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News: 06/15/2017

SV Hospital parcel tax approved; Santa Rosa rent control sunk



There was very little voter confusion about the different ballot issues facing Oakmont and Glen Ellen voters on June 7. Each were resolved with solid margins. Kenwood voters, however, got to sit this one out.

Glen Ellen voters had a rerun of the Sonoma Valley Health Care District’s March parcel tax election that saw the $250 per year proposal fail by 64 votes. As a parcel tax, it required approval of two thirds of the voters. This time around, Measure E achieved more than the two-thirds minimum – 69 percent – and will become effective in the 2017-2018 tax cycle.

“We’re extremely grateful to the community for stepping up once more to support its hospital and for the many volunteers who went out into the community to discuss the need for the parcel tax,” said Jane Hirsch, chairman of the District’s board. “They did a terrific job.”

Smaller hospital districts have struggled for years with costs increasing far faster than revenues. Sebastopol’s beleaguered Palm Drive Hospital – now called Sonoma West – has shut down twice in the past 20 years and is still struggling to find adequate financial support.

“We have many challenges as a small community hospital, but with the parcel tax revenue, the hospital will be financially secure enough to weather this storm,” Kelly Mather, Sonoma Valley Hospital president and CEO, added.

County counsel estimated that “the proposed tax will generate $3,800,000 in revenue annually,” largely needed to “offset an anticipated $1,000,000 annual reduction in Federal supplemental payments beginning in 2018.” The District had said that emergency room operations could be suspended if the parcel tax was not renewed.

A recent economic study said the SVHD has an impact of around $100 million a year, employing nearly 500 people with an annual payroll of $30 million.

The approval came just in time: the existing $195 parcel tax expires on June 30. The new $250 tax will run for five years.

Rent control measure drowned in campaign money

Oakmont voters participated in Santa Rosa’s most expensive election issue ever, as over $800,000 in anti-rent control money flooded in from around the country to squelch a complicated attempt to impose some controls on skyrocketing rents for buildings built before 1995. More than $1 million was raised, overall, though final figures won’t be in until all campaign finance disclosures are filed later in the year.

Measure C, titled “City of Santa Rosa Rent Stabilization,” was the city’s response to the increasing scarcity of affordable housing and continued claims that renters are being evicted so rents can be increased by large amounts. It would have required landlords to show “just cause” for evictions or fork over three months’ rent, plus $1,500 to get renters out.

Units in certain buildings built before 1995 were targeted by the ordinance, not single-family homes or condominiums. It also didn’t apply to duplexes and triplexes where the owners lived as well.

Furthermore, the City of Santa Rosa would recover the $1.2 million cost of administering the program, splitting the $113 per unit annual cost estimate between landlords and tenants, which may not have been all that attractive to renters.

Rent increases for the covered units were capped at three percent a year.

The full text of Measure C took up 10 pages of the 19-page voter’s pamphlet. The rest was taken up with position statements.

The proposed ordinance set off a firestorm of campaign oratory and marketing materials, flooding the mail and email inboxes with – mostly – arguments against it .

Opponents asserted that the measure would not solve homelessness or affordable housing, while supporters pointed out that it was designed to prevent more people from becoming homeless in the face of rent hikes and “no cause” evictions.

When the final votes were tallied, 14,724 voters – 52.9 percent – said “No” to rent stabilization, as opposed to 13,315 supporting the idea. Considering the lopsided five-to-one campaign spending that went into stopping this measure, the issue of rent control will almost certainly be tested in other cities.



Email: jay@kenwoodpress.com

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