Santa Cruz Launches Rent Control Ballot Initiative

Monday, January 22, 2018
Jondi Gumz
Santa Cruz Sentinel

SANTA CRUZ >> Advocates for rent control and just cause for eviction turned in the text of a proposed ballot initiative Friday to the Santa Cruz City Clerk.

Jeffrey Smedberg, retired county recycling coordinator, delivered the proposed Rent Control and Tenant Protection Act to interim City Clerk Bonnie Bush.

He was accompanied by Thao Le, a senior sociology major at UC Santa Cruz active in the Movement for Housing Justice, which is behind the ballot initiative.

Other leaders in the effort include Michelle Glowa, assistant professor in anthropology and social change at UCSC, and Simba Kenyatta, representing the Santa Cruz NAACP chapter, which has endorsed the rent control campaign.

Friday’s action makes good on an October promise by renters at a forum organized by UCSC sociology professors at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium to launch a 2018 campaign for relief from no-cause evictions and skyrocketing rents.

The median, or midpoint, two-bedroom monthly rent of $2,420 in Santa Cruz County is more than the national average of $1,170 and has risen 3.3 percent from a year ago, according to Apartment List.



Rent Cafe reports rent in the city, population 65,000 and home to UC Santa Cruz with 18,000 students and growing, average monthly rent is $2,335, up from $2,204 a year ago, a 6 percent increase.

The city has about 22,000 housing units, 56 percent occupied by renters, according to the census, with 64 percent of homes being single-family dwellings and 35 percent apartments.

University students often team up in a group of six or so to make renting a single-family home affordable.

City officials estimate a rent control measure would affect 22 percent to 24 percent of rentals due to the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Act, which exempts single-family homes and newly built units.

According to Tina Shull, assistant city manager, those figures came out of a query of the county assessor’s data to look at everything built prior to 1995 that had more than one unit and then take into account multifamily properties with a primary address along with individual unit addresses.

AB 1506, a bill to repeal Costa-Hawkins, died after a four-hour Assembly housing committee hearing Jan. 11 in Sacramento, getting three yes votes from eight lawmakers. Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, voted yes.

Committee members heard plenty from business voices supporting Costa-Hawkins, including the Santa Cruz County Business Council.



City attorney Tony Condotti has 15 days to review the title and the text of the initiative, giving him until Feb. 3, a Saturday, which may give him until Monday, Feb. 5, according to Smedberg, who is treasurer of the Movement for Housing Justice.

At the end of the 15 days, the text of the initiative will become public, Smedberg said, a legal notice will be printed in the Sentinel “and then we’re allowed to start collecting signatures.”

Organizers aim to collect 8,000 signatures of voters registered in the city within the 180-day deadline; the city clerk has 30 working days to verify the signatures.

Once an initiative petition is verified, the City Council has three options: Adopt the proposed ordinance, call an election or order a report on the impact of the proposed measure.

“Rents were high when we moved here,” said Smedberg, who has lived in Santa Cruz for 30 years. “We rented for many years and had the experience of moving frequently. Every six months to two years, we’d be moving because the rent got jacked up or the owner wanted to move in, usually financial reasons.”

As for today, Smedberg said, “It’s just gotten much more outrageous. Plenty of people in our situations couldn’t continue to pay rent and now they’re homeless, and some people had to move elsewhere.”

The Movement for Housing Justice will participate in the Women’s March at noon Saturday on Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz, with tabling at 1 p.m. at Louden Nelson Community Center, 301 Center St.


FAIR USE NOTICE. Tenants Together is not the author of this article and the posting of this document does not imply any endorsement of the content by Tenants Together. This document may contain copyrighted material the use of which may not have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Tenants Together is making this article available on our website in an effort to advance the understanding of tenant rights issues in California. We believe that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use,' you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Help build power for renters' rights: