This week Petaluma’s city council meeting stretched late into the night over a contentious tenant protection ordinance.
Aiming to have tenant protections in place before county-wide eviction bans expire, Petaluma took up discussion of a new ordinance on short notice, prompting a flood of public comments.
The proposed regulations addressed a number of aspects of tenant rights outlined in state law - going beyond what is already mandated by the 1985 Ellis Act and 2019’s Tenant Protection Act.
Keith Becker reflected the feelings of many landlords and property managers objecting to what they said is an overreach of city policy.
"If you pass an ordinance like this, you will not have small investors." Becker said. "You will only have large corporations and hedge funds who will be willing to invest in Petaluma for single family residences, because they are the only ones who are prepared to commit."
The local law offers things like moving assistance equal to 100% of a months rent if a tenant is evicted by the withdrawal of a property from the rental market - even more if the displaced tenant is low-income, elderly, or disabled.
Diana Kingsbury, a tenant organizer, implored the council to adopt the additional protections.
"I've heard from a lot of tenants about a lot of issues that they're afraid to even bring up to their landlord because there's that ever present threat of eviction." Kingsbury said. "Tenants are the ones that are paying the landlord's mortgages with their own hard earned wages."
Council member Mike Healy expressed concerns the local tenant laws are what he called “well intentioned, but…misguided”
"We just saw a draft housing element that is highly reliant in part on encouraging folks to build ADU's and junior ADU's on their properties." Healy said. "And I think we just blew up that provision of our housing element if this moves forward."
By a 4-2 vote, Petaluma adopted the new rules on an emergency basis until March of 2023, with the aim of work shopping the regulations with the public before permanent adoption.