This story has been an updated.
A growing number of cities across Orange County have adopted temporary bans on evictions due to the economic fallout of the state’s stay at home order — which shut down large swaths of the economy — to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Editor’s Note: As Orange County’s only nonprofit & nonpartisan newsroom, Voice of OC brings you the best, most comprehensive local Coronavirus news absolutely free. No ads, no paywalls. We need your help. Please, click here to make a tax-deductible donation today to support your local news.
Anaheim and Costa Mesa on Tuesday temporarily banned evictions to help provide some relief to residents and businesses economically suffering from the stay home order.
Instead of forcing landlords to comply through an ordinance, Irvine adopted a resolution urging landlords to voluntarily halt evictions during the state-mandated stay home order to combat the pandemic.
Garden Grove adopted a state of emergency resolution and a portion of it mirrors Gov. Gavin Newsom’s emergency declaration that allows cities to adopt eviction bans. However, the city didn’t adopt an ordinance explicitly banning evictions stemming from virus-related economic hardship.
Tuesday’s votes by the three city councils comes on the heels of Santa Ana’s eviction moratorium last week — the first in OC.
Gov. Newsom’s indefinite stay at home order issued last week put many people out of work across the state because it closed down “non-essential” businesses like bars, nightclubs, gyms, concert venues, hotels and scores of service industry businesses.
Unemployment claims hit an average of 106,000 a day for the past week, said Newsom at a Monday news conference, according to SFGate.
Residents and businesses in Anaheim and Costa Mesa will have to provide basic documentation to their landlords showing state-mandated business closures hampered their rent payments before rent is due.
Anaheim’s Eviction Moratorium
Anaheim residents and businesses will have eviction protections until at least May 31 after a series of amendments to the original ban, including specifically adding nonprofit businesses to the list.
Despite philosophical and political differences on the Anaheim City Council, Tuesday marked a rare moment when Councilmembers unanimously adopted an emergency ordinance barring evictions, making it effective immediately.
“In my core philosophy I’m a property rights guy,” Mayor Harry Sidhu said. “But this situation we are dealing with is unprecedented … We need to stop evictions for residents who are, during the crisis, struggling to pay the rent.”
Sidhu, who brought the eviction ban to the council, extended the original repayment time from three months to four months. The ordinance also forbids penalties and fees for back rent payments.
Although the ban was originally going to expire April 30, Councilman Jose Moreno got unanimous support to extend the sunset to May 31. And he unsuccessfully tried to extend the rent repayment period from four months to six months to lessen the monthly back rent burden of residents and businesses.
“The intent here is to protect residents today, but we also want to be thinking ahead,” Moreno told his Council colleagues.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates there are roughly 100,000 households in OC’s largest city, which is home to about 352,000 people. Anaheim’s median household income is just under $70,000 and 15 percent of its residents live in poverty, according to the bureau.
The Census Bureau considers a four-person family in poverty if the household makes just under $26,000 a year. A single person is considered in poverty if they make $13,300 or less yearly.
Councilman Trevor O’Neil raised issues about the impact to property owners, many of whom aren’t big corporations that have large financial portfolios to fall back on, but individuals who own a property or two, he said.
“I do agree that stabilizing the rental markets is critical,” O’Neil said. “I do though have concerns about the impact of breaking a link in the chain where a property owner … still has financial obligations that have to be met.”
He said those obligations include other jobs, like groundskeepers, landscapers and maintenance workers.
Deputy City Manager Greg Garcia, responding to O’Neil’s concerns, said they’ve been tracking state and federal efforts for property owner relief, but didn’t have anything solid the city can do.
“Unfortunately, I don’t have a great answer for you right now,” Garcia said.
Costa Mesa’s Eviction Ban
Costa Mesa also temporarily banned evictions for residents and businesses suffering the economic fallout from waves of business closures in the wake of Gov. Newsom’s stay home order to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The City Council voted 5-2 to adopt the emergency ordinance at Tuesday’s special meeting with Councilmembers Alan Mansoor and Sandra Genis dissenting.
Like Anaheim, Costa Mesa’s ordinance will be effective immediately.
“We’re not taking into consideration the landlord’s mortgage, if they’re not receiving rent, how do they pay their mortgage? Are they going to fall behind on their payments? Are they going to go into foreclosure? Not everybody is the Irvine company. There are mom and pop owners,” Mansoor said.
Genis opposed the ban because she said the ordinance could put a burden on “mom and pop landlords” who are also senior citizens.
“We’re pulling the rug out from under them,” Genis said.
Costa Mesa’s eviction ban lasts until Gov. Newsom’s state of emergency executive order is lifted and residents will have four months to pay back rent without fees or penalties.
Mayor Katrina Foley said the city must provide a lifeline for residents and small businesses during the spreading economic woes.
“We have a lot of residents in this city who do not have jobs that will allow them to be eligible for the government unemployment insurance, family paid leave, sick leave, they’re just not going to be eligible,” Foley said. “We’re in uncharted territory here and we must give a lifeline to our residents, our small business owners and people who are just literally sinking right now.”
Foley wanted to extend the four-month repayment, like Santa Ana’s six-month window to repay rent, so it would decrease the amount of back rent people would have to pay each month.
“I think we’re setting people up for not being able to pay the rent as soon as it becomes due,” Foley said.
But her idea fizzled out during Council deliberations.
The council amended the ordinance to make exceptions for landlords and tenants who have agreed on a deal in writing on how they would pay the rent because of the effects of the pandemic.
Costa Mesa has roughly 41,000 households in a city of about 114,000 residents. The city’s median household income is about $79,000 with 13 percent of its residents living in poverty, according to the US Census Bureau.
Irvine’s Eviction Resolution
Irvine Councilmembers voted 4-1 on a resolution that “strongly encouraged” landlords to not evict people, in contrast to an enforceable ordinance adopted by Anaheim, Costa Mesa and Santa Ana.
The resolution relies on a section of Gov. Newsom’s statewide declaration of emergency, which allows local governments to ban evictions. But cities have to adopt ordinances to provide any eviction protections for residents and businesses.
Councilwoman Melissa Fox dissented, and said an ordinance is needed — not a resolution — to protect residents.
“It is important that this council pass an enforceable order banning convictions and that order includes everyone,” Fox said. “This resolution has no force of law as written.”
City Attorney Jeff Melching described the resolution as “choosing cooperation over regulation.”
Fox proposed rebranding the resolution as an ordinance to make it enforceable by law but did not receive Council support.
The resolution said the city could go further but held back “based on (the city’s) long history working together with its business community.” The resolution stated “key members” of the business community indicated they were open to following the resolution.
The original draft of the memo accompanying the resolution identified them as the Irvine Company and FivePoint Holdings, the two largest developers in the city of Irvine, but a later update to the memo remove their names.
Irvine’s median household income for its roughly 95,000 households is almost $101,000, and 13 percent of its roughly 282,000 residents live in poverty according to the US Census Bureau.
Instead of discussing the item, Mayor Christina Shea and Councilwoman Farrah Khan attacked Fox for her comments on her blog about the resolution. Fox was not in the council chambers for the meeting but called in from home.
“She’s just attacking me and Farrah Khan, it’s all political, it’s just a very negative and awful attack,” Shea said. “We need to focus on (the resolution) and stop the grandstanding and politicizing of items.”
When Fox attempted to respond to the comments from Shea and Khan about her post, the council majority voted her out of order and she was told she could comment later in the meeting.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC news intern. Contact him @email@example.com or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.