Pictured: Ventura residents, some recently received notice to vacate/no-fault eviction notices, at the Nov. 18, 2019, meeting of the Ventura City Council to ask for an emergency moratorium on no-fault evictions. Photo by Lucas Zucker.

by Kimberly Rivers

krivers@timespublications.com

On Monday, Nov. 18, the Ventura City Council directed staff to prepare language for an emergency moratorium on no-fault evictions. The action was in response to public comments regarding a string of evictions received by Ventura renters.

“I’m convinced the law is on the city’s side,” said Gregory Diaz, Ventura City Attorney. He pointed out that he has written a similar ordinance requiring “just cause” for evictions before and the research is already complete. “The only thing I need to do is add the emergency findings . . . It would take effect immediately. I’m willing as city attorney to indicate increasing the potential for homeless individuals . . . does create both a public safety and a public health risk to the community.”

Diaz told the VCReporter that a moratorium passed would not apply to eviction notices already received by tenants. “Any evictions started after the City Council takes action, which are not for cause as will be listed in the ordinance, would be subject to successful legal challenge by the tenants.”

We are “seeing a lot of tenants being evicted” without cause, said Matt Bello, a Ventura resident. Bello asked the council to be proactive on this issue, and cited several other cities in the state that have passed eviction moratoriums. “I’m a resident and a landlord, and consider myself a fair and honest landlord. I wouldn’t consider displacing someone ever.”

The no-fault evictions are occurring in the wake of the passage of the Tenant Protection Act of 2019, AB1482, that will take effect on Jan. 1, 2020. The new law, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Oct. 8, includes a cap for rent increases and eliminates no-fault evictions. The new law seems to be having the unintended consequence of prompting some landlords to evict tenants so that they can raise the base rent for units in 2020.

About 20 people attended the Monday night meeting to shed light on the no-fault eviction issue. They were holding orange signs that read “Stop Evictions Now.” Only a few stayed until public comments were heard, around 11 p.m. Several submitted written comments.

“It will protect a lot of your citizens that will fall into homelessness,” said Liz Campos, a Ventura resident. “A lot of the people who wrote comments are already being evicted.”

“46 percent of [the] population in Ventura is renters,” said Lucas Zucker, a Ventura resident and member of the city planning commission. He said the moratorium is “a good opportunity for our city to do the right thing.”

Following public comment Councilmember Lorrie Brown asked if staff could research the issue to determine if it is “actually an issue in the city of Ventura.”

Diaz responded with a yes, and said council would need to approve a motion directing staff to proceed. He pointed out that since only six council members were present (Eric Nasarenko was absent) the vote would need to be unanimous.

Brown explained that she felt “if there was more information it would be easier to make a decision,” about a moratorium. She cited a recent news article (VCReporter, Nov. 14, “A Rotten Market”), saying “it mentioned one of the two major property management” companies in the area, but that “It did not say how many tenants.”

Council member Sofia Rubalcava made the motion to direct staff to move forward with preparing the moratorium, Christy Weir seconded. All present voted in favor, a six/zero vote, with Nasarenko absent. The issue will be voted on at the council’s Dec. 2 meeting at 6 p.m. at Ventura City Hall.