City Council to meet in closed session to discuss lawsuit over eviction bans

Santa Clarita City Hall, as pictured on February, 26, 2020, is located on the 23900 block of Valencia Blvd. Dan Watson/The Signal

Santa Clarita City Council members are expected to meet in closed session Tuesday to discuss the lawsuit several landlords filed in September against California and several cities over anti-eviction measures placed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The meeting is scheduled to take place at 4:30 p.m. with legal counsel, and could publicly report any actions taken during their regular meeting at 6 p.m., according to a city agenda report. 

City officials have stated they cannot comment on pending litigation. Steven Zelig, the attorney representing the group of apartment owners and lessors, said Friday that he has not heard from Santa Clarita officials and expects to see the “slow-moving” case gain momentum.  

“It’s in a dormant phase, but we should be picking up pretty significantly,” he said, adding that a status conference is set for early- to mid-January. 

Filed Sept. 11, the lawsuit names California, Los Angeles County and multiple Southern California cities, including Santa Clarita, Glendale, Hollywood and Burbank, as defendants. Plaintiffs in the case are a group of apartment owners and lessors, including Westside Habitats LLC, which owns six apartment buildings in Newhall, according to its website. 

The lawsuit alleges the series of ordinances, which have created bans on evictions, have “singled out” the apartment owners and lessors to shoulder financial burdens that “should be borne by the public and society at large,” according to court documents.   

“While purportedly intending to provide relief to tenants, from the perspective of the lessors and property owners, the ordinances and other enactments are illegal, imbalanced, and significantly (and needlessly) infringe on their constitutional rights,” read the lawsuit. 

Plaintiffs seek damages and relief to enjoin the governments’ enforcement of the ordinances, according to the lawsuit. 

“We’re seeking formal damages and our damages are getting very substantial, in the millions between my various clients,” said Zelig, adding that there is potential for a separate but similar lawsuit as more apartment owners, all from outside the SCV, have reached out to him.

In Santa Clarita, the residential and commercial eviction moratorium was established on March 31 and expired on Aug. 31 after council members voted 3-2 in allowing the local eviction ban to expire and be covered under the county’s own moratorium. L.A. County’s anti-eviction order expired on Oct. 1 but was replaced by California Assembly Bill 3088. This means renters countywide remain protected under the state through Jan. 31 for nonpayment of rent due to COVID-19-related financial hardship but must provide documentation.

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