City officials view proposed law as “discriminatory”
THE SANTA CLARA
February 5, 2015
Only one of the five city council members who attended a public Santa Clara city meeting on Tuesday was in favor of a drafted housing ordinance that has been pending since this summer.
The meeting was a “brainstorming session by city council,” according to Steve Lynch, Santa Clara’s city planner. City council members and stakeholders addressed the ordinance, which would restrict homewoners from leasing single-family units to adults not living as a “common household.”
City Mayor Jamie Matthews opposed the housing ordinance, stating that it is discriminatory, nearly impossible to enforce and does not solve the issues it is intended to address: lack of parking space and student behavior.
“I don’t want my city coming in and asking my people whether or not they are related — it is not the government’s business,” Matthews said. “If we deal with student behavior in partnership with the university, we will get a lot more bang for our buck.”
The ordinance would require the city to determine if the adults occupying houses with multiple bedrooms are living as a “common household,” a term previously defined as a “family” in earlier drafts of the ordinance.
“The enforcement burden certainly falls on the city,” said City Attorney Richard Nosky, a member of the ad hoc committee that drafted the ordinance. “It does have some enforcement challenges.”
During the public comment period of the meeting, multiple landlords voiced concerns that if this law was passed, they would have to discriminate against potential renters who did not live under a common household, violating California Fair Housing laws.
Of the 23 stakeholders who spoke at the meeting, 15 were against the ordinance.
Teresa O’Neill, the only council member at the meeting who vocalized support for the ordinance, said it would help keep the area a true residential zone. O’Neill, who is also concerned about students living in “subpar conditions,” said the ordinance would help raise the bar for property maintenance standards, referencing a fire two weeks ago that destroyed the home of three Santa Clara students.
There was a general consensus among the attending council members that, regardless of their stance on the ordinance, the city needs to work with the Neighborhood-University Relations Committee to address student behavior and noise complaints.
City council member and Santa Clara alumnus Dominic Caserta, gave the university an “F” for addressing complaints about student behavior in an effective manner. He said he was extremely disappointed that a university representative did not speak at the public meeting and repeated several times that the “university is failing.”
Chuck Hattemer, co-founder of OneRent, an online platform created to allow students to submit deposits and pay rent to their landlords online, has been leading a student campaign against the ordinance. Hattemer said that increased student voting in November’s elections contributed to the re-election of city council member Pat Kolstad, who is opposed to the ordinance.
“The amount of student power behind this was really impressive,” Hattemer said.
He also noted that the university needs to own up to student behavioral problems, and that the city should beef up police enforcement rather than apply a blanket code across the entire city.
The city council has yet to vote on the ordinance.
Contact Mallory Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.