As many of you may know, there have been various attempts to get emergency renters’ protections put in place in the light of COVID-19. The situation has continued to evolve, and at times the facts on the ground have been less than clear. So let us first tell you what we know, and then let us inform you of what you can urgently do to help.
The Governor of California has declared a state of emergency for California as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. This puts in place a cross-section of emergency response measures to deal with the crisis. We know, for instance, that price gouging of various kinds is legally forbidden during this emergency. Likewise, the Governor has also issued an Executive Order that opens the door for counties and cities to institute a moratorium on evictions. To be clear, there is as yet no blanket moratorium covering the whole of the state of California. It falls to counties and cities to adopt their own evictions moratoria. Therefore, it also falls on us to urge them to action.
Another newly revealed fact to bear in mind: under these extraordinary emergency circumstances, the counties themselves can pass emergency ordinances covering not just all unincorporated areas of the county (as is often the case under normal legislating circumstances) but also all the cities contained in the county. This means the focus of our attention should now be directed at the County of San Mateo to quickly adopt an evictions moratorium for all of its cities.
This coming Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors will discuss a proposed evictions moratorium. Everyone reading this can greatly help by emailing the Board to impress upon them the urgent need for decisive action. At present, the two most basic things we are calling for are the following:
- An evictions moratorium for residential and commercial tenants
- A rent freeze for residential and commercial tenants
To aid you in getting off emails to the Board of Supervisors, we have included a sample letter below.
One last thing: we realize that the pain that renters and small businesses are feeling goes beyond what can be addressed by an emergency halt on evictions and rent increases. This is merely the urgent response we are calling for right now. There may come a time down the line when further advocacy is needed to help renters vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19. We hope you will join us then as well. In the meantime, please do all you can to stay safe and to stay supportive of those around you.
Dear Supervisors Dave Pine, Carole Groom, Don Horsley, Warren Slocum, and David Canepa, and all County Staff,
As you are aware, the Executive Order issued by Governor Newsom last Monday opened the door for local jurisdictions to pass a moratorium on residential and commercial evictions. Not only did it open the door, it served as encouragement for cities and counties to do so.
The situation of the current public health emergency is utterly unprecedented in our lifetimes, and the threat to families and businesses is difficult even to comprehend. There are many people who will suffer in the coming months, and the last thing we need is for people to be thrown out of their homes or for small businesses to lose their locations. Thus I am writing today to encourage the County of San Mateo to follow up on the Governor’s Executive Order and enact an eviction ban that remains in force as long as a state of emergency exists.
Specifically, I call upon the Supervisors to enact an ordinance that:
- Establishes an emergency moratorium on evictions, protecting tenants and small businesses from eviction during the state of emergency, including units not under rent control.
- Bans eviction for non-payment if failure to pay is due to following local health guidance; self-quarantine, illness or the illness of a family member; or loss of income related to COVID-19
- Freezes rents at the current levels for the duration of the state of emergency
- Provides for delayed rent collection after the end of state of emergency, with no late fees
Most importantly, I urge you to pass an ordinance that applies countywide, i.e. to all cities in San Mateo County, as well as the unincorporated areas.
Thank you for your attention to this very important matter. While many in the community had hoped for a statewide eviction ban, the Governor has left the matter in your hands. Thus we look to you to act with the force and decisiveness that is appropriate to the urgent situation facing the community today.