Original article published Monday, March 16 updated to include statements from city PIO, Rachel McGuire and city Councilmember, Michael Cacciotti
Citing the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and noting that half the city’s 26,000 residents are renters, the South Pasadena Tenants Union on Monday called on the City of South Pasadena to declare an emergency and implement a temporary moratorium on evictions and a 60-day suspension of water and sewage penalties and shutoffs.
Late Monday, city spokesperson Rachel McGuire said the eviction question will be on the City Council’s special session Wednesday night. She also said the City is already waiving utility shutoffs “at this time” and that So Cal Gas will not, “during this time,” be shutting customers off due to nonpayment. “Southern California Edison has also implemented a policy suspending disconnection for non-payment and flexible payment plans for impacted customers.”
“In addition to those sick or quarantined, hourly employees, food service and hospitality workers, parents taking leave to care for children during school closures, students who work part time—many residents are only one paycheck away from potentially losing their homes,” said SPTU co-founder Anne Bagasao. “Public health crises such as this should not be compounded by economic ones.”
The group wants City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe, acting as the City’s Director of Emergency Services under Municipal Code Chapter 11.6, to unilaterally put the moratorium in place or barring that, to put the matter on the agenda for the City’s March 18 council meeting.
The cities of Los Angeles, West Hollywood and Santa Monica have already taken such action, the SPTU noted. Other cities in U.S. are considering doing so.
In a Monday afternoon message to a citizen, Councilman Michael Cacciotti said, “We are diligently working on this important issue among the many other issues involving this unprecedented and dynamic situation.” Cacciotti said was response was constrained by the need to ensure the city speaks with one voice and the Brown Act, which requires governmental bodies to provide public notice of meetings and all subject to be addressed on public meeting agenda.
Bagasao and SPTU’s other co-founder John Srebalus, who together helped push for the emergency eviction moratorium ordinance the city approved last November in the wake of a surge of 60-day notices following state passage of the Tenant Protection Act, drafted two proclamations that would formally declare an emergency and put the new moratorium in place immediately.
The group said it broached the idea of issuing the proclamations with the City over the weekend, after the President declared a national emergency Friday, but had not heard back by mid-day Monday. “We respectfully insist that you issue them both immediately,” SPTU co-founder John Srebalus wrote in a Sunday afternoon email to the Council and city officials.
“We are now facing an international crisis that could potentially affect South Pasadena and adversely impact our at-risk citizens,” local renter Anny Celsi wrote in a note that SPTU said was sent to the City. “I urge the Council to consider an extended renters’ protection ordinance during this crisis…We should stand by our neighbors whose incomes may be impacted and who stand in danger of eviction.”