Petition for rent control in Delano moves forward, City might put up a competing measure

May 21, 2024 /

Proponents of rent control ordinance inspect petitions to be handed in to Delano city clerk office

The city of Delano might become the first city in Kern County to have a rent control ordinance with a bundle of additional protections for tenants. Proponents of such a measure handed in a petition with around three thousand signatures from registered voters to the Delano City Clerk’s office Tuesday morning.

“I had to move out of my hometown because I could no longer afford to pay the rent here,” said Yolanda Chacon Serna. She was one of several tenant advocates who spoke at a news conference outside Delano city hall.

“People have told us the rents have gone out of control,” said long-time Delano resident Lupe Martinez.

Advocates for rent control ordinance hold a news conference in front of Delano City Hall announcing they have enough signatures on a petition to qualify for the November ballot.

Dubbed the “Fair Rents Delano campaign,” it kicked off in December of 2023 and was organized by an informal coalition of community activists. The petition needs 10 percent valid signatures from registered voters in Delano in order to be placed on the November ballot for approval by the voters. If approved, it would establish an ordinance to limit rent increases that are 60% of the annual change in the federal consumer price index, or a maximum of 3% per year, whichever is less with some exceptions over a 12-month period. Under the proposed ordinance, only housing units built before 1995 that are not exempt would be subject to rent control protections. All residential units that were issued a certificate of occupancy after February 1, 1995, as well as single-family owned homes and condominiums, are not subject to any rent control measures, per the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act.

Asked how many tenants in Delano would benefit from the proposed ordinance, campaign director Arturo Rodriguez said he didn’t know and has asked the city for information, but has not received any response. But the proposed ordinance goes beyond just rent control, and not everyone agrees it’s needed.

“It’s a horrible idea. It’s going to be the most restrictive rent control ordinance in California,” said Delano mayor Joe Alindajao in a phone interview. “And it’s completely unnecessary because California already has a rent control law.”

Alindajao said he was speaking as a private citizen and has recused himself from participating in discussions on rent control at city council meetings because he is a landlord who rents a four-unit duplex built before 1995. The mayor said the proposed ordinance would force the city to create what he called another layer of government to settle disputes between landlords and tenants at an annual cost of $1.8 million to city taxpayers.

“We’re going to waste taxpayer dollars. I’d rather use that money to hire more police officers or to expand the city staff,” said Alindajao. “Why isn’t the state rent control statute enough?”

Delano mayor Joe Alindajao says proposed ordinance is a waste of taxpayer money and the city may place a competing rent control measure on the November ballot.

California’s Tenant Protection Act passed in 2019 states landlords cannot raise rent more than 10% total or 5% plus the percentage change in the cost of living, whichever is lower during a one-year period for housing units built before December 1995. The proposed ordinance in Delano would be more restrictive than current state law. Advocates said the current state rent control law isn’t enough.

“It doesn’t have enforcement,” said Mari Perez-Ruiz.

Community supporters of rent control express solidarity with proposed ordinance.

Eviction controls, relocation assistance and tenant protections

In addition to rent control provisions, the ordinance calls for a host of new eviction control and tenant protections. But unlike rent control, these will be applicable to all residential units being rented, regardless of when the units were built. According to a staff report by Delano city manager Maribel Reyna and city attorney Mark Hensley dated May 6, city staff will be responsible for tracking all such units and providing assistance in resolving violations or disputes arising from eviction and tenant protection rights.

For example, under the proposed ordinance, a landlord that terminates a tenancy for no fault of the tenant (known as no-fault just cause) would be required to make a relocation payment to the tenant of as much as $8,000. Additionally, if the tenant is 62 years or older, disabled, or terminally ill at the time the notice is provided, the tenant is entitled to an additional $4,000 payment. Rent control advocates said this was included in the ordinance as a way to deter landlords from unjustly evicting a tenant.

“You’ve got to remember that for us, it’s always been about getting justice, to discourage landlords from unfair practices,” said Martinez.

Under current state law, landlords are only required to provide tenants with a direct payment equal to one month’s rent or waive the payment of rent for the final month of tenancy under the no-fault just cause evictions.

Rent control organizers Lupe Martinez and Mari Perez-Ruiz hand in petitions to Delano city clerk Nancy Garcia.

Funding, enforcement, and city resources to implement the petition

Another major disagreement between tenant advocates and Delano City staff is over the cost of implementing the proposed ordinance. According to the May 6 staff report, the city of Delano would need to create a new city department to enforce and administer the proposed ordinance. Said department would be funded by an annual rental housing fee that all landlords are required to pay. The city council would determine the amount of the fee, but until that determination is made, the fee would be set at $120 per rent-control unit per year and $84 per unit per year for units that are exempt from the rent-control provisions. Rent control advocates Perez-Ruiz said the cost to the city would be “minimal.”

City may put forward a competing rent control measure

According to the staff report, the city is “desirous” of exploring a possibility to have the proponents alter their petition, but it did not state how. Alindajao said he does not think the proponents are willing to change anything. An alternative would be to have the city place a competing rent control measure on the November ballot which among other things, would provide for a different dispute resolution process than that provided for in the proposed ordinance, and potentially a different rent control formula.

Asked what a competing measure might look like, Alindajao said, “It would probably look just like the state statute, to be honest. We can live with the state statute.” The fiscal impact of the proposed ordinance is still under review by staff and will be brought back to the city council when a fee study is completed.

What now?

Two boxes of petitions with around 3,000 voter signatures were turned in by proponents to city clerk Nancy Garcia. Garcia said her role is to ensure all information is filled out correctly and make sure all voter signatures are Delano registered voters. Should she spot anyone with an address outside of Delano, that signature would not be valid. Garcia will then forward the petitions to the Kern County Elections Office which will then verify the signature of each to ensure it is valid. That process could take days or even weeks.

If enough signatures are found to be valid, the proposed ordinance will be placed on the November ballot for Delano voters to decide its fate. Proponents of the measure say they will hold several town hall informational meetings between now and November to explain and answer questions about the ordinance to the community.

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Jose Gaspar

José Gaspar is a veteran journalist and former news anchor/reporter with Telemundo, Bakersfield. Prior, he worked 28 years at KBAK-TV as a reporter. Email him at