvala Romero/KQED)

The state's largest industry group representing property owners has suspended legal challenges to rent control measures passed by voters in Richmond and Mountain View.

Tom Bannon, CEO of the California Apartment Association, said the group will shift its focus on fighting rent control and eviction regulations in cities that don't have such laws on the books yet but are considering them.

Five Bay Area cities placed rent control on the ballot last fall. Richmond and Mountain View were the only two cities that passed tenant-supported measures. The CAA quickly filed for preliminary injunctions against both measures, arguing that they're unconstitutional.

Judges in Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties denied the association's requests, allowing Richmond and Mountain View to move forward with implementing their rent control measures while the cases moved through the courts.

"The association looked at the judges' decisions in Mountain View and Richmond, and we basically decided that we were going to hold off on those particular lawsuits," Bannon said.

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As Richmond and Mountain View roll out their rent control and eviction programs, there are still details and protocols that need to be developed by their respective rent boards. Bannon said he hopes CAA can be an active partner in creating some of those regulations, and that CAA will monitor the rollouts closely.

Bannon wouldn't say whether CAA plans to challenge other cities that could pass similar rent control laws, adding those decisions will be determined on an individual basis.

CAA is currently fighting against rent control in at least two other Bay Area cities. The group has been active in helping fight a measure in Santa Rosa that voters will consider in June. CAA is also assisting an opposition group in Pacifica, which is collecting signatures for a referendum to repeal temporary rent control and eviction measures the City Council passed last month.

If rent control opponents are able to get the roughly 2,000 signatures for a referendum by May 24, it would repeal the temporary renter protections that are supposed to become effective on that date and allow Pacifica landlords to raise rents or evict tenants until rent control is passed.

“I don’t think there’s much question about the fact that they’ll get the signatures," said Thursday Roberts, a member of the tenants advocate group Fair Rents 4 Pacifica.

Since the Pacifica City Council passed the temporary rent control and eviction laws, tenants have reported "exorbitant rent increases," according to a city staff report.

“It’s just shocking to see so many people in jeopardy," Roberts said. "There’s no place to go in Pacifica. There’s no place to go in the Bay Area."

On Monday night, the Pacifica City Council rejected an emergency ordinance to provide rent and eviction protections immediately. But the council also voted to place rent control on a special ballot this November.