SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL
It’s taken more than a year for the San Leandro City Council to formulate a tenant relocation payments amendment to its existing rent review ordinance. But following a number of additions to the proposal, some that benefit small-time landlords in San Leandro, the amendments will have to wait another two weeks for a first reading and likely approval.
The council voted, 6-1, to approve the amended ordinance (Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter voted no), but due to the amount of changes made Monday night, the reworked legislation is scheduled to return to the City Council for a first reading on July 3, said City Attorney Richard Pio Roda.
Under the proposed relocation payments, which are paid by landlords to tenants for evictions initiated by the property owners, the fees kick in when rents are raised 12 percent or more, or if a relative is moved into the unit. The 12 percent threshold was lowered by the council from the 15 percent recommended by city staff. It also allows landlords to deduct damages to the unit from the relocation payments.
Renters eligible for relocation payments would receive three times the amount of their monthly rent, according to the proposed amended ordinance, or Fair Market Rent (FMR) based on the Oakland-Fremont metropolitan area. For instance, under the current FMR a studio costs $1,435 a month; $1,723 for one-bedroom); $2,173 for two-bedroom; and $3,017 for three-bedroom. However, the amended ordinance also caps relocation payments at $10,000.
In the meantime, one of the changes providing an exemption to some landlords may rile some San Leandro activist when the ordinance returns to the council next month.
A clear majority of the City Council supported an landlord-friendly exemption for landlords with 1-4 units per parcel that was strongly supported by special interests, including East Bay Realtors and the Rental Housing Association.
At one point earlier in the council’s deliberations, San Leandro Councilmember Benny Lee quickly motioned to approve the city staff recommendation with the landlord-approved amendments. When he was asked to restate the motion, Lee instead asked representatives from the Realtors and Rental Housing to read them into the record.
That motion failed, but several councilmembers were swayed by the exemption for properties with four or fewer units. In support, Councilmember Corina Lopez said a different set of economics exist for small real estate investors and Councilmember Ed Hernandez called the exemption “ideal.” However, the sentiments were not unanimous.
Councilmember Pete Ballew, in response to the $10,000 cap on relocation payments asked, “Have we lost sight of what this ordinance is about? It’s to protect the tenants,” he said. He later voted to move the plan forward “not because I like it, but because it’s better than nothing.”
Mayor Cutter, as the only member of the council to oppose the proposed amended ordinance, warned the inclusion of an exemption for landlords with four units or fewer might anger San Leandro renters. She added the council’s overreach may ignite a strong push for rent control later, a legislative agenda far more radical, she believes, than any current councilmember would support.
Leo West, a San Leandro resident well-known for his pointed barbs at city officials said the council has dithered on the issue of protecting renters. Over the past year and a half the relocation payments ordinance has been studied, 15 of his neighbors have been evicted, he said. “You have the blinders on. You don’t see it,” West barked. “We will fight for rent control in the future because we don’t expect much more from you.”