Eviction, rent cap ordinance advances after power play by councilman

Palo Alto Councilman Greg Tanaka. File photo.
Palo Alto Councilman Greg Tanaka. File photo.

BY SARA TABIN
Daily Post Staff Writer

An ordinance to stop unjust evictions and rent hikes in Palo Alto will go into effect a week later than planned because Councilman Greg Tanaka wouldn’t support passing it yesterday (Dec. 2) with just one vote of council.

The ordinance was supposed to pass last night on an urgency basis, meaning it would take effect immediately. But for an ordinance to pass on an urgency basis, it needs to be approved by a supermajority of the seven-member council, or six of the seven.

However, Councilwoman Liz Kniss recused herself from the vote. That mean it would require a unanimous vote of the six remaining council members to pass on an urgency basis.

That allowed Tanaka, who is often the odd-man-out on council, to withhold his vote until his demands were met by the others.

Tanaka asked that the ordinance receive more advance notice from the city, and that it return for final approval next Monday on council’s consent calendar, when several routine items are voted upon in one fell swoop.

The ordinance, put forth by council members Tom DuBois and Lydia Kou, was intended to deal with the unintended consequences of a new state law that caps rent increases. The fear is that landlords will evict tenants or raise their rents before the law goes into effect on Jan. 1.

Tanaka said he doesn’t think people have had enough time to learn about the ordinance.

Redwood City and Menlo park have already passed similar laws.

Councilwoman Alison Cormack said she has gotten emails about it from people who don’t normally reach out to council, which makes her think people who are affected by the law are paying attention.

Vice Mayor Adrian Fine voted in favor of the ordinance, but lashed out at Kou and DuBois for their record on housing. He told them to “get with the program” by building more housing.

“You two have repeatedly failed to support housing in this city,” he said. “That’s the truth of it.”

Cormack said she was in favor of the ordinance because she has heard from at least one person who fears they will be evicted before January without it.

She said she didn’t think the ordinance would harm anyone.

Cormack said 57% of Palo Altans voted against rent control under Prop 10. She said she views the ordinance as a “band-aid solution” to unintended consequences of the state law.

Mayor Eric Filseth said rent control is controversial, but it will soon be law of the land. He said he didn’t see the ordinance doing a lot of harm in its short duration. Filseth said he doesn’t think a lot of landlords will kick out good tenants in the next month just to get a little more rent, but that it is possible.

Supporters of the state law call it “rent caps,” not rent control.

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