Chula Vista City Hall
Chula Vista city hall. Photo by Chris Stone

We are both long-time Chula Vista residents. Through the years, we have been involved in many community issues and we care deeply about Chula Vista. Separately, each of us owns a handful of rental homes which we manage and lease to individuals and families who are contributing members of our community. We rely on rents for an important part of our income.

Every property owner in the city should take note that Chula Vista is considering enacting a deeply flawed new law that would dramatically affect rental housing providers like ourselves. It is designed to punish people like us who are providing quality housing in our City.

City officials want to add unneeded local regulations on top of California’s already very strict rental housing rules. The ordinance up for consideration on May 17 was crafted from a referral from the Mayor without one bit of research or data that tenants need to be “protected” from housing providers. The city is rushing to pass the poorly drafted Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance in spite of many calls for further analysis and community input.

This is offensive on many levels, but it would also result in unintended negative consequences. This law would discourage housing development and renovations and lead “mom and pops” to sell off their investment rental housing.  

We strongly object to the city’s premise for this legislation — that housing providers and renters do not get along. In our experience and that of our colleagues, the relationship between owner and tenant is respectful and collaborative.

We take pride in providing our renters with quality homes. We work hard to maintain and upkeep the properties — everything from unclogging toilets and installing smoke alarms to painting and garbage disposal repair. You name it, we have fixed it. Yes, we both still get under sinks to do repairs.

This proposal creates an unfriendly climate for rental housing and pits owners and renters against each other. The proposed ordinance is needlessly complex and designed to make lawyers rich while making it harder for decent owners to provide this essential service to our renters.

While the city claims they have made an effort to avoid affecting “mom and pop” housing providers, the truth is that this ordinance would unfairly burden all property owners — big and small. In fact, it seems designed to intimidate rental property owners by creating new criminal penalties and the risk of jail time for noncompliance without any education for mom and pop housing providers to learn how to be in compliance.

If approved, it will affect all homeowners who plan to build and rent out accessory dwelling units, or granny flats. It will reduce the supply of housing and result in neighborhood decay through a lack of investment in rental homes by owners.

Sadly, it was drafted without any public outreach campaign — denying a voice to people directly affected.

If you think this would only apply to large corporate rental property owners, think again. Small Chula Vista homeowners — including those who are considering building accessory units — would be regulated by the ordinance, with the most oppressive restrictions kicking in with as few as three units.

Whether you rent out one granny flat or 1,000 apartments, the ordinance creates new burdensome requirements for noticing tenants and terrifying penalties for noncompliance. It provides some exemptions for owner-occupied properties, but plenty of its rules would still apply. And the moment the owner moves out, the property is immediately subject to more rules.

The proposal is extreme and impractical, forcing housing providers to provide as much as one year’s notice to residents of a major remodel that requires a move-out.

These rules would create new financial burdens and a huge disincentive to remodel aging properties. With 48% of Chula Vista’s housing stock 40 years or older, the result will be shabby, deteriorating neighborhoods as housing providers defer major maintenance due to increased costs associated with this law.

The ordinance also gives sweeping new powers to the elected Chula Vista City Attorney to issue subpoenas to investigate and criminally prosecute housing providers with a misdemeanor conviction that would be on their record, fines and even jail time. In other words, attempting to routinely improve the rental home will be treated as a criminal act.

This is all unprecedented in Chula Vista’s history and deserves much more review.

Laws and remedies already exist that protect against bad actors; this ordinance is a broad-brush approach that will impact all rental providers and good residents of Chula Vista.

This whole effort is a distraction from the real issue which our City Council has failed to address in any meaningful way — the problem of inadequate rental housing supply and growing demand for more housing.

The city needs to work with the development community to build more apartments and homes, rather than scapegoating owners. That is the only real protection for renters.

Mitch Thompson is a former Chula Vista city councilmember, planning commissioner and city housing coordinator, served nine years on the Otay Water District board of directors, and is the chair of the government affairs committee for the Pacific Southwest Association of Realtors, He is also an affordable housing developer and a rental-home owner in Chula Vista. Aurora Murillo is a Chula Vista resident and rental-home owner who has been a civic leader for 25 years, having served on numerous roles with South Bay school districts as a parent representative and advocate for bilingual education and equity for socioeconomically disadvantaged students.