City Council | South Pasadena Adopts Eviction Moratorium

The move is in line with a citizen-inspired recommendation from the City’s Planning Commission. This was one of many agenda items the council discussed that are integral to the months ahead

PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | SouthPasadenan.com News | South Pasadena City Hall

Pending adoption of a more throughgoing ordinance to close another loophole in the state’s Tenant Protection Act, the South Pasadena City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a 45-day moratorium on “no fault” evictions predicated on purported plans for “substantial remodels.”

The moratorium gives city staff time to prepare the ordinance and work in guidance the Council will offer on how to structure mandatory relocation fees landlords must pay to those they evict for substantial remodel.

No fault evictions are those pursued even though rent is up to date and the tenant is in good standing.

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The move is in line with a citizen-inspired recommendation from the City’s Planning Commission, and with similar actions taken in Long Beach, Inglewood and the city and county of Los Angeles.

AB 1482, which took effect Jan. 1, exempts no-fault evictions if the owner intends to occupy the unit, remove it from the market, demolish or substantially remodel it. But the last of these is loosely defined.

According to a city staff report, residents have complained the law does not explicitly require owners to get necessary permits associated with a proposed remodel prior to serving an eviction notice. Nor does it require provision of information on the “type and scope of work to be performed; why the work cannot be completed with the tenant in place; or why the work cannot be completed within 30 days. This has created an unintended loophole for property owners to make claims that they are conducting substantial remodels as a justification to evict no-fault tenants.”

The city previously addressed a loophole in AB 1482 in October 2019 with a temporary prohibition on evictions pending the Jan. 1, 2020 effective date of a provision in the legislation requiring landlords establish just cause for an eviction. Some tenants were forced out of their homes before the prohibition was approved.

The city received over a dozen written or recorded comments from citizens advocating for the moratorium.

The Council discussed the relocation fee, which under AB 1482 is one month’s rent. The Council wants staff to consider up to three month’s rent and moving costs. Staff will do so in a required study to be presented to the Council Nov. 18 in preparation for adoption of a permanent ordinance Dec. 2.

Staff will consider whether the fee should be required or adjusted for the number of units in a development and in the context of relocation fee structures in cities such as Pasadena and West Hollywood. The Council also wants the Planning Commission to review the relocation fee options in connection with work it is doing on affordable housing provisions in connection with the new Housing Element to be included in the revised General Plan.

Also Wednesday, the Council:

— approved a $186,400 general fund allocation to hire temporary help to assist the Planning Department address a long-standing backlog in planning permit applications. Planning has received 69 applications since Jan. 1 and processed 86, but still has a backlog of 67.

— approved a $74,150 general fund allocation to hire temporary help to assist the Finance Department in getting started on the 2020 Comprehensive Annual Finance Report, which is due in January, and the 2020-21 budget, which was supposed to take effect last July 1. All this work must be done even as the Department works to address the ten findings made by the city’s auditor. The allocation is in addition to the $80,000 the Council approved last June to speed clean up years of “inappropriate accounting practices.”

“There are many negative consequences” due to the overdue work, according to a staff report, including the erosion of public trust and downgrade of the city’s bond rating. “Staff has been working diligently to get caught up, but with the current staffing it will take much longer than appropriate for the urgent projects to be completed and to simultaneously manage the routine tasks the Finance Department preforms, without falling further behind.”

— authorized signing a contract for up to $25,000 with Roseville, CA-based Bob Murray & Assoc. for the recruitment of a permanent city manager. A three-member ad hoc committee reviewed four proposals for the contract and selected Murray, which over the past 20 years has placed 200 city managers including Alhambra’s Jessica Binnquist, San Gabriel’s Mark Lazzaretto and Pico Rivera’s Steve Carmona. The search will be coordinated by Murray co-owner Gary Philips.

Councilmember Michael Cacciotti asked how thorough the background investigation will be as the city has previously hired persons about whom it later learned things it wished it had known, he said. Interim City Manager Sean Joyce said the background search language in the agreement could be deepened and added he is acquainted with “many tools to do deep background” research, one of which is to ensure the recruiting firm is not simply feeding its own favorite candidates to the city.

The process is expected to take 13 to 16 weeks and there is a one-year guarantee for their placements.

— put off a decision about how to reform the structure of the city’s large compliment of commissions until the new city council is seated in December. Councilmember Stephen Rossi, who believes the current rules are  “varied and ambiguous,” said there should be an ad hoc committee formed consisting of current and former commission chairs while Councilmember Diana Mahmud said it would be much more efficient to simply survey each of the current commissions for their feedback.

Asked for his input, City Manager Joyce declined, arguing city commission structure is a policy matter for the Council and suggesting the politics of such matters make it inadvisable for staff to opine. He said the elimination of a commission “nearly cost me my career” when he was city manager in Sierra Madre.

 

 


Ben Tansey is a journalist and author. He grew up in the South Bay and is a graduate of Evergreen State College. He worked in Washington State as a reporter in a rural timber community and for many years as an editor for a Western electric energy policy publication based in Seattle. He and his wife Karin, an arts administrator from El Sereno, live in South Pasadena.