Santa Monica is a diverse community with a commitment to caring for the environment, providing excellent public schools, and ensuring renters’ rights. It’s true that Santa Monica is a leader amongst cities when it comes to protecting the rights of its residents and to creating a livable space that is welcoming of all. We are a city that understands the importance of economic diversity to a thriving democratic community. And, we have worked together to make sure that people from the most affluent to those with far more modest means can call Santa Monica home. Simply, we Santa Monicans are always striving to improve our lives together.
Measure RR on Tuesday’s ballot represents our never-ending commitment to “get it right”; that is, Measure RR is another step at improving our lives together. The measure provides for enhanced protections for renters; specifically, Measure RR strengthens eviction protections for apartment renters, prohibiting landlords from evicting without cause. This is especially important for our senior neighbors and our fellow citizens among us who are disabled and/or terminally ill.
Measure RR improves eviction protection for rent controlled and non-rent controlled tenants. It adds protections for many low- and moderate-income renters. And let’s be clear, regardless what opponents might say — regardless what the Santa Monica Daily Press Editorial Board espouses — single-family homes and condos are exempt. Measure RR will not restrict or limit property rights; rather, the measure will establish a level of fairness where tenants will be afforded reasonable time to remedy situations that are deemed problematic by the landlord.
With the passage of Measure RR, landlords will be able to evict only for specific causes, including nonpayment of rent, significant violations of the rental agreement, serious nuisance behavior, conviction of a crime involving the premises, unlawful subletting, damaging the unit or refusing to allow entry for repairs. Landlords will not be able to evict for frivolous reasons and where there are minor concerns the tenant will be afforded reasonable time to remedy the situation. Enhanced eviction protection benefits Santa Monica families, the disabled and/or terminally ill, and seniors. Measure RR protects our community.
Measure RR “gets it right” because it protects some of the most vulnerable in our community. Under Measure RR, eviction abuse will be stopped by requiring landlords to give an advance written warning to tenants telling them to stop the objectionable activity and to fix the problem. This applies to violations of the rental agreement, nuisance behavior, damage to property and refusing the landlord lawful entry. However, no warning would be required for evictions for criminal activity or nonpayment of rent.
Our mayor and City Council members “got it right” when they voted to unanimously place Measure RR before us on next week’s ballot. It is not often that our City Council unanimously agrees on matters of the civic politic. But here, these democratic representatives recognized a need for improvement and for enhanced tenant protections.
Now in the spirit of full disclosure, I out myself as a “renter.” But to be sure, I am more than just a long-term Santa Monica tenant. I am an active and participant father in my kids’ schools, a soccer coach, a tenured professor at Santa Monica College, a member of my neighborhood organization, and a parishioner at a local Santa Monica church. And certainly, I am not alone. I am one of thousands of renters in Santa Monica, young and old, who doesn’t see him or herself as a “renter” per se; but rather, a citizen, an active and participant citizen, of Santa Monica. Because so many citizens before me “got it right” in protecting renters’ rights, people like me can call Santa Monica home.
As Santa Monica voters it is now our turn to “get it right” and cast a vote for enhanced eviction protections — to cast a yes vote for Measure RR this Tuesday.
In an election year where we citizens are being bombarded with negative campaign ads and ideological vitriol, it seems that paying attention to our own backyard, to our own neighborhood, is the right thing to do. We live in a city that cares about people, a city that walks the talk. Whether it is our exemplary leadership as one of America’s greenest cities, our proud narrative as life-long learners who stand for excellence in education or our admirable leadership as a community that stands up for the rights of renters, we strive to “get it right.”
Measure RR is certainly what is right with Santa Monica.
Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein is a professor of politics at Santa Monica College and he serves as the co-chair of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights. He has lived in Santa Monica since 1999 and is raising two children with his wife, Jennifer.