A city known for its advocacy of tenants’ rights, Santa Monica might have a new ordinance regulating landlords who make it difficult for a tenant to participate in the local politics and the public process.
Specifically, the City Council will be voting on an ordinance at its meeting tonight to amend Santa Monica’s relocation ordinance to make it illegal for landlords to enter into agreements with their respective tenants requiring the latter to not participate in the public process or petition the government in exchange for payment of a relocation fee.
The ordinance also proposes to void any such agreements already in place.
“The proposed ordinance prohibits landlords from making agreements with their tenants that prohibit or limit tenants from participating in the City’s public process. The primary purposes of this rule are to protect the City’s public process and to protect Santa Monica residents’ right to petition their government,” City staff stated.
City staff added there were two instances involving a Santa Monica landlord attempting to make or enforce a relocation agreement preventing a tenant from participating in the public process or petitioning the government.
The first occurrence involved a landlord with a proposed development project who had “obtained from tenants agreements which contained a ‘non-opposition’ term,” according to City Hall.
“The term prohibited tenants from speaking against the development project at any City meeting. After intervention by the City Attorney’s Office, the landlord agreed that the prohibition would not be enforced,” City staff stated.
A second instance occurred, according to City staff, when a landlord and company allegedly “circulated a similar agreement among its tenants.”
None of the agreements were signed, according to staff, as City Hall and the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) had intervened in the matter.
The Rent Board and City Attorney’s office would work together in conducting outreach and education (Rent Board) and enforcing the new law (City Attorney), if approved by the council.
Council members will also vote on whether the City should adopt the 2013-21 Housing Element. The planning document outlines the next eight years of housing development, improvement, and preservation. It serves as a key document setting forth Santa Monica’s policies and programs for housing production and maintenance to accommodate the needs of the community.
The council will also be weighing in on whether to enter into an exclusive negotiating agreement with a team of developers to develop the City-owned site between Fourth and Fifth Streets near Arizona Avenue. According to City staff, the developers under consideration are Metropolitan Pacific Capital, Clarett West, and DLJ West Capital (the “Metro Pacific” team).
On the consent calendar, council members will be voting on the Child Care Linkage Program annual report and a contract modification for design services at the Pico Branch Library.
Tonight’s council meeting is the last one for 2013. The council traditionally cancels its second December meeting. This year’s second meeting of the month was scheduled for Dec. 24.