BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer
A group called Measure V Too Costly, referring to the rent control measure that won 53.6% of Mountain View’s vote in 2016, is preparing to collect signatures for a November ballot measure that would ease up restrictions for landlords.
The measure makes it easier to evict problematic tenants and limits rent control to families earning less than the median household income for Santa Clara County, but doesn’t seek to rid the city charter of the rent control law.
“Tenants need some protection and this is a solution that everyone can live with, hopefully,” said Laura Teutschel, a San Carlos-based communications consultant working for Measure V Too Costly.
Currently tenants who make more than 120% of the median household income in Santa Clara County, or roughly $150,240 adjusted for family size, are ineligible for relocation assistance upon eviction.
The initiative would lower that limit to 100% of the median household income, preventing families who make more than $125,200 or so from receiving that help.
It would also limit rent increases to families with incomes that don’t exceed 100% of the median household income for the county, as adjusted for household size according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“We want to make sure that people in need are serviced,” Teutschel said.
It would also require tenants to file an application annually and require tenants to bear the burden of establishing that their income is low enough to qualify for rent control.
The group filed an initiative to amend the city charter section applying to the rent control law on March 30.
City Attorney Jannie Quinn has 15 days to draft a title and summary, and the group will need to collect 5,500 signatures to qualify for the November ballot.
Teutschel said the group may need to hire professional signature gatherers for the job.
Stopping a bureaucracy from expanding
The initiative would prevent the City Council-appointed Rental Housing Committee from accessing general funds without council approval, which Teutschel said is mainly intended to prevent them from paying themselves a salary.
“We just want to make sure that the Mountain View rent board don’t get any ideas about expanding the cost to taxpayers,” Teutschel said. “Once a bureaucracy is put in place, it tends to expand.”
Currently under the rent control law, the committee is allowed to receive funding from any available source for “reasonable and necessary expenses.”
The $2.6 million organization that runs the rent control program is financed entirely by rental units. Landlords are charged $155 per year.
The initiative would reduce that to $100 per unit starting in 2019.
In subsequent years, the committee wouldn’t be allowed to raise that fee by more than the most recent consumer price index for the San Francisco-Oakland Area according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Under the current rent control law, landlords are only allowed to charge for capital improvements to their rental units if the improvements are “necessary to bring the property into compliance” or “maintain compliance with applicable local codes affecting health and safety.”
The initiative would strike that rule, allowing landlords to improve their properties however they see fit and to charge higher rents accordingly.
Currently the rent control law allows the Rental Housing Committee to suspend rent control rules, including around eviction restrictions and rent stabilization, if the city’s average annual rental housing vacancy rate is found to exceed 5%.
The initiative would lower that number to 3%.
It would allow landlords to evict tenants who disturb the “peace, quiet, comfort or safety” of the landlord or other tenants without first having to post a written notice to cease.