RSO Commission’s Agenda: Ordinance Recommendations

City Council created a Rent Stabilization Commission at the April 2nd meeting but left open the question of what the commission will do. Originally it was to adjudicate ‘disruptive’ tenant terminations and mediate habitability disputes (and more). But last month Council decided that commissioners should first discuss the rent stabilization ordinance. A straw poll among councilmembers provided some focus for the coming discussion.

City Council had reached some degree of consensus on key rent stabilization issues like exemptions for owner-occupied duplexes and the maximum allowed annual rent increase. But pass-through costs and the relocation fee schedule needed more discussion. For councilmembers, identifying the scope of the commission’s discussion about the ordinance was sometimes contentious.

In the end, councilmembers agreed to keep the scope wide but provide some “focus” to commissioners by enumerating issues that had more or less already found Council consensus. Because City Council makes the ultimate call, there is no sense for commissioners to revisit duplex exemptions if that found strong support across the Council.

Here is how Council came down on the possible items for the new commission’s agenda.

RSO Amendment issues Status
Hears ‘disruptive tenant’ applications Resolved
Hears relocation fee hardship applications Resolved
Owner-occupied duplexes are exempt from RSO Resolved
Eviction for landlord use notice extended to 6 mos. Resolved
Evictions for landlord use pay 100% relocation fee Referred
Relocation fees to be paid into escrow Resolved
Allow probationary tenancy with no relocation fee Referred
Landlords must register rental units annually Resolved
Protection for teachers and students against eviction Resolved
Maximum allowed annual rent increase Referred
Reevaluate current relocation fee schedule Referred
Reevaluate pass-throughs (including seismic) Referred
Reevaluate current remodeling fee schedule Referred

A few notes on the straw poll. Bosse pushed for referring both the maximum increase and the probationary tenancy to the commission for discussion; she has been the most consistent supporter of stronger protections in the rent stabilization ordinance and attended every one of the roundtable dialogues. Gold attended none of the dialogues and he wasn’t interested in referring either of those issues to the commission for more discussion.

Lester Friedman at City Council March 5, 2019
Councilmember Lester Friedman often advocates for owners who would occupy their rental properties.

Friedman was the lone dissenting voice on what was otherwise Council consensus: that property owners should pay 100% of the relocation fee to a tenant if displaced for owner-occupancy. He succeeded in referring it to the commission for more discussion.

Council’s straw poll showed that more issues than expected by staff were still up for debate. Where the staff PowerPoint indicated four issues to be decided, councilmembers themselves identified six for referral to the commission. Most notably that included the contentious probationary tenancy proposal.

Again, the commission’s scope is hardly limited to these issues; commissioners have wide latitude to discuss any topic and make recommendations too. We are hoping for a broad debate because the issues covered by the straw poll hardly address the protections that tenants need.