Pictured: Ventura residents on Dec. 2, asking the Ventura City Council to pass an emergency ordinance prohibiting no-cause evictions. Photo by Lucas Zucker

by Kimberly Rivers

krivers@timespublications.com

On Monday, Dec. 2, the Ventura City Council unanimously approved an emergency ordinance banning no-fault evictions between now and Jan. 1, 2020, when AB1482, deemed The Tenant Protection Act, takes effect.

“The council directed my office to prepare an emergency ordinance,” said Gregory Diaz, Ventura City Attorney on Monday night at the public meeting. That direction came as a result of the Nov. 18 meeting, when several speakers reported evictions and fear of potential evictions.

Diaz said the intention is to “protect innocent tenants evicted as a result of statewide rent control regulations.” The new city ordinance only allows “evictions for just cause,” Diaz said, such as failure to pay rent or violating terms of the rental agreement, and sunsets when the state law takes effect.

AB1482 includes limits on allowable increases in rent. Clusters of recent evictions are being attributed to an attempt by some landlords to clear out rental units to set new higher rents.

On Dec. 2, the only public speaker opposed to the action was Jorge DeLeon with the Ventura County Coastal Association of Realtors. He said an informal survey revealed that “approximately eight properties were given notices of eviction because of AB1482,” which didn’t create the need for a “knee-jerk reaction,” and that it “sets a bad precedence” by responding to something that is “not necessarily happening in our community.” 

In addition, Diaz pointed out a potential pathway for tenants who have already received no-cause notices to vacate to utilize the new ordinance to fight the evictions and stay in their homes.

“Clearly [the ordinance] would apply to anyone that would receive a notice or have an eviction filed in court tomorrow,” said Diaz, because the emergency rules take effect immediately. But he said in cases where a tenant has already received a notice — before Dec. 2 — that has not yet been filed in court, it is an “unsettled matter of law” as to whether the new emergency ordinance applies. He said tenants in that situation should “get a certified copy of this ordinance,” and that it is “certainly worth raising that to a court down the line.”

Diaz included the recent evictions of all tenants at 1313 Buena Vista St. in Ventura as evidence of the need for the emergency ordinance. Tenants were given 90-day notices to vacate due to extensive construction for necessary upgrades. Diaz said the 13-unit building had “some violations . . . we believe the work can be performed safely on the property without requiring the tenants to move out.” He also said that the city has started a “code enforcement case,” but the city has not yet “red tagged” the building, i.e., deemed it unsafe to live in.

“I do not agree with that opinion,” said Steven Snyder, owner of Oaktree Property Management that manages the building at 1313 Buena Vista, speaking to the VCReporter by phone on Dec. 3. He noted that numerous improvements were needed to upgrade the building, which was built in 1926. “We have to break out all the walls, run new electrical. All new windows. Remove the roof that is over the garage . . . [install] hard wired smoke detectors. . . . [The inspector] didn’t like the wiring, even though it is to code. It’s old knob and tube, he didn’t like the condition.”

Snyder declined to give the name of the electrical inspector. “He told me he was going to red tag the building,” which would mean it would have to be immediately vacated. “[The inspector] gave me a week to come up with a plan to get the work done.” Snyder sent word to the city that he could have the building vacated by the end of January so that all of the work could be done. “[The city] never really responded, they backed off . . . didn’t serve any notices. I thought we had an agreement.”

As of Dec. 3, half of the building is vacated and Snyder says that most tenants “understand; they are not happy, but they understand.” He said that prior to the city’s action on Dec. 2, only one tenant said they weren’t going to move; after the meeting, one other tenant said they were not going to move.

“I don’t think what the city has done is legal,” Snyder said, adding that Oaktree Property Management gave out notices to vacate over a month ago. “I don’t see how the city thinks that [the tenants] can live there . . . in the middle of a construction zone, I don’t think it will be safe . . . This is not a situation of asking people to move so we can remodel and get more rent.”