The Redlands City Council held a special meeting on Tuesday to take public comment and vote on an urgency ordinance that will hold landlords accountable when they evict tenants on the basis of a substantial remodel. The council voted four to one in favor of the ordinance, with Councilman Mick Gallagher dissenting.

Doug Wetton Properties, which is based in Newport Beach, purchased the Palms and Las Casitas apartment complexes and gave tenants a 60-day eviction notice to vacate the properties for substantial remodels. The council chamber was filled with tenants from the Las Casitas and the Palms apartment complexes.

California law states that a landlord can evict tenants for a substantial remodel, which is defined as structural, electrical, plumbing or mechanical renovations that require a permit and takes at least 30 days. California law, however, does not have any accountability mechanism in place to assure that a landlord follows through with substantial remodels.

City Attorney Yvette Abich Garcia wrote the urgency ordinance, and a regular ordinance, to fill in gaps left by the California law. The ordinances are identical and the urgency ordinance went into effect immediately. The ordinance states that landlords who wish to do a substantial remodel of a property must pull permits before sending out eviction notices. Eviction notices must include copies of the permits and detail the scope of the remodel and why tenants cannot safely reside in the units while the remodel is underway. When the owner issues a notice of eviction for demolition or substantial remodel, the owner is required to provide relocation assistance in the amount of two months’ rent or $4,500, whichever is greater, to the tenant within 15 calendar days of the notice of eviction.

Councilwoman Jenna Guzman-Lowery gave an impassioned speech pleading with her colleagues to view this ordinance as a preventive measure against homelessness.

Guzman-Lowery tearfully said, “There's actually a focus on profit, profit that you can make off of this opportunity, as you've [Wetton] called it at the expense of displacing working people. These are human beings. Moms, dads. These are children. These are grandparents and so on who are just trying to exist, to work, to enjoy their lives.”

Gallagher, who voted against the ordinances, said that people own businesses to make profits and worried that the ordinance might prevent property management companies from purchasing properties in Redlands.

Mayor Pro Tem Eddie Tejeda concurred with Guzman-Lowery. Tejeda called the ordinance a stopgap that would not prevent companies from renovating properties. He said the ordinance would buy some time.

Mayor Paul Barich asked for clarification on the ordinance several times. Barich said he was against rent control, which was not mentioned in the ordinance. Barich also expressed concern for the $4,500 relocation assistance.

Barich said, “I'm not exactly sure if I'm really for $4,500. I don't know the market that well, that's unreasonable.”

Members in the crowd, many of them tenants, shouted out that it was not unreasonable. Tejeda, a renter, explained to Barich that $4,500 for relocation is not unreasonable because relocation would likely cost more than what they currently pay in rent and would include two months rent and a deposit for a rental unit.

Guzman-Lowery expressed dismay at how disconnected some people were from the plight of homelessness and the reality of what it costs to survive. Barich accused Guzman-Lowery of making personal attacks, which she denied. Guzman-Lowery stated that she was merely advocating for renters.  

Several tenants spoke during public comment to share their stories and plead with the council to vote for the ordinance.

The issue at the Palms and Las Casitas complexes was originally brought to the attention of the council by Parks Commissioner Justin Weekley and his father and tenant, John Weekley.

John Weekley told Gallagher that he felt insulted by Gallagher’s lack of education on the issue. Justin Weekley thanked the council for attending to the issue and told Gallagher he still respected him despite not agreeing with him.

Doug Wetton, owner of Doug Wetton Properties, said the apartment complexes were in disrepair and were unsafe for tenants. He claimed that he was not against the ordinance, except for the $4,500 relocation fee.

Joe Shipley, also of Doug Wetton Properties, echoed Wetton’s concerns and claimed to have photographic evidence of the rundown state of the complexes. In an email, Shipley said, “Though a no vote would have been preferred to keep AB1482 as the controlling document, we did not mind any of the provisions they voted on, which we stated in the meeting.”

In the end, the ordinances passed. After the meeting, tenants tearfully shared celebratory hugs. Kayla Hardmen, a seven-year tenant of the Palms apartment complex, who was in tears after the meeting, said “I’m extremely in between. This obviously isn’t going to stop us from being evicted. But if it buys us time, if it gives us different resources, I'm very grateful.”