Voice of OC Article - Like Costa Mesa - Housing Solutions Should Be A Partnership

Legislative Affairs, Advocacy Updates,

The Voice of OC recently ran an article written by AAOC's Vice President of External Affairs - Chip Ahlswede regarding the recently passed Tenant Protections in Costa Mesa, and how their process is a better reflection of positive community engagement rather than catering to one side or the other. While the industry did not get everything we wanted, the resulting compromise was much better than what was proposed.

To read the article online, CLICK HERE

Below is the article as published - 


Ahlswede: Like Costa Mesa – Housing Solutions Should Be A Partnership

Recent rehabilitation developments in Costa Mesa have led to a better quality of life, housing, and community – and getting there requires solutions where everyone participates.

“A good compromise is where both parties are dissatisfied”

Larry David’s quote from “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is reflective of most compromises. However, that is not always the case – and may not be the right focus for the best outcome.

Back in June of 2023 the city of Costa Mesa began discussing how to assist residents that are displaced by renovations made by property owners to the city’s aging housing options. Tackling a serious consideration for residents and businesses alike.

On the one hand, you do not want to see people displaced in a tight housing market where they cannot easily find new housing because of something out of their control.

On the other hand, you want to make sure the housing options in your city are reflective of the marketplace.

So how do you strike a balance in these situations?

You can go the way of progressive cities such as Santa Monica, West Hollywood, and San Francisco. There the restrictions on renovations are such that many property owners regularly choose to take their housing units off the market. They do this by either taking a loss on the property or converting the rental units to another use – often into condominiums or commercial uses.

You could alternatively go the way of conservative cities where the free market dictates all decisions, and residents are forced to move to new cities where they can afford the housing costs. Recently that has often meant losing our neighbors not just to further distances – but often entirely new states.

Neither situation is desirable for a city government.

The other necessary part of this is understanding the impacts of the policies you make.

Costa Mesa Mayor Stephens and fellow Councilmembers working towards complete understanding and deliberation on the impacts of policies they are considering.

In October, the city of Costa Mesa took up the discussion of a policy to help assist people that become displaced due to revitalization in the city – and entered a robust discussion of housing, evictions, and the business models of the multifamily industry.

The city staff had already done a great deal of research into the impacts being felt by members of the community – but they had not done as extensive research on the impacts being felt by the property owners considering renovations.

  • What are the steps involved in “no fault” evictions?
  • What laws currently exist to protect tenants facing such situations?
  • What pending legislation – or recently signed legislation provides changes to the laws?
  • What concerns might exist for a city implementing such policies?
  • What are the differences between types of evictions, the data that relates to them, and the prevalence of the practices in the city?

Through the council’s discussions, they realized there was a great deal of information they still needed to better address prior to bringing forth any legislative solution. Responsibly, the council tabled the discussion to gather more information.

November the issue returned to the council with a discussion better defining the types of evictions they were seeking to assist, and creating safeguards around that assistance so that the policy is not misused.

More importantly, the city recognized their role in the solution. This cannot rest solely on the business community and property owners. The city was implementing this policy, so the city should have some skin in the solution.

The resulting policy asked that property owners provide:

  • Sufficient notice to both the residents and city about any planned renovations that would cause displacement
  • Details about the renovations they are planning to make, and pull permits where necessary
  • One month’s compensation at market rental rates for relocation costs

But it also required that the city pick up the responsibility of:

  • Ensuring the work is done by the property owner – and that it is done according to the agreements made, and
  • An additional month’s compensation at market rental rates for relocation costs.

The city created a solution where the residents, the housing providers, and the government are working together the best achieve all the needs of the community:

  • Improving the housing stock
  • Protecting the residents
  • Creating solutions together.

The city created the first of its kind program to address these concerns, and they did so through thoughtful and deliberate crafting of a comprehensive policy.

Tenant’s rights activists did not get everything that they wanted.

Property owners did not get everything they wanted.

City government did not get everything they wanted.

But they found a solution that everyone could live with and feel they had been heard.

Here we are in the middle of December, and Costa Mesa will begin sending details out to all property owners of their responsibilities under this new ordinance. This new solution strikes a balance between all interests. While Larry David’s quote may have been appropriate at the beginning, magician/ author Amit Kalantri counters that thought with a quote that may be more fitting in what we should be looking for when compromising –

“Compromise brings harmony to both, happiness to none.”

Chip Ahlswede is a resident of Orange has a background in Political Science and has worked for the County of Orange, the California State Assembly, and the House of Representatives in Washington D.C.. Since 2000, Chip has advocated for housing policy reforms nationwide, and currently serves as the Vice President of External Affairs for the Apartment Association of Orange County.

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