Irvine Should Help Renters Impacted by COVID-19: Ban Evictions and Rental Increases, Prohibit Unconscionable Lease Termination Fees, and Create an Emergency Rental Assistance Program

The deadly COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 100,000 Americans, including nearly 5,000 deaths out of more than 125,000 cases in California and nearly 200 deaths out of more than 7,000 cases in Orange County.

In addition, the economic shock of the pandemic has been devastating, causing billions of dollars in business losses and an unemployment rate of 16.3% nationally and nearly 25% in California.

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As a result, our pre-existing California housing crisis has been exacerbated, with increases in our already much too high levels of homelessness and housing insecurity.

Faced with these tremendous COVID-19-related challenges regarding incomes, jobs, and housing, many of the residents of our City -– more than half of whom are renters — are pleading with the Irvine City Council to protect them. So far, we are failing them.

I have repeatedly asked my colleagues on the Irvine City Council to take action to help renters, but my requests for real help for our renters have been rejected. In March, not one other member of the City Council supported my motion to order an enforceable moratorium on evictions and rent increases.

More recently, my attempt to have the City Council order an enforceable moratorium on evictions and rent increases was rejected on a 3-2 vote, with each of my Republican colleagues voting No.

Mayor Christina Shea and her Republican majority on the City Council have claimed that our renter residents do not need these protections. But we know from thousands of emails, social media posts, and demonstrations in the streets, that our renter residents are pleading with us for help in this crisis.

We should stop ignoring their voices and enact meaningful protections for renters immediately.

First, we need to (1) approve the basic protections that I called for in March and to order an enforceable moratorium on evictions and rent increases. Our renters are entitled to peace of mind about not being forced out of their homes because of the COVID19 crisis.

We also need to (2) prohibit unconscionable, and likely unlawful, lease termination fees.  Many people in Irvine, including students, have lost their jobs, and therefore their incomes, as a result of the COVID19 crisis. Yet I have been told by residents that lease termination fees charged by the Irvine Company have exceeded $15,000.

In addition, we should (3) create an Emergency Rental Assistance Program.  Even with a moratorium on evictions, paying back rent for many of our residents is a very high mountain to climb.  We should direct our City staff to develop an Emergency Rental Assistance Program. These programs have been enacted in other cities, including our neighboring city of Anaheim, to help residents through this unprecedented public health and economic crisis.

As city officials, we have the power and ability to help protect our residents, including renters, both student and non-student. I believe we also have the moral obligation to do so. We should do it now without any further delay.

The Irvine City Council Refuses To Order Moratorium On Evictions. Instead, Council “Encourages” Landlords Not To Evict. Tell Them To Order That Irvine Residents And Businesses Be Protected From Eviction Due to the COVID-19 Crisis.

At tonight’s Irvine City Council meeting, Mayor Christina Shea and three City Councilmembers refused to order a legal moratorium on evictions due to the COVID19 crisis, and instead adopted a non-binding resolution to “strongly encourage . . . residential and commercial landlords, and all utility providers, in the City of lrvine to abide by the provisions of the Governor’s Executive Order, and to specifically refrain from evictions, foreclosures, rent increases, or service and utility disconnections during the period of the COVID-19 emergency.”

Photo: Tomoya Shimura, Orange County Register.

I voted No because the resolution passed by the Council has absolutely no legal force or effect. 

I am extremely disappointed in the Mayor and my Irvine City Council colleagues, who have failed to use the authority granted to us by the Governor to fully protect our residents and businesses by legally ensuring that they will able to remain their in homes and shops during this crisis — as has been done in many other California cities, including San Jose, Los Angeles, Long Beach, El Monte, Fresno, San Francisco,  Camarillo, Ojai, Oxnard, Thousand Oaks, Moorpark, and Santa Monica.

The Council also claimed that it had no authority to halt evictions due to foreclosure, although the Governor’s Executive Order explicitly states that local governments like the City of Irvine are empowered to halt evictions where “The basis for the eviction is nonpayment or rent, or a foreclosure” due economic loss because of COVID19.

Our residents and businesses deserve a legally binding order halting evictions due to COVID19.

Corporations are always asking for certainty and clarity in laws and regulations. Don’t the people also deserve certainty and clarity?

If the Mayor and the rest of the City Council choose to attack me personally because I stand for real protections for our residents and local businesses, so be it.

See the Voice of OC story HERE.

However, I have not given up on the people getting the Irvine City Council to do the right thing and use the our authority to order a legally binding moratorium on all COVID-9 related evictions.

Please continue to contact the Mayor and the members of the Irvine City Council and ask them to exercise their full power to protect Irvine residents and businesses from eviction.

If you are personally in danger of eviction, or in the process of eviction, please let them (and me) know.

You can contact all of us on the Irvine City Council at citycouncil@cityofirvine.org

Thank you.

We’re all in this together.

Melissa

 

 

California Apartment Association Calls for Halt on Evictions, Rent Freeze, and Property Tax Relief

Last week I called for the Irvine City Council to use the power specifically granted to us by the Governor to order a temporary 60-day ban on evictions for all residential and business tenants and subtenants, as well as for those people who are unable to pay their mortgage, due to reasons related to COVID-19.

Irvine City Hall (Tomoya Shimura, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Today, I received an email from the California Apartment Association (CAA), the nation’s largest statewide trade group representing owners, investors, managers and suppliers of apartments, which has adopted a program it calls the Safe at Home Guidelines, asking its every California rental housing provider to commit to the following through May 31, 2020:

  • Freeze rents on all residents & pledge to not issue any rent increases.
  • Halt evictions on renters affected by COVID-19, absent extraordinary circumstances.
  • Waive late fees for residents who pay rent after the rent due date because they have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and related government actions.
  • Offer flexible payment plans for residents who cannot pay rent by the due date.
  • Direct renters to available resources to assist with food, health, and financial assistance.
  • Communicate with residents proactively that you are available to assist them and want to work with them to ensure they remain housed.

The CAA further noted that “As our members continue serving residents, they continue to incur expenses such as mortgages, taxes, insurance, maintenance, and payroll. Therefore, we are seeking your support in advocating for property tax and additional mortgage relief beyond those that are backed by federal programs. Temporary relief will benefit California renters, homeowners, and housing providers who are all struggling from the COVID-19 virus.”

I applaud the CAA for stepping up in this crisis. 

I also strongly agree that state and local property tax and mortgage relief measures are necessary to help property owners through this difficult time.

Accordingly, it is even more important that the Irvine City Council, at its meeting on Tues., March 24, order a temporary 60-day ban on evictions for all residential and business tenants and subtenants, as well as for all those people who are unable to pay mortgage, due to reasons related to COVID-19, in addition to property tax relief measures.

If you believe, as I do, that the currently agendized proposal is inadequate in the face of the crisis, and that, instead, the City of Irvine should  use the power specifically granted to it by the Governor to order a temporary 60-day ban on evictions for all residential and business tenants and subtenants, as well as for those people who are unable to pay their mortgage, due to reasons related to COVID-19, please email the Mayor and the Irvine City Council to let them know.

Send emails to: citycouncil@cityofirvine.org

Also, because the March 24, 2020, Irvine City Council meeting will be held online, you may make a comment opposing the proposed resolution (Item 5.2) and supporting an order for a moratorium on evictions. Your comments will be read into the record. 

Submit your comment at: E-Comment Link

Thank you.

We’re all in this together.

Melissa

UPDATE:  The Irvine City Council Refuses To Order Moratorium On Evictions. Instead, Council “Encourages” Landlords Not To Evict. Tell Them To Order That Irvine Residents And Businesses Be Protected From Eviction Due to the COVID-19 Crisis.

 

 

THE IRVINE CITY COUNCIL SHOULD ORDER A 60-DAY BAN ON ALL EVICTIONS DUE TO THE COVID-19 CRISIS

During California’s housing crisis, we now face a pandemic of exponential growth and danger. This public health emergency would be made worse by adding to our homeless and unsheltered population.

Amid layoffs, job losses, business closures, and wage and stock market losses, families are struggling to stay housed and obtain food, medicine, and other staples. Every local Irvine business is experiencing stress from the impacts of this pandemic. Most of those who will become ill from this virus will go through it at home, cared for by family, friends and neighbors.

In response to the need to keep people sheltered and financially secure during this epidemic, the Governor of California issued an Executive Order on March 16, 2020, that specifically authorizes local governments such as the City of Irvine to halt evictions for both renters and homeowners.

Irvine City Hall (Tomoya Shimura, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The Governor stated, “Californians are experiencing substantial loss of hours or wages, or layoffs related to COVID-19, affecting their ability to keep up with their rents, mortgages, and utility bills. People shouldn’t lose or be forced out of their home because of the spread of COVID-19. Over the next few weeks, everyone will have to make sacrifices – but a place to live shouldn’t be one of them. I strongly encourage cities and counties take up this authority to protect Californians.”

At this time of unprecedented stress and vulnerability to our residents and businesses, we cannot add to our homeless and unsheltered population. It is a matter of conscience as well as public health and safety.

We must also help our business community survive.  Therefore, I am calling for a temporary 60-day ban on evictions for all residential and business tenants and subtenants, as well as for mortgagees, who are unable to pay their rent or mortgage due to reasons related to COVID-19 (as spelled out in detail in the Governor’s Executive Order).

Any meaningful relief from eviction during this crisis must include mortgagees as well as renters.  The power of local governments like the City of Irvine to order a moratorium on evictions due to foreclosure is specifically included in the Governor’s Executive Order. The critical importance of this protection during our present crisis has been acknowledged by mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which, along with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, have already suspended foreclosures and evictions of homeowners behind on their mortgages.

Based on the above, I believe that the proposal by Mayor Shea and Councilmember Khan that is now agendized as Item 5.2 for the March 24, 2020, Irvine City Council meeting is inadequate to deal with the current crisis.

According to the memo submitted by Mayor Shea and Councilmember Khan, rather than enacting an order declaring a moratorium on all evictions, it is proposed instead that the Irvine City Council would “memorialize” a commitment between the City and major landlords/developers The Irvine Company and FivePoint Holdings that they are “both committed to honoring the spirit and intent of the Governor’s executive order.” The memo further stated that “If, despite our best intentions, we see a need to enact a local ordinance to limit evictions, we will immediately do so.”

The currently agendized proposal is inadequate for the following reasons:

  • It does not protect homeowners paying a mortgage who are in danger of foreclosure.
  • It does not protect tenants of any landlords other than The Irvine Company and FivePoint.
  • It does not protect subtenants.
  • It does not offer full legal protection, affording no real security or peace of mind.

Therefore, I recommend that the Irvine City Council order a temporary 60-day ban on evictions for all residential and business tenants and subtenants, as well as for all those people who are unable to pay mortgage, due to reasons related to COVID-19.

If you believe, as I do, that the currently agendized proposal is inadequate in the face of the crisis, and that, instead, the City of Irvine should  use the power specifically granted to it by the Governor to order a temporary 60-day ban on evictions for all residential and business tenants and subtenants, as well as for those people who are unable to pay their mortgage, due to reasons related to COVID-19, please email the Mayor and the Irvine City Council to let them know.

Send emails to: citycouncil@cityofirvine.org

Also, because the March 24, 2020, Irvine City Council meeting will be held online, you may make a comment opposing the proposed resolution (Item 5.2) and supporting an order for a moratorium on evictions. Your comments will be read into the record. 

Submit your comment at: Ecomment on Agenda Item 5.2

Thank you.

We’re all in this together.

Melissa

UPDATE:

See The Irvine City Council Refuses To Order Moratorium On Evictions. Instead, Council “Encourages” Landlords Not To Evict. Tell Them To Order That Irvine Residents And Businesses Be Protected From Eviction Due to the COVID-19 Crisis.

 

 

Why I Voted “No” on a Zoning Change to Permit 1,000 More Million Dollar Single Family Houses in Irvine. Tell the Irvine City Council What You Think!

Recently, I voted “No” on continuing the second reading of a re-zoning proposal that would allow the addition of 1,000 single family million dollar houses to be built by the Irvine Company in the area of Portola Springs/Orchard Hills in Irvine.

This vote could have been the end of the issue, since on the first reading both Mayor Christina Shea and Councilmember Mike Carroll voted against the re-zoning.

However, Councilmember Mike Carroll now voted with the supporters of adding 1,000 new homes (Councilmembers Anthony Kuo and Farrah N. Khan) to continue the item to January 2020.

Carroll, Kuo and Khan won the vote to continue, 3-2. This means that these additional 1,000 million dollar single family houses will again come before the Council.

As a longtime advocate for local communities to permit more housing to alleviate our statewide affordable housing crisis, I was initially disposed to vote in favor of this re-zoning proposal.

But on further reflection, it became apparent to me that this proposed housing development would be built without the necessary infrastructure, including new schools and a local retail center, which are needed and have long been promised to residents.

I am a strong advocate for action on the local and state level addressing the housing crisis, but not at the cost of overcrowded schools and the abandonment of Irvine’s renowned village model and our Master Plan balancing housing with schools, retail centers, and open space.

In particular, I am a strong supporter of Irvine’s village concept, which is intended to reduce sprawl and traffic congestion, and create walkable neighborhoods and a sense of community, by locating housing, at several different levels of purchase price or rental cost, around both local schools and a local retail center.  This village model — an essential part of Irvine’s Master Plan long promoted by the Irvine Company — has been enormously successful.  As the Irvine Chamber of Commerce has boasted, Irvine is a “City of Villages.”

You can see a video promoting the Irvine Master Plan, with specific reference to the Irvine village model as an integral part of the Master Plan, here:

For this reason, I was very concerned — shocked, actually — when a representative of the Irvine Company responded to my questioning by stating that the Irvine Company had no plans to build a retail center near these new homes and were no longer committed to the village model.

In other words, I came to see that voting in favor of this zoning change is tantamount to voting for Irvine to no longer be a “City of Villages.”

On the issue of whether these proposed 1,000 million dollar homes would help alleviate the affordable housing crisis, here are the facts:

This week’s OC Register reports on an analysis by the Southern California News Group that graded every jurisdiction in California on its progress on state-mandated housing goals (the Regional Housing Needs Assessment or RHNA).

According to the article, Irvine is supposed to permit 12,149 homes between 2013 and 2021. Housing units are mandated in each of four categories: (1) very low income, (2) low income, (3) moderate income, and (4) above moderate income.

The number show that Irvine has done exceptionally well in providing housing in the moderate and (especially) above moderate income categories, but is not doing nearly as well in the low income and very low income categories, where it is seriously off track in meetings its RHNA goals.

Very Low Income Units: Irvine has permitted 907 very low income units, needs 1,761 to be on track, 2,817 for final goal.  In sum, very low income units are not on track, and are far from the final goal.

Low Income Units: Irvine has permitted 3 units, needs 271 to be on track, 2,034 for final goal. In sum, low income units are not on track, and are far from final goal.

Moderate Income Units: Irvine has permitted 12,973 units, needs 1,399 to be on track, 2,239 for final goal. In sum, moderate income units are more than on track, and are already in excess of the final goal.

Above Moderate Income Units: Irvine has permitted 12,137 units, needs 3,162 to be on track, 5,059 for final goal. In sum, above moderate income units are far more than on track, and are already far in excess of the final goal.

These numbers demonstrate what everyone knows: Irvine’s housing is overwhelmingly skewed toward the “Above Moderate Income” market.

The 1,000 housing units that would be added to Portola Springs/Orchid Hills under the re-zoning proposed by the Irvine Company are single family homes costing above $1,000,000.  These 1,000 “Above Moderate Income” units would not help Irvine meet its Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) goals.

On the contrary, they would exacerbate Irvine’s school over-crowding and traffic congestion problems while doing little or nothing to ease our affordable housing crisis.

That’s why I voted No.

It is my belief that only saying No to these projects that provide housing only for the well-to-do, will we encourage developers to build more environmentally responsible and affordable housing projects.

I hope Irvine residents will make their views on this proposal for an additional 1,000 million dollar single family houses clear to all members of the Council between now and then.

Contact information for all members of the Irvine City Council can be found here.

Join Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, Irvine Councilmember Farrah Khan, and Me on Saturday Morning, June 29, for a Free Child Car Seat Safety Clinic!

This Saturday, June 29, at 10:00 a.m. at Irvine City Hall, California State Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (AD 74), Councilmember Farrah Khan and I will be hosting a free Child Car Seat Safety Clinic with the California Highway Patrol and the Irvine Police Department.

To help parents ensure the safety of their children, specially trained technicians will be available to inspect car seats and make sure that they are properly installed and equipped.

Did you know that 43% percent of children die in car crashes were improperly restrained?

Did you know that 73% of children’s car seats are not used or installed correctly?

Do you know whether your child’s car seat is properly installed and equipped?

Join Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, Councilmember Farrah N. Khan, CHP, IDP and me to make sure that your car seats are properly installed and ensure your kids are protected!

The event is FREE, but you must RSVP HERE.

For more information please call (949) 251-0074 or visit asmdc.org/Petrie-Norris.

Irvine City Hall is located at 1 Civic Center Plaza, Irvine, CA 92606

Light refreshments will be served.

See you there!

 

Join Me at the ASUCI Housing Security Town Hall on April 4 at UCI’s Crystal Cove Auditorium!

Please join me and leaders from the Associated Students of the University of California, Irvine (ASUCI) on Thursday, April 4, 2019, at 5:30 PM for the presentation of a groundbreaking report on student housing issues at UC Irvine.

Despite opposition from many community members and UCI student leaders, the Irvine City Council recently voted 4–1 to tighten restrictions on “boarding houses” and to ramp up code enforcement of housemate arrangements that are not the “functional equivalent of a family.”

As the UCI student newspaper New University has reported, “Housing insecurity has been an increasing burden on UCI’s student population due to rising tuition prices and the growing Irvine housing market. Irvine Company, which owns several apartment complexes near campus as well as throughout the affluent city of Irvine, raises rent prices for students alongside prices for renters throughout the city. Housing insecurity has become such a problem that students are sometimes living in their cars because they are unable to find an affordable apartment.”

As a member of the Irvine City Council, I voted against this proposed ordinance.  I believe that preserving neighborhood character is important, as is preventing excessive noise and improper home modifications. But these goals can best be achieved by enforcing regulations we already have on the books, not by prohibiting living arrangements that are financially necessary to students and young people.

I also have serious concerns about the constitutionality of the proposed ordinance, its intrusion into residents’ private lives, as well as its conflict with state law regarding housing.

Indeed, the California Department of Housing and Community Development contacted the City of Irvine immediately after the vote, expressing their concern that the ordinance violated state law.

As a result, the ordinance is being re-worked by City staff and will not move forward in its current form.

But those of us concerned about student housing insecurity and homelessness can’t let down our guard.

Brought to you by ASUCI Office of the President’s Housing Security Commission, the ASUCI Housing Security Town Hall will feature a groundbreaking report on student homelessness and housing insecurity presented by Izzak Mireles, a UCI Masters of Urban and Regional Planning graduate student.

In addition, I will be making some remarks and engaging in a question and answer session.

I hope you will join us alongside experts and leaders from across the Irvine community.

What: ASCUI Housing Security Town Hall 

When: Thursday, April 4, 2019, 5:30 – 7:00 PM

Where: UCI Crystal Cove Auditorium

Free admission. All are welcome!

You can find the Facebook Event Page here.

See you there!

Join Us on an Irvine “Wine & Dine” Bike Tour with Commissioner Melissa Fox!

pedego-junction-electricJoin us on Friday, July 18th, at 6:00 PM for a terrific summer evening starting with a light dinner before we ride into the sunset on an electric bike tour of some of Irvine’s most picturesque bikeways!

It’s the Irvine “Wine & Dine” Bike Tour with Commissioner Melissa Fox!

First, we’ll meet at Pedego Irvine, at 4624 Barranca Parkway, Irvine 92604

melissafoxblog, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox, Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox with Irvine Pedego owner Bob Bibee.

Then, we’ll have a light catered dinner.

Next, we’ll ride our Pedego Electric Bicycles on a sunset tour of Irvine’s bikeways.

Lastly, we’ll return to Pedego Irvine for a wine tasting provided by a boutique winery!

Cost is only $30 for a Mediterranean wrap, salad and hummus, electric bike rental, and wine tasting!

Please RSVP for dinner to Farrah at 323-428-3611.

We hope to see you there!

Did you know that Irvine has 301 miles of on-street bike lanes and 54 miles of off-street bikeways. Our bicycle trails are some of the most beautiful and peaceful places in Irvine.

Also, Irvine been rated as “Silver” Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists.  This makes Irvine the most bicycle-friendly city in Southern California — and we can do ever better!

Electric bicycles provided by Pedego Irvine. Pedego Electric Bicycles are made right here in Irvine!

What: Irvine “Wine & Dine” Bike Tour with Commissioner Melissa Fox!

Co-Hosted by UCI Professor Catherine Liu.

When: Friday, July 18th at 6:00 PM

Where: Meet-up at Pedego Irvine, 4624 Barranca Parkway, Irvine 92604

Cost: $30 for dinner, electric bike rental, and wine tasting!