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Placeholder Image photo credit: Noah Abrams/KRCB
Sonoma County Tenants Union poster outside Petaluma city hall.

Following months of back and forth, Petaluma has made permanent a set of temporary renter protections. 

Tenants holding orange posters and landlords donning green stickers descended on city hall as the Petaluma city council voted on the permanent rules.

Among the many commenters was community health worker Carol West.

"Safe, secure housing is a public health issue," West said. "Please think of the people you love and care for when you cast your vote."

Though the new regulations are pared back from the interim rules adopted last year, David Marshall, a housing attorney with Sonoma County Legal Aid said they are still meaningful.

"It does not radically change the dynamics of the local housing market, but instead provides a range of reasonable common sense protections for residential tenants," Marshall said. "One of the most significant provisions of the bill is also one of the least burdensome, which requires that landlords provide tenants with a notice of their rights under the ordinance."

Local real estate agent Clayton Engstrom said he believes the tenant protections don’t address the main issue.

"The policy before you tonight will not lower the cost of housing giving relief to tenants," Engstrom said. "The policy raises the cost of providing rental housing. Tenants buyouts [and] relocation fees will add cost to provide housing. Litigation will add to the cost of rent."

Among the new rules: protections will take effect on day one of occupancy; and evicted tenants will have the right of return should the rental go back on the market within 6 months if they are forced out under any of three “no-fault” scenarios.

Those are: a major unit remodel, withdrawal from the rental market with the intent to sell, or owner or family occupancy.

Small property owners who rent out three or fewer units are exempted from Petaluma's tenant protection rules.

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