After hours of public testimony, including a dramatic exchange between the mayor and a Measure M advocate who left the council chambers in handcuffs, Santa Cruz City Council postponed a proposed ordinance that would have given displaced tenants financial assistance for relocation.
The proposal before the City Council would have taken effect if voters in November reject Measure M, a citizen-written proposal for rent control, just cause eviction rules and a rent board.
The council voted 6-1 to delay a decision on the ordinance until closer to the election, with City Attorney Tony Condotti researching whether or not the law could be retroactive, to prevent a gap in tenant protections. Currently, the city is under temporary emergency rent control and just cause eviction rules, while voters decide whether or not they want the more stringent rules outlined in Measure M.
Councilwoman Richelle Noroyan was the sole “no” vote, saying that she wanted tenant protections but didn’t want to subject the public to endless meetings.
The council heard dozens of emotional pleas from both sides Tuesday, illustrating the wide public divide on the question of how the city should intervene to help tenants in a rental market that has been described as one of the least affordable in the nation.
Mayor David Terrazas struggled at times to maintain order. Members of audience burst into applause after he had asked them not to.
At 5:10 p.m., after a loud exchange with rent control advocate and Measure M co-author Nora Hochman, Terrazas cleared the council chambers, allowing only the remaining speakers inside.
“Don’t touch me,” she yelled as she was escorted from the room. “Arrest me. Go ahead. You’re doing it to a person with rheumatoid arthritis.”
She added, “You can’t trespass in a public meeting.”
City staff proposed amending an existing ordinance to trigger relocation fees for a rent increase of more than 10 percent in one year or more than 15.5 percent in any two consecutive years. Fees would be paid by property owners to tenants.
Nearly 200 people emailed the council, with the vast majority supporting the ordinance and dozens of mom-and-pop landlords specifically objecting to the just cause eviction rules in Measure M.
Some two dozen emails came from people who vociferously objected to the ordinance, including leaders in the Movement for Housing Justice such as Jeffrey Smedberg, who helped draft Measure M.
Lynn Renshaw of Santa Cruz Together and Robert Singleton of the Santa Cruz County Business Council spoke for the ordinance, as did a number of landlords and property managers.
“We are small-time landlords in the city,” said Francine Tyler. “Thank you for giving us something else to look at, Please do not put in the just cause eviction into it. That’s really scary.”
Measure M supporters, meanwhile, said the city proposal would do little to help renters.