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Measure W Would Bring Rent Control, Tenant Protections To National City

An apartment building in National City on October 9, 2018.

Photo by Katie Schoolov

Above: An apartment building in National City on October 9, 2018.

While much attention this election is on the statewide proposition that would remove limitations on rent control, a local battle is playing out over a National City measure to implement a policy that restrict increases on tenants.

Measure W would set annual rent increases in the South Bay city at a rate equivalent to the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index, but at no more than 5 percent each year. It would also create a rent control board funded by landlord fees and protect tenants from eviction except in specific situations.

The measure comes from a coalition of community organizations after residents raised concerns about high housing costs. More than 62 percent of renter households in National City pay 30 percent or more of their income on housing, according to a memo from the city attorney's office. But opponents argue the ordinance would lead landlords to divest from the rental market.

RELATED: Prop 10 Brings Rent Control Debate Boiling To The Surface

Rafael Bautista of San Diego Tenants United said the ordinance is necessary to protect the large share of rent-burdened tenants and that a 5 percent ceiling still allows landlords to earn money off their properties.

“This is increased revenue, this is not already profits, this is increased revenue," Bautista said.

San Diego County Apartment Association spokeswoman Molly Kirkland says the regulations would deter landlords from investing in rental properties that need improvements.

"They’re going to need new roofs, they’re going to need new counter tops — everything that degrades over time, and that unfortunately costs money," Kirkland said.

Kirkland was also opposed to the ordinance's provisions on relocation fees and tenants' right of relocation and first right of refusal.

RELATED: Limits On Rent Control Would Disappear Under Proposition 10

Under the measure, landlords would be required to pay $7,000 to $10,000 for tenants who are asked to vacate when the property owner removes the unit from the rental market. If the unit later goes back up for rent, the previous tenant must be offered the opportunity to move back at the price they were paying in rent before they moved.

Paola Martinez-Montes, director of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and member of the coalition behind the measure, said these provisions were included to ensure low-income families could afford to remain in their communities when forced to move out of their home.

"Where their children go to school, where they go to work, where they grocery shop, where their families and friends live," Martinez-Montes said.

However, the ordinance acknowledges landlords' "right to a fair return on their investment" and permits them to request individual rent increases for reasons that include changes in property taxes, maintenance costs and capital improvements. But Kirkland notes three out of the five board seats would be reserved for tenants.

The measure would cap annual rent increases and implement additional protections for tenants.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to further clarify how annual rent increases would be calculated.

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