HB City Council & CoVid Crisis: We are NOT all in this together!


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A baffled Ben Franklin (created by GD) surrounded by dense heartless HB councilmembers Posey, Peterson and Semeta.

by John Earl, 4-21-2020, cross-posted from Surf City Voice

Why isn’t the Huntington Beach City Council helping renters during the pandemic caused by COVID-19, which has infected almost 800,000 people across the nation (including over 42,000 deaths) and 34,000 people in California (148 in Huntington Beach), causing 22 million workers to lose their jobs in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression—with no end in sight?

Instead of trying to help, the Council’s five-member majority turned its back on the city’s struggling renters at its March 31 special COVID-19 response meeting.

Members Mike PoseyErik PetersonLyn SemetaBarbara Delgleize, and Patrick Brenden voted down an ordinance proposed by City Manager Oliver Chi to protect residential and commercial renters for 120 days from evictions caused by failure to pay rent due to the coronavirus (Jill Hardy and Kimberly Carr voted yes).

Chi’s proposed ordinance provided the enforcement mechanism that Governor Gavin Newsom’s shorter 60-day eviction moratorium (Executive Order N-37-20) left for local governments to figure out, according to City Attorney Michael Gates. It included fines up to $1,000 for non-compliance by landlords and tenants involved in residential and commercial leases.

City Manager Oliver Chi

Chi did what city managers are supposed to do: look out for the well being of the city’s residents. Considering Surf City’s average apartment rent of $2,211, and the economic catastrophe caused by the COVID-19 virus, he was being prudent and prophetic.

When the council met, 10 million people had filed unemployment claims nationwide. By April 11, 16.6 million workers had filed. By April 17, 22 million claims were filed nationwide including 2.7 million in California in the past four weeks. And those numbers will be much higher at the end of April.

As of April 7, 31% of renters around the country were unable to pay their rent and many other California cities were racing ahead of Surf City to help: 40 had passed eviction moratoriums and another 50 were considering it. At this writing (April 21), 18 California counties (not including Orange County) and 128 cities, including 7 in Orange County, have passed eviction moratoriums, many of them for residential and commercial tenants.

The Judicial Council of California, which governs the state’s court system, took much stronger action that stops evictions and housing foreclosures on paper but leaves it to plaintiffs to hire their own attorney for enforcement.

If over a quarter of California’s cities and the vast majority of its population are covered by eviction moratoriums, what’s stopping Huntington Beach from doing its part?…

There is much more to this story – read the rest at Surf City Voice – support local journamalism!


About Surf City Voice

John Earl is the editor of the Surf City Voice. Frequent contributor Debbie Cook, a former Huntington Beach Mayor, is board president of the Post Carbon Institute.