Council Review: City Adopts Temporary Residential Eviction Moratorium, Discuss Small Business Relief Program

By Robert Haugh

The City Council practiced social distancing at their meeting last night. Only Mayor Lisa Gillmor was in the council chambers. All other councilmembers called into the meeting. That led to a funny incident. You’ll have to read to the end to find out about it.

The City Council adopted a moratorium on residential evictions. It passed 5-0. Gillmor abstained since she’s a landlord.

Here are the details:

  • Tenants cannot be evicted for the non-payment of rent.
  • Landlords cannot start no-fault evictions.
  • It’s effective immediately — March 24, 2020.
  • It expires in 45 days, on May 8, 2020, unless extended by the City Council.
  • Tenants are still obligated to pay or owe rent to the landlord. 

The City encourages landlords and tenants to negotiate a reasonable plan to pay the rent if necessary. “These efforts will save time, expense, anxiety and uncertainty for both parties. This is an opportunity for both sides to work together during this difficult time where no one is at fault for these circumstances resulting from COVID-19,” according to the City staff report.

For tenants to be protected, they must prove that they’ve had a substantial loss of income due to COVID-19.

Here’s the City’s language on how to prove loss of income:

Income Impacted by COVID-19 – a tenant must present documentation that supports job loss, reduction of hours, missing work due to a minor child’s school closure or a state/local requirement to stay indoors for those over 65 years old.

Evidence of Loss of Income – In order to show loss of income, a tenant must provide documentation or other objectively verifiable proof. Examples of that are providing copies of bank statements that illustrate a drop in income, employer pay stubs showing the same, a letter from an employer notifying tenant of reduction of compensable hours, or other documentation that proves that tenant has not been generating the same level of income due to COVID-19.

Tenant Landlord Services

The City has an agreement with Project Sentinel for tenant-landlord dispute resolution services. 

Last night, the budget was increased by $100,000 to help with new cases.

The program helps make sure that City residents are treated fairly and within all applicable laws. When tenants or landlords see a neutral counselor, it’s confidential. Here’s a link for more info.

Other Items

  • The City staff discussed a small business relief program to help Santa Clara businesses impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Last night, the City Council put $250,000 into the fund. The staff will come back in early April with options on how to use the money. They’ll also figure out how to help businesses get additional money from other sources.
  • The City Council unanimously approved what Gillmor called “the biggest mixed-used project in the state and perhaps the western region of the country.” That’s the Related Santa Clara development. Last night, they approved the first development area plan by a 5-1 vote. Councilman Raj Chahal voted against. 

Chahal asked a lot of questions about community benefits. But that issue wasn’t in front of the Council for approval. It was voted on a couple years ago. Chahal was on the Planning Commission and voted on it then. 

His colleagues appeared irritated that Chahal hadn’t done his homework. One of them forgot she wasn’t on mute when she said “oh my God” in frustration. That got a good laugh from everyone. You can listen to it here.

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