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Following much talk and deliberation, rent control has won approval in Petaluma. 

Sought for many years, temporary protections and brief eviction moratoriums due to COVID-19 seem to invigorate a push for a permanent ordinance helping balance the landlord-tenant relationship.

The local protections, which benefit tenants more than statewide regulations, were approved 4-2, with council members Mike Healy and Karen Nau opposed. Mayor Kevin McDonnell recused himself from the vote.

Officials had been refining the new ordinance for several months.

Eric Danly is Petaluma's city attorney.

"One of the most significant amendments is that they require payment of relocation assistance to tenants displaced for no fault/just causes of up to two hundred and fifty percent of the last month's rent or nine thousand dollars, whichever is less," Danly said.

Council member Healy expressed some reservations, saying the help shouldn't be universal, but only go to those in need. 

"People who are renting, especially single family detached houses in this town are not necessarily low income or in need of relocation assistance," Healy said. "I would suggest that we means test it at 120 percent of area median income, anyone less that that could get what's in here, and I think anyone above that really don't need that level of assistance," Healy continued.

According to Fannie Mae, 120 percent of AMI in Petaluma is just over $135,000 annually.

Council member Brian Barnacle said setting an income limit could result in unintended consequences.

"My concern would be that, if we draw a line around the income, or create that sort of a threshold, that that creates a pretty strong disincentive to rent to people that are making below a hundred and twenty percent of AMI, because you're now subject to it."

Other differences from state law: no waiting period---the ordinance applies the day a lease is signed.



And tenants relocated in a no-fault eviction gain a right of first refusal if the unit is offered for rent within six months.

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