Santa Monica tenants in rent-controlled apartments would receive relocation payments of up to $4,000 a unit from their landlords if they were evicted because the owner of the building was going out of business or wanted an apartment for a family member under an ordinance tentatively approved by the City Council.
The ordinance received the unanimous support of the council Tuesday night. It will become law if it is approved by a majority of the council after a second public hearing June 24.
The relocation law was introduced so it could go into effect before the July 1 implementation of the state's Ellis Act. The state law will allow a landlord to bypass the city's strict eviction regulations and evict tenants if the landlord wants to go out of business.
Sliding Scale of Payments
But, under the proposed ordinance, landlords who want to use the new state law would have to pay $2,000 for each bachelor apartment, $2,500 for a one-bedroom apartment and $3,000 for apartments with two or more bedrooms. Tenants who are disabled, have minor children or are senior citizens would be entitled to an extra $1,000.
If a landlord could relocate a tenant to a comparable apartment, he would have to pay only the tenant's actual moving expenses.
The council narrowly approved an amendment that included the scale of payments. The amendment replaced a flat $4,000 fee and an extra $1,000 for disabled and senior citizens that was proposed in City Atty. Robert Myers' draft of the ordinance.
The amendment was opposed by a number of tenant activists during the three-hour hearing. They urged the council to raise relocation benefits to $6,000 an apartment.
"I think the $3,000 maximum is a ridiculously low figure," said Lisa Monk, a spokeswoman for the Tenant Aid Project. "It doesn't reflect the cost of moving. It causes a significant hardship to move at the stroke of a pen. Unless it is $6,000 plus, the payment will not compensate a tenant."
Councilman William Jennings supported the lower figure, saying it would compensate tenants without punishing landlords for exercising their rights.
'It Is Still Wrong'
But according to landlord John Jurenka, no payment is a good payment. "It is still wrong even if it is less money," he said. "If tenants want a lifetime tenancy, why don't they buy their own place?"
Councilman Dennis Zane opposed reducing relocation payments and said he hopes to restore the original $4,000 payment before the ordinance becomes law. "I think that payment would have been appropriate because there are tenants displaced because of no fault of their own. They are forced to bear a hardship for someone else's benefit," Zane said.
Los Angeles requires that landlords pay a relocation fee of $1,000 an apartment. In Beverly Hills landlords must pay from $1,500 to $2,500 a unit.
Higher Fee Defended
But Zane maintains the higher fee is warranted in Santa Monica because evicted tenants will most likely have to move outside the city. "Tenants have to bear the cost of moving and probably very significant rent increases," he said.
Voting against the amendment were Councilmen Alan Katz, James Conn and Zane.
Mayor Christine E. Reed joined fellow members of the All Santa Monica Coalition, Councilmen Herb Katz, David Epstein and Jennings, in approving the payment scale.
The ordinance would also require landlords to pay a $250 fee to the city for each unit that has a tenant facing eviction. The fee would be used to provide counseling for evicted tenants.