By Steven Tavares.
A proposed tenant relocation payment program in San Leandro has for more than a year shuttled back and forth between the City Council and its rules committee without resolution, worrying tenants and angering landlords who have balked at added rent restrictions.
Despite approving Tuesday night, what is now called the “Tenant Relocation Ordinance,” the council was still less than resolute in its support. Throughout the council discussion, a few members appeared confused, if not highly apprehensive, about the agenda item.
The city council had been at this point in legislative process before. Last June, a first reading of the ordinance was avoided and the item was sent back to the rules committee where it had started last fall. A main sticking point was the exclusion of rental units containing 1-4 units, but the council declined to include the amendment in its deliberations, instead maintaining the 1-2 unit exemption.
But the most significant portion of the ordinance, rules intended to aid tenants facing large rent increases and relocation assistance paid by landlords when they evict tenants without cause. The council’s action caps the amount of relocation payments at $7,000, which was lowered from a previously proposed $10,000 cap.
However, most tenants in San Leandro will likely receive much lower payments if evicted without cause. The ordinance calculates a baseline for payments at three times the Fair Market Rate for the region, which, for a studio costs $1,435 a month; $1,723 for a one-bedroom; $2,173 for two-bedrooms; and $3,017 for three-bedrooms.
“I know some people are going away not happy and some are not as happy as they could be,” Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter acknowledge after the 5-2 vote approving the ordinance.
Hastening the confusion was the introduction of two substitute motions, both of which amounted to substantial changes to the ordinance and necessitated a first reading last this month. Both failed with support only from Councilmembers Ed Hernandez, who offered by substitute motions, and Benny Lee (Both voted no on the specific ordinance).
One motion sought to remove the Fair Market Rate calculation and replace it would relocation assistance equal to the last three months rent, allow landlords 21 days after vacancy to pay tenants the second half of their relocation payment, and expand an exemption to 2-4 unit dwellings. The latter was the subject of Hernandez’s second substitute motion.
Ultimately, the only amendment included in the ordinance came from Councilmember Pete Ballew, who successfully urged for complete payments of relocation payments by landlords five days after the unit is vacated. The previous recommendation was on the day tenants leave the dwelling.