Should a tenant making $93,100 a year get relocation assistance?

Daily Post Staff Writer

Renters who will be evicted from the Hotel President told the Palo Alto City Council last night (Sept. 10) that the housing crisis has become so extreme that even those who make above $93,100 a year should receive extra financial assistance when they lose their homes.

Council on Aug. 28 passed a resolution calling for the building’s owner to pay $7,000 in relocation assistance to any tenant who makes less than $93,100 a year, the median income for Santa Clara County.

Those who make more than the median income will only get the $3,000 that landlord AJ Capital offered all of the evicted tenants when it bought the building at 488 University Ave.

A number of speakers at last night’s meeting said there should be no income qualification or “means test” for tenants who face eviction on Nov. 12.

Council decided to hold a hearing on the issue next Monday (Sept. 17).

The Aug. 28 resolution appeared last night on council’s consent calendar, where a number of routine items are grouped together and voted upon at the same time without a debate.

But council members Tom DuBois, Eric Filseth, Karen Holman, Lydia Kou and Cory Wolbach voted to reopen the hearing on the ordinance. That would have allowed council to remove the income qualification from the ordinance so all tenants could get the $7,000 payment.

Debate about the timing

City Manager Jim Keene suggested council revisit the issue on Oct. 15. He noted that normally, he expects council to let him know in advance if they intend to pull an item off the consent calendar so that he and other city employees can prepare for an extra hearing.

Keene also wanted to delay the item until it was properly publicized for those who might want to attend the meeting to comment on significant changes that could be made to the ordinance.

DuBois admitted that he should have let Keene know that he intended to pull the item, but said it would be more efficient to hold the hearing last night, rather than have a long presentation to review the issue at a later meeting.

Councilman Adrian Fine asked to have the item heard last night because of the urgency. Even if the council approved the ordinance on Oct. 15, the council would have to approve it a second time on Oct. 29. That’s only two weeks before the tenants’ eviction deadline of Nov. 12.

‘Catch and kill’

Even former Mayor Pat Burt stepped up to the microphone and urged council to discuss the ordinance last night, to applause from the audience.

“It will be perceived to be what we can call here ‘catch and kill’ legislation if we delay it. Anyone who thinks that the public and the press will not see through this is mistaken,” Burt said. “This is a political decision that’s being made and I encourage you to make the right one that won’t come back and bite you.”

Mary Reardon, a high school teacher on a yearlong leave of absence from the Palo Alto school district, pleaded with council to expand the eviction assistance to all tenants and described her plight facing eviction from the Hotel President as a middle-class earner.

Reardon said she’s found four Palo Alto apartments that cost less than $2,000 a month, but that a wealthier friend has already rented one for $1,800 — though he only intends to stay there two nights a week as a “crash pad.”

“He has an apartment in San Francisco that he is keeping, but is also renting an apartment here because he works on University Avenue,” Reardon said. “We can’t compete with people who are making $400,000 or $500,000.”

After more than a dozen other tenants and advocates complained at the microphone, Keene gave in and agreed to reschedule a study session on airplane noise scheduled for next Monday and revisit the eviction assistance ordinance then instead of the Oct. 15 date he had suggested.

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