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Volume 15, Issue 45  | June 6, 2023Subscribe

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Committee discusses potential urgency eviction ordinance, aims to add issue to official workplan


A city committee this week discussed a potential urgency eviction ordinance and ultimately agreed to add it to their official workplan.

The Housing and Human Services Committee tackled the topic during their Wednesday (Feb. 22) meeting.

There was unanimous agreement among the five committee members present to add it to the workplan and discuss it in more detail for potential future action at their April meeting (when the recently appointed new committee members will be on board).

“I personally feel like this is something that absolutely falls under our purview,” said HHSC Chair Ketta Brown. “We will move forward on this.” 

It was placed on the agenda after residents spoke during public comment at the committee’s January 25 meeting and brought the issue to the attention of the committee, she noted. 

At the January 25 HHSC meeting, long-term Laguna Beach renters Tanya Yacina and Kathrin Holt spoke about being evicted so that the property owner could increase rents. They mentioned the California Tenant Protection Act and suggested that Laguna Beach adopt an urgency ordinance or eviction moratorium, similar to what other cities have enacted.

Yacina noted that it likely won’t happen fast enough to help them, but it’s not an uncommon problem and could benefit others. 

“It’s a problem that we’ve noticed around town, especially because we’re in the situation,” she said. “I’m being priced out of Laguna Beach.”

The Tenant Protection Act is meant to protect renters from unjust evictions and unfair rent increases. Under TPA, a landlord must have a valid reason to evict a tenant. As outlined in the act, these reasons include if the tenant is at fault, like not paying rent or breaking the lease terms, and if the tenant is not at fault, like an owner or relative move in (if the lease allows), selling the property, or to demolish or substantially remodel a unit.

Although there are some loopholes, Holt said at last month’s meeting, including that there’s no watchdog to ensure the landlord’s reasons are accurate. Some jurisdictions in California have taken it upon themselves to create urgency ordinances or moratoriums to help protect tenants from landlords that are being untruthful, she added. For example, if a landlord claims substantial renovation as the reason, a city could require that landlords not issue eviction notices until permits have actually been submitted. Other cities have removed the substantial remodel as a just cause.

She’s also heard of similar eviction situations, added committee member Gail Duncan at this week’s meeting, and the rent is essentially doubled. 

Committee member Barbara McMurray noted a current local example where an elderly property owner may soon want to sell the complex, which could potentially displace nearly two dozen people. 

“Instead of pulling people out of the water as they’re drowning, let’s go upstream and make sure that everybody knows how to swim or that we can give everyone a life preserver,” McMurray said. “So that it doesn’t come to an eviction situation.”

Part of the discussion should include how they can incentivize landlords or property owners, and/or work hand-in-hand with the city and a private developer to ensure that current residents can stay in place, she said.

“We need to take a 30,000-foot view of this whole problem and come up with some kind of a potential remedy that’s part and parcel of what we’re going to discuss,” McMurray said. 

Committee discusses potential urgency eviction city houses

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

The committee discussed a potential urgency ordinance in response to renters reportedly being evicted and priced out of Laguna Beach

At the January meeting, due to the Brown Act, the committee could not discuss the topic at length because it was not agendized, explained Housing Program Coordinator Jennifer Savage at this week’s meeting. 

Although there is a provision within the Brown Act that allows the committee to add an urgency or emergency item if certain findings are met, Savage added. City staff can facilitate Brown Act training when the new members start so, if an emergency item comes up, they will know the process.

In order for the committee to take any action, including making a recommendation to the City Council or providing direction for staff, the issue needs to be part of the HHSC workplan, Savage said.

The workplan details the committee member duties and it’s approved by council. 

The workplan won’t be finalized until the committee’s April meeting, Brown noted, in order to allow the new members to contribute.

“That means we have some wiggle room,” she said.

Other cities already have ordinances in place that could act as a template for Laguna Beach, Brown pointed out. 

“I’ll be happy to dig around,” and look into other eviction moratorium and urgency ordinances, Brown said, since this falls under the purview of the Affordable Housing and Housing Element Action Plan subcommittee. 

“Then if we do decide, if the City Council will allow us to have this on our workplan, then we would have some of the footwork already done,” she said. 

Later in the meeting, the committee heard a presentation of the draft Annual Progress Report.

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The city recently finished the draft Housing Element Annual Progress Report for 2022, said Senior Planner Anthony Viera. They completed the task a bit early this year, he noted. 

“We thought we would go ahead and share that draft for the committee as a check-in, of sorts, on where we stand with our housing production.”

The APR is part of the annual reporting requirement to the state. It’s due to the state and the city legislative body (city council) by April 1.

It does a few things, Viera said. It’s a report on the city’s annual building permit activity for new housing units, it helps the city track satisfying the regional housing needs for allocation, and it identifies progress and implementation of the housing element programs.

This is the first year reporting on the city’s newly certified sixth cycle housing element, Viera noted, which covers the 2021-2029 planning period. For this RHNA cycle, the city is planning for 394 new housing units across a few different income categories.

In 2022, the city saw permits issued for 76 new housing units, all in the above-moderate income category. For this category, the city has to plan for 117 units over the eight-year cycle. 

“So we’re almost at the finish line with this one,” Viera said. 

Of the 76 new units, 64 are accessory dwelling units (the others were single family), Viera noted. 

It’s also notable that during the previous cycle statistics the city issued permits for 134 units over four years.

“So to have 76 new housing units in one year is really an eye-opening statistic for us,” Viera said. “A lot of that comes down to the ADUs and just having a new housing type that can be introduced to the community.”

Committee Vice Chair Cody Engle referred to a table in the report that lists permits issued in each affordability category compared to the RHNA allocation numbers for each category. That says it all, he commented.

“The reality is…394 units (RHNA total), we’ve almost met the 117 (above-moderate allocation) and zero on everything else,” Engle said. 

The city was previously able to take credit for ADUs as “moderate income” units, Viera explained, they were considered moderate by design. The city was able to demonstrate that with real estate reports that those units were being rented at moderate-income levels. 

“That’s no longer the case just based on the market reality today,” Viera noted. 

Committee members also discussed how ADUs could be built to be placed in other affordability categories and how to use program or grant funds to develop affordable housing. They also commented on what the different affordability categories mean and how units qualify for each category.


Sara Hall covers City Hall and is a regular contributor to Stu News Laguna.

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