Santa Barbara moves to create task force to settle rental disputes

City Council passes motions after marathon meeting

Marathon meeting over tenant protections leads to enhanced mediation and possible task force

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The Santa Barbara City Council listened to five hours of public comments debating tenant protection measures on Tuesday night.

Renters rallied on the steps of city hall before the meeting and said they want more rights.

"What we have been addressing is the gentrification, the pushing out, especially of communities that have been here awhile," said Frank Rodriguez of the Central Coast Alliance United For A Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) .

Renters said gentrification is leading to no cause rather than just cause evictions. They would like to see landlords offer relocation assistance.

Council member Jason Dominguez said he could relate as a renter, but he said he saw problems with rent control first hand when he lived in Berkeley.

Mayor Helene Schneider said she had two landlords before she was able to buy a home. She said she saw the need for leases and rental agreements written in both Spanish and English. 

Dozens of landlords told council members they do not want government regulations to interfere with market forces.

They said the problems come down to supply and demand.

Van Spalding said he owns one rental property. "I think it will be harmful to property owners and tenants, property owners won't have incentive to keep up properties, they will just be trying to skid by on what income they can make," said Spalding.

A landlord who owns property in Michigan and Santa Barbara said there isn't much room for profit due to the high cost of land along the coast of California.

"People like me are retired and want to live here and are willing to invest and if I look at the return I earn here it is terrible compared to what I earn in Michigan. Don't kill the golden goose is what I would recommend," said Tom Christensen.

The Santa Barbara City Council voted on two motions after taking a brief break around 11 p.m.

Cathy Murrillo said she was upset the council took rent control off the table, but she joined the others in a unanimous vote to ask city staff to find ways to enhance mediation.

Council member Gregg Harts introduced a motion to create a task force to address mandatory leases and multi-family rental unit safety inspections. At first the motion went nowhere, but then it was seconded and passed by a five-to-two vote.

"The motion was to have a task force of landlords and tenants to take a look at those issues and really figure out a way to address the issues that we talked about tonight at the community meeting," said Hart.

More community meetings will be held once city staff members return with mediation and task force recommendations.

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