Evan Ortiz, who helped lead the Mountain View campaign for rent control, will now be taking the helm of the city's Rental Housing Committee. At the meeting on Monday, April 23, the committee voted unanimously to appoint Ortiz its new chairman.
The chairman position does not wield any extra authority for policymaking, but whoever holds it is in charge of convening meetings and setting the order for discussion on issues. Committee member Vanessa Honey previously served in the role, and Ortiz was the vice chairman.
The decision to appoint Ortiz was made relatively quickly, with minimal discussion. Committee member Tom Means initially proposed giving Honey a second year as chair because the position took time to learn and she was now experienced in the role. But the idea did not generate much discussion.
Committee Emily Ramos made a motion to appoint Ortiz as chair, and the decision was made in a 5-0 vote. Committee member Matthew Grunewald was voted in as the new vice chair.
The new leadership at the committee was among the quickest of the decisions at a lengthy meeting. In a discussion that proved more controversial, the committee backed plans to grant an additional 2.6 percent rent increase for landlords.
This idea has been promoted by the committee majority as a way to balance out a lapse caused a citywide rent rollback. Some committee members say landlords are due an extra increase for a period of 318 days following October 2015 when their rents were effectively frozen with no increase to adjust for inflation.
But granting this increase could be treading into a legal quagmire, and city attorneys have urged caution to avoid a future lawsuit.
At the Monday meeting, Grunewald proposed trying to package the 2.6 percent rent increase into the program's petition process, which he suggested could make it more legally defensible. Landlords have complained that filing petitions to raise rents is too burdensome of a process, so Grunewald suggested the city should create a simplified version of it for this increase.
He recommended the city should aim to create a one-page petition form that would be legally "ironclad." City staffers warned that could be difficult, but they promised to try their best. Details would come back at a future meeting for the committee's approval.
The Rental Housing Committee approved the plan in a 3-1 vote, with Ortiz opposed. Honey abstained.