Santa Barbara’s three-member ordinance committee voted 2-1 last week to move forward on a key component of the city’s proposed tenant rights ordinance

Council members Kristen Sneddon and Oscar Gutierrez voted in favor of tenant displacement assistance for mass evictions — defined as 20 percent of residents over 12 months — for properties of seven units or more. Committee member Randy Rowse opposed.

According to the city, Santa Barbara has 36,918 total dwelling units, including single family homes. There are 18,569 multi-family rental units.

If the tenant rights ordinance would apply to properties with seven units or more, about 56.8 percent of the city’s dwelling units would be covered. 

“We’re trying to keep hard-working families here,” Gutierrez said. “We are trying to make sure they are protected. We need to do more to be able to help people to be able to stay here.”

The amount of assistance has not been determined in the ordinance discussions, but what is recommended is $5,000, or four times the median advertised rental rate as determined by the city, whichever is greater.

The full seven-member Santa Barbara City Council will vote later this year on a sweeping tenant rights ordinance package, which includes mandatory year-long leases for renters and a Just-Cause eviction policy.

Rowse questioned whether the tenant rights ordinance was needed.  

“I understand the social fabric of the community and I understand what we are trying to preserve,” Rowse said. “I am just not sure that I understand the best way to do it. I am not sure an ordinance is the best way to do it.”

Rowse said that there are many “mom-and-pop” property owners who would be unfairly impacted by a ordinance that affects properties of seven units or less. 

“Let’s focus on the larger projects which are more likely to become a target of a company purchase and renovation, rather than getting into the smaller, individually owned or held unit,” Rowse said.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.