CITY HALL — Santa Monica voters will have the chance this November to substantially bolster protections for renters, following a series of unanimous votes by the City Council on Thursday that authorized a ballot measure for this fall’s election.
If approved by a majority of Santa Monica voters, the measure would extend eviction protections that tenants in rent-controlled buildings receive to all tenants living in multi-unit buildings in the city; give tenants additional time to correct lease violations before they could be evicted; and grant additional eviction protections to renters who are senior citizens and those who are disabled or terminally ill.
The council approved placing the measure on the ballot without dissent after Councilman Bob Holbrook, who had earlier said he opposed placing the measure before voters, shifted course.
He said he had believed the council could have enacted the additional protections without placing the initiative before voters but became convinced the changes would be more permanent if adopted in an election rather than by ordinance. He said he believes the measure will be challenged in court but said voters deserve to have their say.
Councilman Kevin McKeown said the council’s move was a positive step forward.
“The additional protections are reasonable and have precedent in other communities, but will make a huge difference to thousands of households in Santa Monica where newer renters will be welcomed under the umbrella of city protection,” he said.
Councilman Richard Bloom said the protections, if adopted by voters, will formalize practices that responsible landlords probably already take for granted.
Wes Wellman, of the Action Apartment Association, a landlord group, though, said the proposed rent control changes would have little practical effect.
He said placing the initiative on the ballot was a ploy by the political party Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights to draw more tenants to the polls in order to prop up its candidates.
“SMRR has pulled from its play book a time tested technique: putting new tenant protections on the ballot to enable the election to be a referendum on Rent Control,” he said. “If the new tenant protections were as important as we are led to believe, they could immediately be adopted as ordinances by the existing SMRR council majority.”
He added: “The number of annual cases that these new ‘protections’ will actually address can probably be counted on two hands — hardly worth the kerfuffle … and political warfare unless something larger is actually at stake.”