At last night’s City Council meeting (video, agenda), the Santa Monica City Council unanimously approved a motion by Councilmembers Caroline Torosis and Jesse Zwick along with Mayor Gleam Davis that could lead to stronger protections for renters in both the short and long terms. Roughly 70% of Santa Monica residents are renters.
Councilmembers and members of the public provided several examples of why greater protections are needed now than ever, including that evictions filed at the Los Angeles Superior Court have over doubled between June 2020 and June 2023.
“I moved to this city because I feel like this city prides itself on protecting everyone,” stated Torosis. ”I realized the last couple of months we’re falling behind (on providing renter protections).”
In the short-term, the motion calls for the city manager to create a motion for the council to consider that:
- Limits eviction for non-payment if someone is less than one month behind,
- Requires relocation assistance from landlords if renter has to leave as a result of a large rent increase,
- A requirement that any buyout agreement includes relocation assistance.
“I’m glad that we’re thinking about ways that we can support people who have fallen on hard times,” commented Councilmember Oscar de la Torre. De la Torre wanted to go farther and pondered whether or not the city should look into creating an emergency fund for people receiving eviction notices.
Ultimately, De la Torre’s suggestion was included as a friendly amendment in the final text of the motion for the long-term study by staff. The study will include an examination of creation of an eviction protection fund that could examine short-term assistance and legal fee assistance.
The report also calls on staff to study the costs and needs for a “right to counsel” for renters facing eviction and what funding would be needed for the city to have greater enforcement of its existing rental protections.
As was noted repeatedly throughout the debate, none of the protections discussed are new to Southern California communities but are an example of Santa Monica learning from best practices in other cities. Nevertheless, all of the members on the dais expressed support for Santa Monica leading on rental protection.
“Santa Monica should always be a leader on protecting its renters,” concluded Zwick.