Costa Mesa City Council members ended the eviction ban on commercial tenants the same day state public health officials announced that nearly all Coronavirus restrictions could be lifted in two months.

The temporary eviction moratorium, which was hailed about a year ago by councilmembers as a lifeline for small businesses, was intended to help tenants financially impacted by the state mandated business closures stemming from the pandemic.

Some of those same city council members voted Tuesday 6-0 to adopt an ordinance ending the moratorium without much discussion at their city council meeting. Councilman Loren Gameros was not at the meeting. 

“As we’re preparing to open up the state through Governor Newsom’s request on June 15, I think we’re reaching the end of the pandemic hopefully,” said Councilmember Manuel Chavez. “I think it’s a good time to move forward with this.”

But some warn even as vaccinations ramp up and new Coronavirus cases are going down, that the financial crisis sparked by business closures to stop the spread of the virus is still very much a reality for many residents.

County food banks and pantry leaders — some who are active in Costa Mesa — have been warning that the need for food will still be around for a while.

Unemployment rates in Orange County were around 6.8% in February. Last February it was around 2.8% — less than half that number. In January, unemployment was around 7.3%, according to the state’s Labor Market Information Division.

Economic devastation has impacted not only renters, but landlords too. 

“This makes us open up the economy and move forward. We thank you for what you’ve done. I think this was prudent at the time. It is now time for us to move forward,” said Jose Cornejo, a representative for a commercial real estate development association.

To end the ban, city council members repealed an ordinance put in place in April 2020 to stop both residential and commercial evictions.

State legislative action since then has prevented cities from enforcing resident eviction ban ordinances based on failure to pay rent, but has allowed the ban on commercial tenant evictions, according to a city staff report.

“I’m glad we issued the eviction moratorium when we did. I think we saved some businesses there, but we’re now in the Orange Tier moving into the Yellow Tier and it’s time for businesses to pay their rent going forward,” Mayor John Stephens said at the meeting.

The ban came about a month after Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order in March 2020 to allow cities to halt evictions. 

Costa Mesa’s moratorium was intended to last as long as Newsom’s order.

Newsom extended the order several times in the past year, with the September extension applying to commercial eviction only through March of this year. He since extended the order through June for commercial tenants.

While the ordinance goes in effect immediately, tenants will have about 120 days to pay the rent they owe.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him or on Twitter @ElattarHosam

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