Robert Cavooris, a steering committee member for Movement for Housing Justice, admittedly had his doubts about his group’s efforts to place a rent control initiative on the November ballot. “I was not sure that Santa Cruz was ready for it,” he confesses. “I’ve had my hesitations about the way we proceeded.”
Part of his concern was the revelation that organizers will need to turn in their signatures on May 9, earlier than anyone had expected. The Santa Cruz City Council will be on recess for the month of July, tightening the schedule and making activists wonder if they could still hit their target. Since then, Cavooris says they’ve “shattered” their own expectations, reaching 8,000 signatures this past weekend. That’s well over the 5,700 required, and enough to give organizers a comfortable cushion, he feels.
Calling the enthusiasm “very heartening,” Cavooris says he’s hoping it “will carry us through to November.” Meanwhile, local opposition to rent control is mobilizing, too, in a new group called Santa Cruz Together. The coalition’s website argues that the measure will create an expensive new bureaucracy with its proposed rent board, reduce the number of rentals available, accelerate gentrification and raise rental prices even faster than they’ve gone up in the past.
“Signed the petition and regret it?” the group’s site says toward the bottom of its home page. “Click here to take it back.” The site links to a form on the city of Santa Cruz’s website for residents to retract their support of the measure.
Peter Cook, a real estate agent working on the opposition campaign, says the rent control measure would make it tougher to kick out renters who are bad neighbors or lousy tenants. In just a month a half, Santa Cruz Together has gotten more than 1,000 people to sign on against the initiative, he says.
Cook compares supporters of rent control to climate change deniers who would rather drive their Hummers than face facts. “They don’t want to believe it,” he says of rent control organizers. “The vast amount of economists say that this is not the right way to provide housing for renters.”