Half Moon Bay Considers Rent Control

Thursday, April 5, 2018
Carina Woudenberg
Half Moon Bay Review

The city of Half Moon Bay is in the early stages of considering some form of rent control that could ease a growing crisis felt by area residents who are forced to double up in homes or move out of the area just to make ends meet.

At the March 20 City Council meeting, Half Moon Bay resident Joaquin Jimenez spoke about the issue and how it has hit the Latino community on the Coastside particularly hard. Jimenez said he had collected 300 signatures from residents interested in seeing a rent control ordinance appear an upcoming ballot.

As heard in one of the city’s recent “listening sessions,” many in the community are concerned about sky-rocketing rents and the effects they’ve had on a community that works for wages that have largely remained stagnant.

There are a lot of different approaches the city could take with rent control. Half Moon Bay Mayor Deborah Penrose says she thinks that a temporary limit on rent increases could work well until the city is able to bring in more affordable housing.

“I think a short-term moratorium might work,” Penrose said. “(If) you do it short-term, you give people a breather before you can get affordable housing built.”

While the topic has yet to be formally discussed at a City Council meeting, it is something the Half Moon Bay City Council members are interested in.

Councilman Harvey Rarback is looking at East Palo Alto’s rent stabilization program as a potential example for what could be done on here.

“(The city has) a large mix of ethnic and income classes and is about the same size as Half Moon Bay,” Rarback said.

Half Moon Bay Councilwoman Debbie Ruddock said she recognizes the crisis and feels for the families that have to live together given the high cost of even the most basic studios and one-bedrooms on the Coastside. Ruddock noted that there are multiple forms of tenant protections to consider and added that she would like to take in all the various factors surrounding the increases before making a decision.

“We have to do something. I’m just not sure what that is yet,” Ruddock said.

Half Moon Bay might consider the struggles Pacifica recently faced in attempting to pass a rent control ordinance.

A group largely funded by two Bay Area real estate associations was responsible for the failure of that ordinance. The group collected signatures from the public to prevent such an ordinance from being enacted. Many argue that the public was misled and told that there would be a tax. To top things off, the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office recently found that 100 of those signatures had been falsified by two people who had been hired by the Pacifica Coalition for Housing Equality group.

Mountain View established a rent control ordinance in 2016. Many there say it has been largely successful in providing peace of mind to the renting population, but that isn’t to say that it hasn’t experienced growing pains of its own.

Mountain View Councilwoman Pat Showalter says that a rental board made up of city residents selected by the council appears to be split on rent control with three members leaning more in favor of the landlord and the other two slanting more in favor of the tenants.

“So they’re not having a smooth path,” Showalter said.

Showalter added, however, that the Mountain View City Council would regularly hear from 40 or 50 people in the public comment time during its regularly scheduled meetings about the need for greater protection for renters. Since the ordinance’s adoption in 2016, the council no longer hears those complaints, she said.

“The bottom line is the vast majority of the renters in Mountain View now know what their rent is going to be next year and they know they’re only going to get one increase per year,” Showalter said. “That certainty is a big deal.”

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