For an issue that has dominated several meetings and spawned several lawsuits, a final resolution came rather swiftly on Monday night. At its Sept. 11 meeting, the Mountain View Rental Housing Committee unanimously agreed to establish Dec. 23, 2016 as the official start date of the city's new rent-control program.
The vote was 5-0, with Tom Means absent and alternate Julian Pardo de Zela filling in.
The decision sets an earlier date backed by tenant advocates for the start of a citywide rollback on rents for about 15,000 affected apartments. Potentially, this action could open the door for eligible tenants to seek compensation for four months of higher rents.
Measure V, the rent-control law passed by Mountain View voters in November, explicitly states it was to take effect on Dec. 23, 2016. But its implementation was blocked at the eleventh hour by a lawsuit filed by the California Apartment Association. The suspension was ultimately lifted by court order on April 5, and the case was dropped. Afterward, city officials informally advised landlords to treat April 5 as the law's effective date.
As tenant-advocate attorneys raised complaints that the city was skirting the law's December start date, the Rental Housing Committee decided to bring the matter back before a judge. City attorneys had advised the committee to endorse the Dec. 23 date, but the committee was split on the issue. Instead members decided to file a lawsuit to ask a judge to settle the matter. Not long afterward, two more lawsuits were filed by tenant advocates that essentially asked the same question, using different legal channels.
Although the committee had already voted on the effective date, the issue was brought back for a second time at Monday night's meeting with no explanation for why it was being revisited. Speaking at the meeting, Joshua Howard of the California Apartment Association urged committee members not to rehash a decision they had already made.
"I don't understand why we're going through this Groundhog Day exercise today, when you as a body have already acted," he said. "Trying to interpret (this) is a job best left to the courts."
But as soon as the public-comment period wrapped up, Committee Chairwoman Vanessa Honey immediately made a motion to set Dec. 23 as the official start. Her motion was quickly voted on with no discussion or comments by the committee members.
According to the agenda, the committee had discussed the lawsuits for about an hour with its attorneys in a confidential, closed-door session prior to its regular meeting.