Over 50 tenant-activists and organizers from the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, Party for Socialism and Liberation, Cancel the Rents, San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council and others gathered outside San Diego City Hall in the early morning of April 4 for a press conference and rally. The demonstrators demanded that San Diego City Council pass an immediate ban on no-fault evictions, which required six votes to pass.
No-fault evictions occur when a tenant is expelled from their home despite the tenant not having violated the lease agreement. With only six members present that day, the vote was 5 to 1, meaning it will have to pass at a confirmation vote and be signed by Mayor Todd Gloria before going into effect.
At the press conference Genea Nicole Wall, a member of ACCE, vocalized her support for the moratorium on no-fault evictions. Wall spoke about her own experience, being served a 60-day notice to vacate in November 2020. “Wrap your head around this, I was being evicted when there was an eviction moratorium,” she said.
The senior attorney of the housing team at Legal Aid Society San Diego, Gill Vera said, “Over 450 different households have called into Legal Aid.” Vera continued, “It is the number one thing people are calling in for help about since July of last year.” Throughout the pandemic — with an eviction moratorium in place — San Diego landlords have been hard at work with legal experts finding loopholes to evict tenants.
While a ban on no-fault evictions would be a huge victory for tenants of San Diego, it is also worth mentioning some of the limitations of the proposal. For one, landlords can still evict tenants if they want a close family member such as a child, parent or grandparent to move in. Landlords can still evict tenants when they deem that a repair affects the safety and livability of the tenant, a non-specific definition that can be greatly exaggerated by a landlord.
While landlords who genuinely seek to improve homes through repairs are encouraged to work with their tenants to provide them temporary housing for the duration of the repairs, there is no legislation that requires the landlords to do so and therefore the landlords instead use their own lack of repairs as justification for an eviction.
The city council vote
At 2 p.m. the San Diego City Council opened its video livestream for public discussion on the issue. Notably, the California Apartment Association, which is the nation’s largest statewide organization lobbying on behalf of landlords and developers, was given 15 minutes to speak — a time they used to appeal to “mom and pop” landlords. Rather than appealing to the state to help small landlords, CAA advocated for the burden to remain on tenants. The author of this article spoke during the forum and directly challenged the narrative presented by CAA, explaining how just this month he was served a no-fault eviction by one of these “mom and pop” landlords.
After a passionate public comment session, during which the majority of the speakers voiced their support for the moratorium, the city council voted 5 to 1 in favor of a moratorium on all no-fault evictions. The moratorium must be approved at an upcoming second vote on April 18. In the meantime, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department will continue evictions while working-class people fight back and resist landlordism and police terror.
If the moratorium does pass, its protections will last until 60 days after the end of the local state of emergency or until Sept. 30, whichever happens first. Evictions, especially no-fault evictions, should be outright banned in the richest country in the world. Housing should be a constitutionally guaranteed right for all and working-class tenants will continue their struggle until it is a reality.