Marin County supervisors Tuesday opted to take no position on perhaps the most controversial state initiative on November’s ballot, Proposition 10, which would repeal a law that severely restricts the scope of rent control in California.
Without any discussion on the initiative, the supervisors voted unanimously to take a “neutral” position on jettisoning the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, the Board of Supervisors there voted unanimously to support a resolution supporting Proposition 10.
Signed into law in 1995 by then-Gov. Pete Wilson, Costa-Hawkins prohibits cities from establishing rent control on units built after February 1995, protects landlords’ right to raise the rent to market rates once a tenant moves out and exempts single-family homes and condominiums from rent control.
Dave Coury of Corte Madera, a landlord and affordable housing advocate, expressed disappointment with the supervisors’ action on Proposition 10 Tuesday. "In a world where ‘local control’ is used to oppose fair and affordable housing, this statewide restriction on common sense rent stabilization flies against the ability of local jurisdictions to take important and effective action to prevent rent gouging,” Coury said.
Joby Tapia, secretary of the Marin Rental Property Association, said, “Them taking no position is a very politically expedient move. They know they had a very contested battle regarding moving forward with just-cause evictions.” Tapia, whose group opposes the just-cause ordinance, said by taking a position on Proposition 10 the supervisors would have been assured of alienating either landlords or tenants.
The board voted to take a pass on Proposition 10 at the recommendation of its legislative subcommittee, which consists of supervisors Judy Arnold and Kate Sears. In interviews after the meeting, both supervisors cited the steps the board has taken over recent years to address Marin’s affordable housing crisis. Despite being advised by Community Development Agency staff in 2015 that rent control held the potential to have the “most immediate and significant positive impact” toward preserving housing affordability in Marin, the supervisors opted for other alternatives.
They passed a law prohibiting landlords from discriminating against people using Section 8 housing vouchers, funded a new program to incentivize more landlords to rent to people using housing vouchers and adopted a mandatory mediation ordinance.
Most recently, on Sept. 12, the board voted 3-2 to move forward with the creation of a “just-cause” housing ordinance designed to prevent landlords from evicting tenants without a good or just cause.
Sears said, “Having had all those conversations and made some decisions on our own, I felt that taking a position on Prop. 10 would be disrespectful of those conversations at the local level.” Arnold, who together with Supervisor Damon Connolly cast the dissenting votes on just cause, said, “Kate and I both felt there was not enough information on Proposition 10 for us to recommend a position to the board. My concern is that this might discourage new affordable housing being built.”
As noted in the written staff report on Proposition 10, opponents include the California Apartment Association, California Rental Housing Association, California Association of Realtors, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the California Chamber of Commerce. Opponents assert if Proposition 10’s passage results in expanded rent control that the quality and quantity of rental housing will diminish. The California Legislative Analyst’s Office has stated that expanded rent control could result in increased regulatory costs for local government and reduced property taxes — perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars annually — due to lower property tax collections based on the decreased value of rental properties. The staff report also notes, however, that Proposition 10 stipulates that rent-control policies may not violate landlords’ right to fair financial return on their rental property. Prop. 10 supporters include: the League of Women Voters, the California Nurses Association, California Teachers Association and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) California.
Caroline Peattie, executive director of Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California, said she was not surprised by the supervisors’ decision to take no position on Prop. 10. “Because it is consistent with the Board of Supervisors’ position on rent control in general.” Peattie said. “They’re opposed to it.”
When she cast her vote in favor of the just cause ordinance on Sept. 11, Supervisor Katie Rice made a point of saying, “I’m not in favor of rent control.”
But Peattie, who supports Proposition 10, said, “It is becoming harder and harder to maintain any kind of affordability in our communities, and when you don’t have affordability, you don’t have diversity, and Marin is a prime example of that.”
Omar Carrera, executive director of the Canal Alliance, also wasn’t surprised by the board’s stance on Proposition 10.
“This has been the communication for a long time: rent control is something that will never happen in Marin County,” Carrera said. “I believe rent stabilization is about fairness,” Carrera said. “We need an ordinance that allows landlords to gain a reasonable return on their investment while also giving tenants the ability to budget for reasonable, yearly rent increases.”
Pastor Tom Gale of Marin Lutheran Church in Corte Madera, one of the leaders of the Marin Organizing Committee that championed the campaign for just cause in Marin, said the committee hasn’t taken a formal position on Prop. 10.
“MOC believes it would be positive step in allowing local governments to decide how they want to protect the renters in their communities,” Gale said. “But by no means would its passage be a panacea,” he added. “It will take organizing the local constituency in Marin to determine how best to address the housing crisis in our community.”