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San Diego County Passes “Just Cause” Eviction and Rent Increase Moratorium Ordinance
By Julie Paule

In a surprise move, the new liberal majority of the San Diego Board of Supervisors passed a “Just Cause” eviction ordinance and a rent increase moratorium on all rentals throughout the entire county, including incorporated cities. It’s a bold shift in a county that was once thought to be a landlords’ paradise.

Initially introduced as an urgency ordinance to take effect immediately, the proposed ordinance was drafted to prohibit nearly all evictions until the county reached a low COVID-19 risk level in the governor’s tier system and prohibited rent increases over the Consumer Price Index until July 1. It failed to receive the four votes urgent matters require and became simple legislation. Also, during the initial hearing, the governor announced he was sunsetting the colored tier system. The proposed law was amended to sunset 60 days after the governor’s stay-at-home orders end and was adopted as regular legislation requiring a second hearing and to take effect 30 days after the second hearing, on June 3. The orders were lifted, as expected, on June 15, so the just cause language will end in mid-August, and the rent increase moratorium will be in effect for 27 days.

WMA argued the ordinance was confusing, unnecessary and mobilehome parks should receive an exemption. Mobilehome parks already have “just cause” eviction protections in the Mobilehome Residency Law (MRL), and San Diego County has a network of local rent control ordinances and long-term leases providing low, predictable rent increases for mobilehome residents. This ordinance is confusing and difficult to apply to mobilehome parks.

Housing and rental housing advocates were blindsided by the proposal. The agenda was released to the public on Good Friday, before a holiday weekend. It was obvious at the first hearing that the tenant groups had been given a heads-up, and the author admitted that legal aid and tenants’ groups wrote her proposed law. They had over 200 speakers at the first hearing, mostly in favor of passage. The second hearing was a 14-hour marathon with 400 speakers and 700 eComments submitted to the board favoring property owners. However, the die had been cast; the original three supportive supervisors continued to support the ordinance, and it passed its second reading.

The Rental Housing Association of Southern California has filed a federal lawsuit against the county, citing the legal deficiencies of the ordinance. effect. The Alliance of California Community Empowerment Action (ACCE), San Diego Legal Aid Society and the Western Center on Law and Poverty have petitioned to serve as an intervenor for the lawsuit, citing that they are the originators and authors of the legislation. The California Apartment Association has filed a separate lawsuit against the county in state court.

WMA will keep all San Diego parkowners apprised of the fate of this unfair ordinance and the litigation surrounding it.

Julie Paule is WMA’s Regional Representative for San Diego/Orange/Riverside/Imperial. She can be reached at julie@pauleconsulting.com

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