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Larkspur officials are going back to the drawing board to improve tenant protection proposals.

After a four-hour workshop Wednesday, the City Council said it needs more information about rental regulations, rental assistance programs and eviction protection.

“It’s a complicated issue, and I don’t think there’s an easy answer,” Councilman Scott Kendell said after the meeting. “We’re balancing the pros and cons of both sides to try to find something that works for our community.”

For the past six months, the city has been debating whether to pass rent control laws. The officials formed two ad hoc committees. Mayor Gabe Paulson and Councilman Kevin Haroff were tasked with looking into rent stabilization, while Kendell and Councilwoman Kathryn Way looked into rental assistance.

The first committee recommended that the board direct staff to develop local rent stabilization and eviction protection ordinances.

The committee proposed creating a rent register for landlords and increasing rents by 7 percent over 12 months. Increases above the threshold will trigger a notice of intent from landlords and tenants will be able to appeal. A valid appeal will prompt binding mediation.

The commission suggested that the decree should expire in 2030.

“We don’t have a lot of information, that’s part of what keeps this discussion going,” Paulson said. “If we start something and find it’s great, so be it. If not, it’s good that it has a sunset.”

The second committee recommended a “means-based” approach to rental assistance.

The debate over tenant protections came to a head last year when tenants at the 455-unit Skylark Apartments asked for help after they reported rent increases of 8.8% to 10%.

Since then, Prime Residential, which owns and manages Skylark, has worked with tenants and the city to create a housing stock and rental assistance program, Way said.

The program offers a 15% rent discount and an annual rent increase cap for households at or below 50% of the area median income. According to Prime Residential, the program includes 26 apartments with an average savings of $377 per month. Dozens of other tenants have expressed interest in the project.

The Rental Assistance Committee is also looking into what the city-funded rental assistance program entails. The county channels its funds through a third-party nonprofit organization. A similar approach could work in Larkspur, officials said. However, funding is an issue.

Residents supported the new rules, but raised some concerns. Skylark Tenants Association president Caroline Njoki says the 7% rent increase threshold is too high.

“This percentage is far more than the vast majority of tenants in Larkspur will be able to afford,” he said. “Do you know anyone who is guaranteed a 7% annual raise year after year?”

Of the rental assistance program, she said means-based programs leave out “most rent-burdened tenants, putting the onus on tenants to learn about and apply for the program.”

The Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act prohibits local rent control regulations for properties built after 1995. Single-family homes and condominiums are also exempt from rent control.

The Tenant Protection Act sets rent increases at 5% plus the regional consumer price index rate. The maximum increase is 10%. The validity period of that law is planned until 2030.

City Manager Dan Schwartz said he is working on providing the commission with examples of other tenant protection laws. He said the discussion of just cause laws for eviction would be discussed separately.

Another meeting will probably take place in February.


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