Judge keeps rent control off Sacramento ballot

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Thanks to a court ruling today, a draconian local rent control measure will not appear before Sacramento city voters this fall.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Steven M. Gevercer agreed with a lawsuit filed by the city to keep the rent control initiative off the Nov. 3 ballot.

Among other things, the city of Sacramento alleged that the rent control initiative would revise the city charter, something that direct initiatives cannot do under the California Constitution. This argument centered on the initiative’s creation of a rent board, which would constitute an independent branch of city government and strip significant power from the City Council.

“The Court concludes the Initiative seeks to substantially alter the City’s existing governmental framework and balance of power, and therefore is a proposed revision of the City Charter,” Gevercer writes in his ruling.

The California Apartment Association praised the court’s decision.

“We appreciate the court recognizing the inherent flaws in this measure,” said Mallori Spilker, CAA’s vice president of local public affairs. “Keeping this off the ballot prevents a costly and divisive campaign and allows the city to focus on real solutions to address housing affordability”

In addition to the charter issue, the city’s lawsuit pointed to a broken promise between initiative proponents and Sacramento city leaders.

After the measure qualified for the ballot, the city was unhappy with the draconian rent control measure and decided to pursue a compromise with the initiative proponents.

Under an agreement reached by both sides, the city would pass its own, more measured rent control law, and initiative proponents would respond by abandoning their measure. But when the city passed its rent control law in summer 2019, only two of the three proponents kept their commitment and submitted withdrawal letters; a third, Michelle Pariset of Public Advocates, did not, leaving the rent control initiative in limbo.

The city contended it should not have to place the rent control initiative before voters this November, and on June 15, 2020, filed suit against Pariset. In addition to revising the city charter, the suit claimed the initiative was invalid and pointed to the broken pledge by Pariset.

Tagged: Sacramento Valley