Berkeley City Council discusses changes to city eviction moratorium

Photo of City Council Meeting from October 2019
Vanessa Lim/Staff
Berkeley City Council meets in October 2019. At Tuesday's meeting, the council discussed city finances and the prohibition of Ellis Act evictions.

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During its regular meeting Tuesday, Berkeley City Council discussed the city’s budget and eviction moratorium, among other topics.

At the beginning of the meeting, the council proclaimed Nov. 30 to Dec. 6 to be United Against Hate Week.

Soon after, Councilmember Cheryl Davila brought up last week’s meeting and its abrupt end at 11 p.m. before her resolution, which would give a vote of no confidence for the Berkeley Police Chief Andrew Greenwood, could be voted on.

“The meeting ending abruptly like that was really, really, really upsetting for the public, and it was rude, disrespectful, pathetic, all kinds of adjectives,” Davila said during the meeting. “I don’t understand why nobody has said a freakin’ thing about (the meeting ending). Can someone answer that question, please?”

When Mayor Jesse Arreguín attempted to redirect the discussion to the consent calendar, Davila shouted, “Don’t shut me up!” and said she had “the right” to ask the question.

City Clerk Mark Numainville said, while there is no mandate to give notice that the meeting will end soon, city staff and city council members have previously done so of their own volition.

The council then passed the consent calendar, which included a resolution to revise the city’s declaration of emergency due to COVID-19.

Item 19, which would amend the city’s Annual Appropriations Ordinance for the 2021 fiscal year, spurred a long conversation over city finances.

Several council members discussed possible ways to increase borrowing and the budget, while others discussed what budget items could be postponed.

“We are going to have to put off whatever we can put off. Let’s just be frank,” said Councilmember Kate Harrison during the meeting. “We are going to be in big trouble. This is not getting better. We’ve got to be honest and get together to figure out what we can not do.”

The council concluded its meeting with a discussion on an ordinance that would amend a municipal code, the COVID-19 Emergency Response Ordinance, to enhance emergency protections for tenants.

An important part of the ordinance includes prohibiting Ellis Act evictions, according to Harrison, which apply when a landlord removes their residential property from the rental market.

“I want to ensure that Ellis evictions are prohibited during COVID to the best of our ability. Ellis protections are needed even more now in this crisis,” Harrison said during the meeting. “The Ellis Act as passed by the state constricts our ability to help the common good.”

In their discussion, Harrison and Councilmember Sophie Hahn said they wanted the city’s ordinance to be as similar to county tenant protections as possible. Hahn also said she wanted the ordinance to be passed and implemented by Jan. 30.

The City Council voted to send the ordinance to the city attorney to incorporate the council’s comments and calendared the item for a special meeting Dec. 8.

Robson Swift is a city government reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @swift_robson.