The Santa Barbara Association of REALTORS® typically has a healthy working relationship with its City Council. Last fall, however, it was compelled to take the local governing body to task over a proposed tenant relocation ordinance and a related procedural issue in one fell swoop. It did so with the help of the REALTOR® Party’s Advocacy Everywhere program and thanks to the response of its membership, got its message across.
Government Affairs Director Krista Pleiser explains that a measure establishing relocation assistance payments for no-fault evictions had been under discussion for over two years. The REALTORS® were not against this, but worked with the Santa Barbara Rental Properties Association and the California Apartment Association in urging the City Council to be moderate in setting relocation assistance levels. Together they pushed the City to commission a nexus study to inform and determine the compensation amount. This was done at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars to the City, and after a normal course of back-and-forth in public debate, the Council proceeded to ignore the payment range the study presented, setting a higher compensation payment during the ordinance’s “consent period” — after the public discussion window had closed. “For such an important community-wide issue, to adopt a higher payment amount after the public discussion period was simply not acceptable,” says Pleiser; “Public participation is the backbone of our community. In addition to which, completely disregarding the recommendations of the study they had commissioned just made no sense.”
2020 President Staci Caplan used her weekly message in the local paper to present a strong argument shaming the City Council for its under-handed conduct, writing, “To change the policy substantially without notice might not be a violation of law, but it clearly violates the spirit of the Brown Act, which requires open meetings with ample opportunity for public comment…. However you might stand on landlord/tenant issues, this cannot be abided. The public process cannot be ignored.”
The REALTOR® Party’s Advocacy Everywhere program helped the Association conduct both member- and consumer-facing Calls for Action, targeting four members of the City Council and the Mayor with messages urging them to reconsider their actions. Notably, they also had REALTOR® members and the public send messages of thanks to the two Councilmembers who had opposed the secretive rate increase. “Our Association believes in positive reinforcement, and we don’t want all our contact with our elected officials to be opposition,” says Pleiser. “Of course, we know that certain issues aren’t going to go our way. But we still have to work together and work fairly to make any kind of progress, and it pays to be supportive whenever we can.”
In the end, the City Council agreed to a flat fee and changed the payment from a per-tenant to a per-unit basis. “Our members are pleased that our advocacy efforts made a difference,” says Pleiser. “We’re grateful to the REALTOR® Party and Advocacy Everywhere for making it so easy to get our voices heard.”
To learn more about how the Santa Barbara Association of REALTORS® is keeping vigilant on issues that matter to REALTORS® and property owners, contact Government Affairs Director Krista Pleiser at email@example.com or 805.884.8609.