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Impartial Analysis of Measure M

Tony Condotti, City Attorney

Introduction.  This Measure was placed on the ballot by an initiative petition signed by a legally sufficient number of registered voters in the City.  It proposes a City Charter Amendment (“Amendment”) to establish a rent board, rent control and just cause eviction requirements for the City of Santa Cruz.   

Rent Board Autonomy.  This Amendment provides for creation of a separately elected Rent Board with broad authority for implementation and administration, to function independently of the City Council, City Manager and City Attorney.  The Rent Board would be authorized to:  establish Rent Board Member compensation; hire paid executive director and staff; retain counsel; procure goods and services; hire hearing officers; adopt budgets; and initiate, defend and intervene in lawsuits. After receiving initial City funding, it empowers the Rent Board to annually bill residential landlords to pay for administration, implementation and enforcement costs, and to request and receive funding from the City General Fund. 

Rent Control.  The Amendment would set maximum annual rent increases for residential units subject to the rent control at 100% of the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for the prior year, with initial maximum base rent at the amount of rent in effect on October 19, 2017, and provisions for adjustment up or down by the Rent Board as specified.  Both rent control and just cause eviction restrictions would apply to accessory dwelling units.  A statewide measure that has also qualified for the November 2018 ballot seeks to repeal current State law exempting single‐family residences, condominiums, and residences constructed after February 1995 from local rent control restrictions, and enabling landlords to set the initial rent for new tenants.  Its passage would enable the Rent Board to apply rent control to these types of tenancies, and to adopt regulations restricting initial rent for new tenancies as well. 

Just Cause Eviction.  The Measure would prohibit landlords from evicting tenants except for certain specified reasons, including failure to pay rent, committing or permitting a nuisance, or to enable the landlord to use the unit as a primary residence.  Tenants evicted for reasons unrelated to the tenant’s conduct would be entitled to the equivalent of six months’ relocation assistance.   

Violations.  A landlord’s violation of the Amendment’s requirements would be punishable as a misdemeanor, and would also give rise to liability in a civil action, which could result in money damages, injunctive relief, reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, and civil penalties.

Effect of Measure.  The Measure would amend the City Charter to impose rent control, establish a rent board, and to establish limits on evictions. As a Charter Amendment, it could not be repealed or amended absent voter approval.  A “Yes” vote is a vote to approve rent control, a rent board, and limits on evictions. A “No” vote is a vote against rent control, a rent board, and limits on evictions. 

The above statement is an impartial analysis of the proposed rent control/just cause eviction measure.