Measure V put on hold | December 30, 2016 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

News - December 30, 2016

Measure V put on hold

New rent control law delayed as legal challenge claims it's unconsitutional

by Mark Noack

Two months ago, Measure V might have stood for "victory" — but now that might as well be "vendetta." The long political battle for rent control Mountain View appears to now be spiraling into what could be an even longer courtroom feud.

On the eve of its implementation last week, the voter-approved charter amendment hit a brick wall after the California Apartment Association filed a lawsuit alleging the law is unconstitutional. With the suit, a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge granted a temporary restraining order, halting plans for a citywide rent freeze and rollback that would have brought most rents back to October 2015 rates.

A package of eviction protections approved by the City Council in November are still in effect, preventing landlords from ousting tenants arbitrarily.

It is unclear how long this hold on Measure V will remain in place. The temporary restraining order is set to expire by Feb. 3, but attorneys for the apartment association will likely file for a preliminary injunction to keep it from taking effect until the case is decided.

The situation has caused plenty of confusion for tenants and landlords in town. Throughout December, city officials and tenant advocates had been holding meetings and distributing informational fliers to prepare residents before Measure V was supposed to take effect on Dec. 23. Those groups now face a similar challenge in spreading the word that those plans are on hold.

"It's really an unfortunate position for us; we were telling folks this rollback would be in effect," said Evan Ortiz, an organizer with the Mountain View Tenants Coalition which drafted Measure V. "Now we have to double back to tell everyone that the city didn't choose to challenge this."

Last week, the Tenant Coalition organized a downtown march to demonstrate support for Measure V and to nudge city leaders to protect it. Promotional materials for the rally made it clear the Tenants Coalition is blaming the Mountain View City Council for not acting to immediately defend Measure V.

City officials last week opted not to contest the temporary restraining order against Measure V. Instead, the city attorney only requested that the judge avoid removing the emergency eviction protections the council had approved following the election. In a city press release, officials said the delay in implementing rent control would "provide time for the city to fully analyze the complaint and ensure the immediate preservation of the city's just-cause eviction urgency ordinance."

The city's decision not to defend Measure V was disappointing since the charter amendment should have a significant legal advantage, Ortiz said. Throughout California, rent-control provisions have been upheld in more than a dozen cities, he said.

"We were disappointed that the city didn't defend Measure V more vigorously," he said. "A lot of folks have the perception that the City Council didn't come up to bat for Measure V."

The city of Mountain View is not obligated to defend Measure V, and the City Council will eventually need to state its position. The council is expected to meet again in closed-session to discuss the case in the coming weeks.

Email Mark Noack at mnoack@mv-voice.com

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