Costa Mesa is the latest Orange County city to consider strengthening shield guards for renters against what officials have deemed unjust evictions during the housing crisis.
City council members voted unanimously Tuesday night to direct staff to look into developing an ordinance that would attempt to reduce evictions in the city and help keep renters in their homes as rent prices increase.
“You need only to walk around parts of Mesa Del Mar or the west side and have real conversations with people who are residents of our community who have lived here their entire lives to hear the horrific things that have happened over the last couple years,” Councilmember Andrea Marr said during the meeting.
The Buena Park City Council moved forward with a similar ordinance earlier this summer that the Costa Mesa City Council referenced during the meeting. This change prohibits landlords from evicting tenants for renovations without first obtaining the necessary permits from the city.
Many residents showed up at the meeting’s public comment period to discuss experiences with landlords drastically raising rent prices or evicting tenants so they could renovate the unit and hike up the price.
“We’re currently being evicted right now,” one speaker said during the meeting. “After they evict us, they want to remodel, and obviously the price for the apartment goes up three times the rent… It’s very hard to find somewhere else because what we pay right now is what we can afford.”
Other speakers described landlords that refused to make repairs or address health concerns like mold without threatening to increase rent or evict.
A 2023 study from United Way Orange County — a nonprofit that works to end homelessness — ranked Costa Mesa as the city with the highest renter-to-homeowner rate in Orange County with 59% of the city’s residents renting.
The study also found the city has the fourth-highest eviction rate in OC.
“This is something that’s going to support and help the majority of our residents in Costa Mesa, and I think it’s a little disheartening that it took this long to get to this point,” Councilmember Manuel Chavez said.
Mayor John Stephens supported the motion but said he wants to ensure that any eviction protection changes don’t prevent future development in the city.
“The danger is that we overplay,” Stephens said. “In the last year, we’ve had zero building permits in the city of Costa Mesa. We haven’t even created one unit.
“We have to be careful to do the right thing and look at both sides — the investors, the property owners, the realtors, the tenants — so we don’t create a situation where we’re viewed as a city that’s inhospitable to development.”
At a future meeting, staff will bring back an analysis of the problems renters in Costa Mesa are facing, why renters are being evicted in the city and eviction diversion efforts based on these findings.
Staff will also return with information on staffing, enforcement and an estimated budget for the proposed change.
“I’m prepared to study this in great depth,” Stephens said. “If we pass something, it should be narrowly targeted to the specific issues that are presenting themselves in Costa Mesa that are causing unjust evictions.”
The council meets again on Sept. 5 at 6 p.m.
Angelina Hicks is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @angelinahicks13.
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