The City Council has backed off plans to reinstate a temporary law prohibiting landlords from evicting tenants without cause.
The proposed just-cause eviction moratorium was approved as a stop-gap measure in a 4-3 vote earlier this month, but failed to muster enough council support to earn a second and final vote Tuesday evening.
Vice Mayor Justin Cummings, who previously voted to back the moratorium but recommended the council hit the pause button on this week’s vote, said that his latest move was based on public concerns that the council, rather than the community, was taking the lead on creating the temporary ordinance. The unsuccessful initiative to amend the city charter to include rent control and just-cause eviction procedures, otherwise known as November’s Measure M, was community-driven.
“I just want to put that out there, because if members of our community are very concerned and want to work on kind of coming together to think about what we can craft as a whole that is going to help our community, I would very much encourage members from MHJ, the Movement for Housing Justice, and Santa Cruz Together, to come together and work with members of the City Council and work on something that will actually help our community,” Cummings said.
Between now and the council’s Feb. 12 meeting, Cummings said Wednesday, the process of creating new language for a temporary just-cause eviction moratorium is in the community’s hands — with whatever help from council members they want.
“That’s the intention,” Cummings said. “If not, I think we might have to go back to plan A.”
Councilman Drew Glover, who was the sole vote against tabling the temporary moratorium Tuesday, said he, Cummings and Councilwoman Donna Meyers had drawn up a revamped moratorium that he considered a compromise sensitive to tenants’ and landlords’ concerns about eviction rules. Glover recommended moving forward on the evening’s temporary ordinance, then coming back at a future meeting with modifications.
“What’s problematic is that through the threat of referendum and recall, we have seen a pressure put on this council to make it so that those who were involved with that plan have completely abandoned it and now have to table the issue,” Glover said at the meeting.
Cummings acknowledged that recall threats against senior members of the council played a part in his decision-making, but were not the primary driver of his motion.
“If people are still confused with what’s going on and they think that what we’re trying to pass is Measure M, then I think that that’s going to create more harm than good, even if we pass it with the intention to change it,” Cummings said Wednesday, when questioned on his decision. “Which is why I thought, let’s table it and by the next City Council meeting, hopefully members of the community will come together and work on some language.”
Cummings said he hopes that a community-crafted temporary eviction law can be offered up for a council vote next month, but if not, he believes tenants will still need some form of protection while a city task force works on drafting and recommending permanent laws. City Planning Director Lee Butler said Wednesday that it was his understanding that for the council, it remains a priority “to really make progress on the community process surrounding rent control and just cause eviction and similar tenant protections.”