Merced Mayor Tries to Repeal Tenant P...

Merced Mayor Tries to Repeal Tenant Protection Law

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#1 May 18, 2012
Merced’s new mayor, Stan Thurston, is seeking to re-open the floodgates to mass evictions by banks and investors acquiring foreclosed properties in Merced. The Mayor is leading efforts to repeal Merced’s Just Cause for Eviction law that protects renters after foreclosure. The city council will vote whether to repeal the law on Monday, May 21, at Merced City Hall.

Since December, arbitrary evictions of tenants after foreclosure have been outlawed under Merced’s just cause for eviction law. The law applies to foreclosed properties and prohibits evictions of renters unless there is specific cause (like nonpayment of rent, nuisance, owner move-in, etc) for the eviction. Foreclosure alone is not grounds for eviction of tenants under the ordinance. Similar laws to stop arbitrary evictions have been upheld by California courts.

“While local officials across the state are looking for ways to protect their residents from national banks, Mayor Thurston stands out as a local official who is actively looking for ways to make it easier for banks to evict more tenants in his community,” commented Dean Preston, Executive Director of Tenants Together, California’s statewide organization for renters’ rights.“His predecessors passed a law that, without costing the city a dime, stops post-foreclosure evictions of innocent renters, and one of his first acts as mayor is to try to repeal that law. Is he serious?”

The repeal effort has prompted widespread criticism. The law’s supporters include not just tenant rights groups, but labor and other allies. Most recently, the local chapter of UDW, the homecare workers union, issued a letter supporting the law. Other allies will testify alongside tenants at Monday’s repeal hearing.

Mayor Pro Tem Noah Lor, Councilmember Mary-Michal Rawling, and Councilmember Bill Blake have been steadfast supporters of the law. In a recent Op-Ed in the local Merced Sun-Star, they explained their support for the law:“We will not continue to allow banks and other post-foreclosure owners to displace Merced's families for no good reason. The ‘Just Cause for Eviction’ law strikes the right balance: allowing eviction where a tenant does something wrong or where the landlord wants to move into the property, but prohibiting eviction where there is no good cause.” The Sun-Star issued an editorial endorsing the law and applauding the council for adopting it November 2011.

Councilmember Pedrozo has confounded observers by changing his position repeatedly on the issue. In August 2011, he spoke and blogged in support of the law, calling it a “proactive approach” to foreclosure evictions and prolonged vacancies. He also praised the proposed law on his blog. Three months later, in early November, he voted against the law. On second reading in late November, he voted for it, although his final vote was believed to be a procedural tactic. According to Guillermo Elenes, organizer with Tenants Together,“We’re waiting to see which Pedrozo shows up on May 21 – the one who stands with Mercedians or the one who helps banks evict our neighbors.”

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