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September 18, 2021

City asking Council to dump local eviction moratorium, defer to state leaders

WATSONVILLE—The City of Watsonville on Tuesday will ask the City Council to allow its moratorium on evictions to expire at the end of the month, and instead defer to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide executive order and protections put in place by California’s Judicial Council.

The local moratorium was approved by the council on March 23, and Newsom issued a statewide ban on evictions days later. That order will also expire at the end of the month, but rules adopted by the state’s Judicial Council will effectively halt most evictions until 90 days after Newsom lifts the state of emergency related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Those protections were enough to convince most members of the so-called Eviction Moratorium Housing Taskforce to not recommend the city pursue an extension. Instead, the task force suggested city leaders follow state guidelines, pursue and support state and federal funding and programs to help tenants, landlords and property owners and increase its outreach to educate residents of their rights.

The task force has also recommended the council adopt the Safe At Home Guidelines for residential and commercial landlords through the end of August. Those guidelines encourage landlords to freeze rents, halt evictions, waive late fees, offer flexible repayment plans and help their tenants find government assistance, among other things. Tenants, meanwhile, are expected to continue to pay as much as they can if their income has been slashed due to the pandemic.

The meeting will start at 1pm.

To follow along with or participate in the meeting visit https://bit.ly/3d3Nmu9 or dial 1-872-240-3311 and enter access code 161-750-077.

To submit written comments visit https://bit.ly/2LWJ8bN

The city’s moratorium was approved by the council to protect renters that had fallen into financial or medical instability because of Covid-19. That included those who had contracted the disease, had been laid off of work or were losing income because of the statewide stay-at-home order or were forced to take care of a family member deemed high-risk of severe illness.

That decision drew the ire of landlords throughout the city, many of which said they were caught off guard by the decision and were not consulted about how the move would affect their business. The city created the task force shortly after to deal with those concerns.

The members of the taskforce are:

• Bill Hansen (Pacific Coast Development)

• Raeid Farhat (Raeid Farhat Real Estate)

• Lynette Sousa (Maciel Property Management)

• Kathy Oliver (Oliver Property Management)

• Ben Ow (Ow Family)

• Ed Gagne (Bailey Properties)

• Rick Danna (Bailey Properties)

• Dana Sales (Century 21)

• Victor Gomez (SCCAR)

• Jane Barr (Eden Housing)

• Luis Preciado (MidPen Housing)

• Henry Martin (Watsonville Law Center)

• Mia Murietta (CRLA) 

• Paz Padilla (Community Action Board)

• Melisa Vierra (Families in Transition)

• Laura Owen (Bay Federal)

• Diana Vargas (Wells Fargo)

The taskforce did not entirely agree that the eviction moratorium should be allowed to expire, but understood that the city would not be allowed to extend the ban if Newsom did not issue an extension at the state level. It is unclear whether the Governor will allow the statewide ban to expire.

Many local landlords—both private and nonprofit—said at least 95 percent of their tenants were able to pay rent in April and May. Still, tenant advocates worried some of the city’s most vulnerable renters would be at risk if the protections expired.

Property owners argue an extension would impinge on their constitutional rights, and that the city should instead throw its support behind government assistance such as the $3 trillion HEROES Act, Senate Bill 1410 and Assembly Bill 828

The HEROES Act would provide a 12-month moratorium on evictions, among other things. SB 1410, meanwhile, would help renters by covering 80 percent of unpaid rent directly attributable to the pandemic. AB 828 seeks to strengthen the Judicial Council’s rules on evictions.

Tony Nuñez
Managing Editor Tony Nuñez is a longtime member of the Watsonville community who served as Sports Editor for five years before entering his current role in 2019. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College and San Jose State University alumnus, he covers the city, business, housing, entertainment and more.

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