The North Bay Organizing Project leads a renewed campaign for rent control and just cause eviction policies in Santa Rosa in 2019. In November 2018, we won from Santa Rosa City Council an extension of the Govenor’s 10% Rent Gouging ordinance, put in place after the wildfires of October 2017. Alongside Legal Aid of Sonoma County, we are currently organizing a Sonoma County Tenants Union. Together we hold monthly tenants rights workshops and advocate for tenants facing housing discrimination.
In 2016, our Right to a Roof campaign was able to win a major policy victory in the City of Santa Rosa, CA, passing a rent stabilization and just cause eviction policy through the City Council on a 4-3 vote. The policy would have capped annual rent increases at 3% for all multi-unit apartments built before 1995, as well as created an official board by which tenants could challenge unjust evictions. Over 13,000 households would have benefited. These policies were won after an 18-month campaign on our behalf, but also after Santa Rosa renters had seen 50% rent increases over the last 5 years, with a 1% vacancy rate.
Within a month, our opposition had blocked the policy by paying fraudulent petitioners to gather signatures at $7 per signature. This forced a Special Election in June of 2017, which our rent control measure lost by 781 votes. Voter turnout was only 35%, and opposition spent nearly $1 million, unheard of in the history of Santa Rosa politics.
Two-thirds of renters in Santa Rosa are people of color, and the vast majority are undocumented workers who form the backbone of Sonoma County’s economy. More then 50% of these renters spend more than 2/3rds of their paychecks on rent, leaving families vulnerable to ongoing cycles of poverty and health disparity. The wild fires of October 2017 exacerbated an already terrible situation, with Santa Rosa alone losing 5% of its housing stock on top of the already dire situation.