SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. — An Urgency Ordinance that would have prohibited "no-fault" evictions failed in a 3 - 2 vote at the Nov. 5 Board of Supervisor's meeting in Sacramento. The ordinance needed just 4 votes to pass.

The temporary moratorium was a response to a recent spike in no-fault evictions not just in Sacramento County, but across California, since the passage of Assembly Bill 1482. 

District 1 Supervisor Phil Serna called passage of the ordinance a "no brainer" during the vote. However, Sacramento County's decision went against the grain of other California cities. 

Several major cities, including Los Angeles, San Mateo, Pasadena, and Redwood City have already passed similar ordinances in response to a growing epidemic of no-fault evictions. 

AB 1482, titled the "Tenant Protection Act of 2019," establishes an annual limit to rental rate increases and requires landlords to have just cause to evict a tenant from specified protected units.

However, AB 1482 does not go into effect until Jan. 1. In the meantime, tenants in Sacramento County have complained that their landlords have not only hiked rental rates but have issued mass evictions in anticipation of the new law.

One of the apartment complexes hit the hardest is Bell Oaks in Arden-Arcade. Residents of the complex are facing mass evictions and are struggling to find affordable alternatives in time. Some, like Debbie Stollery, have to move out the day before Thanksgiving.

"I've been a good tenant," Stollery said. "I've paid my rent every month on time. Never been late. Never not paid. And all of [a] sudden, to get a notice that I had to move, it puts a real hardship on me."

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Stollery was given notice in September, like many of the Bell Oaks tenants, that she had to leave. She was given 60 days. Other tenants were given 90 days due to their Section 8 Housing status, but even those tenants will be moving out at another grievous time--the day after Christmas.

On the same morning of the vote, the Bell Oaks owners sent out written notification that they would be offering $2,500 in moving assistance to each unit and full refund on deposits.

Stollery says this won't come close to covering the costs of moving. In addition to a new deposit, Stollery would need to pay first and last months' rent (which many rental units require) on a new apartment. She would need to pay for application fees and background-check fees before she could even get in the door of a new unit. And there are other costs to consider.

"Being partially disabled, I'm going to have to rent a truck and hire labor to help me move," Stollery said. "I couldn't afford that in one month."

Stollery says she asked for an extension of 30 days. She was rejected. 

She adds that tenants at Bell Oaks found out that the owner was selling the property. In the terms of the sale, she says, it is stipulated that in order to receive the full $5.5 million for the sale, the owner must evict all of the current tenants. If he doesn't, $30,000 will be knocked off for every non-vacated unit.

"So it's all about the money is why this whole thing came down," Stollery said. "A lot of the people already moved out. Some of us die-hards can't. We're just stuck."

Stollery believes that she will be homeless come Thanksgiving. She's not alone.

Other tenants of Bell Oaks, along with concerned residents and advocacy groups, spoke on the issue during the public comments portion of the Board of Supervisors meeting. At least two dozen people were slated to speak, though some speakers were forced to leave before their opportunity due to the agenda going over time. In their place, colleagues and friends advocated passionately for the passage of the ordinance.

Kitty Bolte from the Sacramento Tenants Union was one of the speakers. During her two minutes of time, Bolte demonstrated that the issue is much larger than people might think.

"What's happening at Bell Oaks is not anything close to an isolated incident. When the Tenants Union was originally contacted by people who were getting these 60-day notices, that's kind of what we thought, and in the two short weeks that we've had to dig into this as a small volunteer organization, we have found at least sox complexes that we know of that are experiencing this. Many of them are in District 3."

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Supervisor Susan Peters, who represents District 3 of Sacramento County, was one of the Supervisors to vote "no." Bell Oaks and other apartment complexes facing no-fault evictions are in her district. 

"I agree this is a difficult issue, it comes through to all of us in our heart, but this is effective only in unincorporated territory, not in any city […] I think if there had been more time to deliberate this we might have come to a different conclusion, but my office has had two phone calls--and that's all--to complain about this," Peters said.

Her response drew ridicule from the dozens of people whose comments and complaints Peters had just heard. The criticism continued as it became clear that Peters and Frost, who was the other "no" vote, were not going to support the ordinance.

At the most tumultuous part of the meeting, Frost interjected her thinking on the issue, speaking of her experience as both a tenant and a landlord.

"You can be a homeowner," Frost said to the room, again garnering ire from the crowd.

With the ordinance dead, it's difficult to know what will happen from here. A new ordinance will likely not be put forth, as AB 1482 is set to go into effect in seven weeks. The loss still fresh, tenant and housing advocacy groups may need some time to re-group and find a different course of action.

For tenants like Stollery, however, the future is uncertain and looking more desperate with each day. In the meantime, there is a GoFundMe account set up by the Sacramento Tenants Union with the aim of raising money for moving costs. They are hoping to raise just $5,000. 

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