The Santa Clara Housing Ordinance: How It Will Affect You

PSA: An estimate of 1,300 students could be displaced if the Neighborhood Protection Committee's proposed zoning ordinance is passed. In the most recent draft, it is unclear if it will alter housing of current students because they are legally bound to their homes through current leases however it is conceivable. If the ordinance is adopted, it will definitely affect the housing of future students and other Santa Clara residents as well as change whom property managers and landlords are allowed to rent out to.
The Neighborhood Protection Ordinance Committee, led by city manager Julio Fuentes has issued an ordinance that limits the amount of people property managers are allowed to rent out to. The ordinance's goal is to limit the conversions of other single-family homes. It states every single family home in Santa Clara's R-1 residential zone containing 5 or more non blood related individuals will be classified as unregulated "boarding houses" and they will be prohibited. Most of Santa Clara University's off campus housing will be considered a violation because it already defies this proposed ordinance.
If the ordinance is adopted, the draft states property owners will have to apply and obtain Zoning Administrator permits for already existing "boarding houses" to legally rent out to 5 or more unrelated individuals within 90 days after the effective date. These permits will exist to ensure there are proper living standards for people. However, these permits are revocable if there are repeated violations of the Property Maintenance Standards or unruly gatherings of 10 or more people causing a public nuisance.

Initially, permits have not been necessary when renting out to 5 or more individuals. This means if a permit is revoked the property manager will not be legally allowed to rent out to 5 or more individuals, and residents can lose their homes. City attorney Richard Nosky states the city doesn't have the ability to kick people out, therefore it is in the power of the landlord. Property owners won't lose the ability to rent out to 4 or less individuals.

"This loss of privilege, takes away property rights from owners, students and anyone else who cannot afford it," states property manager Eugene Korsunsky, "It is our constitutional right to own and do what you want with property and not have to choose to not rent out to students or a certain amount of family members."

Due to all this, landlords are withholding establishing housing leases for students next year until a decision on the ordinance has been made. If it passes, some landlords will only rent out to 4 students because they worry permits are too easily revoked. 1300 students could be displaced if all property owners followed in suit. This would also hike up prices for housing. Some landlords say they will not rent out to students, while other landlords will not comply with attaining a permit.

If a property manager fails to comply with the ordinance, legally they will not be allowed to rent out to 5 or more unrelated individuals. If they do, it will be a violation of the city code and will result in fines and criminal sanctions.

Current students could possibly be affected if the draft is adopted within the current academic year as late as February. Nosky states, "The ordinance doesn't intend or desire to displace students in the middle of the year, however it is conceivable."

Neighbors are eager to enforce the ordinance because they believe the abundance of adult renters co-habiting have increased problems in the city. These problems include the lack of garage space, excessive demands for street parking, excessive nighttime noise, property deterioration and the increase of trash and litter. They are also upset because some property managers have neglected attaining permits when building additional renovations, which is against protocol and allows them to keep money in their pockets.

The University has tried to develop better communications between students and neighbors. They have developed programs such as Educated Partier, Party with the Police RLC, and the Stamp Book. Still, neighbors don't believe SCU officials have not done enough in trying to maintain the "status quo" of the neighborhood.

As students, you can also work to increase better relations between neighbors by exchanging phone numbers and developing friendly relationships. SCU has also been invited to the Neighborhood University Relations Committee meeting that will be held in Council Chambers on October 27, 2014. City council members, city staff, and neighbors will also be present to recommend ideas on bridging the gap within the community.

Throughout the years, there has been a code enforcement problem in Santa Clara and neighbors believe this ordinance will change the dynamics of the neighborhood. Zoning code enforcement would include permits for building renovations and fines for loud parties and litter. However, the passing of this ordinance does not address the issues stated in the ordinance.

Code enforcement has begun and it should be noted that violations will stay with the property for 3 years from the date. The fines will start at $750 and will double for every consecutive violation. The citations and fees will be sent to the property owners, not the tenants or the property managers. They will fine for beer pong tables, red cups and other violations written in the Property Maintenance Standards of Santa Clara. The city manager, Julio Fuentes, has instructed staff to maintain a zero tolerance on any violation. "With repeated violations, property owners could lose their license and that makes renting to students a high risk," states junior marketing major, Chuck Hattemer.
Santa Clara University's Vice President of Finance & Administration, Michael Hindery, states, "The school hasn't taken a stance because it is a political situation and the draft changes so frequently, however we are engaging in talks with a lot of neighbors, landlords and students."
This ordinance is a flagrant violation of civil rights and targets students. The neighbors are hoping we won't speak or show up for ourselves. As students, it is your turn to speak up. By signing the petition here and by attending the city council meetings that include hearings on the ordinance, you represent yourself as a Santa Clara resident. Students can also register to vote without a CA license here.
The most recent draft has now been sent to the Planning Committee where they will review, hold hearings and decide if it should be sent off to the city council of Santa Clara. Public hearings on the ordinance can happen as early as November 12th, however there is no determined date. This is a political process but you can stay updated at OneRent's Facebook group "Save Off Campus Housing at SCU!"
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