Headline Story

Rent Control Gains Traction Amid Housing Crisis in Bay Area

Like a monster that’s been hiding in the basement for decades, rent control is rearing its head in the Bay Area. Whether it is an ugly countenance or a smiling face is a matter of perspective.
While the Bay Area has struggled with housing shortages and rising rents for the past decade or so, it has become evident that no amount of development will, in the near term, bring rents back down to manageable levels for residents earning median incomes and below. As tech jobs have made Bay Area residents more wealthy, and attracted newcomers flush with cash, landlords in unregulated cities have tried to cash in by raising rents and even evicting incumbent tenants. 

Therefore, over the past year, cities have again turned to what is, in many ways, the tool of last resort to preserve affordable housing.
“A year ago we had the wild west,” said Eric Strimling, spokesperson for the Alameda Renters Coalition, of Alameda’s rental market. “There were pretty much no regulation at all. Evict at will, raise rents at will.”

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Rent Control: Nine Month Residents Win Protection of Santa Cruz County Ordinance

A county’s mobilehome rent control ordinance applies for people who live in recreational vehicles for at least nine continuous months, the Sixth District Court of Appeal has ruled.

The court said that Santa Cruz County’s Mobilehome Rent Adjustment Ordinance applies to about 20 sites in a travel trailer and resort facility because residents of those sites have lived there continuously for nine months or more.

The controversy began when Willows Resort owner Harold Griffith eliminated central g...

Santa Monica Buys Key Parcel for Potential Park, Affordable Homes

Available land is a rare and, therefore, valuable commodity in Santa Monica. So city officials are pleased with the opportunities they now have after purchasing about 11 acres, owned for decades by a prominent think tank, that lie adjacent to Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, City Hall and Palisades Park.

"It’s an incredibly strategic area," said Andy Agle, Santa Monica’s deputy director of planning and community development. The city could eventually develop parks, affordable housing and office ...

General Plans: El Dorado County Environmentalists Might Gain Attorneys’ Fees Yet

A citizens group and an environmental organization do have a right to attorneys’ fees in successful litigation regarding El Dorado County’s handling of a large subdivision, the Third District Court of Appeal has ruled. However, the court tempered that right by saying that the aesthetic protections won by the groups and their members should be a factor in the awarding of fees. In other words, because they gained aesthetic protections, the groups might not get as much in attorneys’ fees as they wou...

Rent Control: Path Cleared for Mobilehome Park Owners in Federal Court

Mobilehome park owners in the City of Montclair can proceed with a federal lawsuit alleging that the city’s rent control law is a regulatory taking, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.

A federal district court had dismissed the lawsuit filed by mobilehome park owners because a similar suit was making its way through the state court system (see CP&DR Legal Digest January, 2000). However, the litigation ended early this year when the state Supreme Court refused to review an appell...

Rent Control: Santa Monica Ordinance Can’t Supercede State Law, Court Rules

Portions of Santa Monica’s rent control law have been thrown out by an appellate court because the provisions conflicted with state law. The Second District Court of Appeal said Santa Monica could not modify conditions established by state law under which landlords can increase rents for voluntarily vacated units, and the city cannot demand more information than state law requires when registering rent-controlled units.

In reviewing the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act of 1995 (Civ. Code §1954.50), th...

Land-Use Authority in L.A. Shifts Up and Down--At Expense of Council

Los Angeles is the second-biggest city in the United States, but nobody who lives there has ever seemed especially proud of this fact. For many community activists the city’s size has always seemed like an annoyance.

L.A.’s neighborhood groups — especially homeowner associations in the San Fernando Valley — have complained for decades that the downtown City Hall bureaucracy is too remote and unresponsive to meet the needs of the city’s varied neighborhoods, especially when it comes to pla...

CERCLA: Both Polluters LIable for Cleaning ‘Mixed Plume,’ Ninth Circuit Rules

When two companies contribute to groundwater pollution, one company cannot avoid cleanup costs by arguing that the other company would have spent money on the cleanup anyway, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. The decision came in an Oregon case interpreting the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), better known as the Superfund law.

To let one company avoid cleanup costs "would encourage parties to avoid investigating and cleaning up con...

Santa Clara Watershed Planning Still Moving Ahead

A four-year-old pilot project intended to improve the quality of water flowing into the southern end of San Francisco Bay continues to move forward. Interests ranging from builders to environmentalists to regulators are participating in the Santa Clara Basin Watershed Management Initiative (WMI), and a detailed watersheds characteristics report — an important baseline document — is due out this month.

Although the broad-based approach to dealing with entire watersheds is happening in an urban a...

Court Establishes New Test for ‘Paper Subdivisions’: Title Must Have Transferred; Map Alone Not Enough to Create Parcel

Parcels delineated in pre-1893 subdivisions do not exist as separate lots unless there has been a transfer of title at some point, the Second District Court of Appeal has ruled.

In addressing the status of antiquated subdivisions, the court ruled squarely in favor of local governments that have fought to prevent legal recognition of "paper subdivisions" created prior to laws regulating the subdivision of land. In answering an unresolved issue of state subdivision law, the court said that the ti...

Proposition 218: Home Occupation Fee Withstands Challenge From Taxpayer Group

A City of Los Angeles home occupation permit fee has survived a legal challenge from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. The Second District Court of Appeal ruled that the Jarvis lawsuit was filed too late, that the organization failed to follow administrative procedures for refunds and that a later repeal of the fee made claims for injunctive and declaratory relief moot.

The court said a lawsuit challenging such fees must be brought within 90 days of their enactment so municipalities can have fi...

NEPA: Ninth Circuit Orders Environmental Study of Completed Interchange

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered preparation of an environmental study on an already-completed freeway interchange in Washington state. On a 2-1 ruling, the three-judge panel said that the project was not exempt under the National Environmental Policy Act.

"While we decline to order the interchange torn down, we direct the district court to order the requisite environmental review …" the court concluded.

In 1985, the City of DuPont, between Seattle and Tacoma, identified t...

Supreme Court: Scalia Calls S.F. Housing Law ‘Extortion,’ But Court Won’t Review

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review a takings case involving a San Francisco housing law, but Associate Justice Antonin Scalia issued a scathing dissent in which he equated San Francisco’s law with extortion and questioned a state appellate court’s willingness to follow "takings" precedents.

Ten years ago, San Francisco rejected the application of Claude and Micheline Lambert, who asked to convert 24 units of their Cornell Hotel from residential to tourist use. San Francisco’s hotel c...

Supreme Court:

Property rights advocates suffered a second setback when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a takings case from Florida.

A man and his mother had purchased 40 acres, including 32 acres of swampland, in 1973 and began attempting to develop a housing tract and marina in 1980. They received state and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits in the early 1980s, but one state agency asked Monroe County to reconsider the project. The landowners sued and won, and the county again granted approvals...

Supreme Court:

The U.S. Supreme Court let stand another 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, thus one striking down a zoning ordinance aimed at adult businesses. The 11th Circuit said the City of Jacksonville, Florida, impinged on businesses’ free speech by requiring so-called lingerie shops — actually nightclubs with nude dancers — to get a special exemption before they could open in any but two locations in the city.

The 11th Circuit said Jacksonville’s zoning law gave city officials too much discreti...

Stanislaus County Considers Growth Initiatives, Salida Development Plan

Two events will shape Stanislaus County planning and development issues this year: a proposed ballot initiative to rein in urban sprawl, and a plan to encourage business development in an unincorporated community north of Modesto.

Proponents of the farmland-protection initiative have until May 11 to gather signatures to place it on the November ballot after the county Board of Supervisors refused to do so. Sponsored by the group GOAL (Growth: Orderly, Affordable, and Livable), the measur...

Cathedral City Tames the Highway

Few other land uses inspire ambivalence like the highway, and rightly so. Like the twin Hindu deities, Brahman and Vishnu, the highway is both creator and destroyer, giving life to cities and then making them uninhabitable. Serving the role played by the railroad and the river in earlier times, the highway is the city’s lifeline to the larger world. And just as the river and the railroad each gave the city a new kind of settlement, the highway has given rise to its own type of urbanism: the strip....