On Tuesday, March 12, 2019, the City Council adopted Ordinance No. 1053 adding a tenant relocation assistance requirement to the City's municipal code. The ordinance became effective on April 11, 2019. You can review the tenant relocation assistance ordinance language online.
In addition, the City Council approved the establishment of a community housing fund to support lower income tenants to prevent homelessness. Menlo Park tenants experiencing financial hardships and potential displacement are encouraged to contact Samaritan House South.
On January 10, 2017, the City Council held a study session on addressing the concerns regarding residential displacement in Menlo Park. The study session included staff, Housing Commissioners and a panel of four housing experts. Staff presented 10 policies that have been commonly used or considered in other cities, including rent control, just cause eviction, relocation assistance and mandatory non-binding arbitration, among others. At that time, the City Council did not support dedicating any staff resources to exploring rent control or just cause eviction. The City Council referred the remaining eight recommended policies, along with seven others introduced by the expert panel, to the Housing Commission for prioritization. The Housing Commission reviewed the policy table over the course of three consecutive monthly Housing Commission meetings, received input from stakeholders and experts and developed a recommended prioritization list.
Staff presented this recommended prioritization list at the August 22, 2017, City Council meeting where the City Council approved the Commission’s recommendations without changes.
At its July 11, 2018, regular meeting, the Housing Commission reviewed a draft of the proposed tenant relocation assistance ordinance and recommended changes in regards to the urgency of the ordinance, the household eligibility criteria, the indexing of rent increases to the consumer price index plus 5 percent, the definition of applicable residential units, inclusion of special circumstance provisions and a rental subscription service.
At its August 8, 2018, regular meeting, the Housing Commission modified the eligible tenant definition to include any tenant residing in a rental unit for 12 months or more, subject to an annual household income limit equal to two-hundred percent (200%) of the area median household, and added an owner move-in exemption. The Commission also scheduled two public meetings for September 2018, to gather further public input.
The September 2018 meetings were noticed during the week of August 27, 2018, via mailed postcards to all Menlo Park properties and property owners (including out of town property owners). Additionally, interested organizations who had previously contacted the city about the draft ordinance were also invited to provide comments. These organizations included housing advocacy groups, landlord-tenant mediation services, the California Apartment Association and realtors.
During the September 12, 2018, Housing Commission meeting and the September 13, 2018, community meeting, the City received approximately five hours of public testimony.
At the October 10, 2018, Housing Commission meeting, the Commission made its final recommendation, which will be presented to the City Council. At the City Council meeting, there will be further opportunity for public input and discussion on the proposed ordinance.
On February 12, 2019, the City Council conducted a study session on the tenant relocation assistance ordinance developed by the Housing Commission. At the study question, the City Council provided some general feedback on a series of policy questions posed by staff, including:
Whether tenants’ right to benefits should be linked to a means test
Whether there should be an exception for natural lease expirations
Whether there should be a “significant rent increase” trigger
Whether the ordinance should apply to single family homes and homes built after 1995
The appropriate relocation payment amount
Whether the ordinance should be adopted on an urgency basis
As there were differing views on some of these policy issues, the City Council provided some general feedback and directed staff to return with two different tenant relocation ordinances – one to be modeled after Redwood City’s recently adopted tenant relocation ordinance and the second ordinance to be a modification of the Housing Commission’s ordinance. Mayor Pro Tem Cecilia Taylor and Councilmember Betsy Nash were asked to work with staff on additional modifications. The City Council also provided feedback that a community fund should be explored to provide additional relocation assistance for tenants who were at risk of homelessness, or to assist landlords who could not afford to make payments. Finally, some city councilmembers expressed interest in pursuing mediation or establishment of a rent board to address significant rent increases and perhaps other landlord tenant disputes.
At the February 26, 2019, City Council meeting, the City Council voted 3-2 to introduce the ordinance language adapted from the Redwood City, California, example. The second reading and adoption of this ordinance took place Tuesday, March 12, 2019.