The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to extend the expiration date of the prohibition on commercial evictions arising from loss of income or substantial medical expenses related to COVID-19.
The board voted 4-1 to adopt an ordinance to extend the expiration date to March 31. The prohibition would have originally expired on Jan. 31, 2021.
Second District Supervisor Gregg Hart supported the extension.
“The businesses that get closed in this moment are going to have a very, very hard time coming back and being a viable tenant for any landlord,” he said. “We’re in a crisis and we’re trying to do the best we can to protect existing businesses to survive through this moment — this very, very difficult moment — and the restaurants and bars that have been closed for the past almost two months now are particularly vulnerable, and providing some level of relief and protection for them so that they can get back on their feet as soon as it’s safe to do so will return them to being a viable tenant and giving a landlord that income that they need.”
He added, “Despite this being an imperfect solution, it is a solution that is needed and important right now.”
Chair and 4th District Supervisor Bob Nelson was the lone dissenting vote.
“I have heard from various landlords in the last few weeks about this concern,” he said. “Those landlords are small business owners themselves and rely on this income, and I’ve not heard from a single landlord that hasn’t been willing to negotiate and work with their tenant. Even outside the pandemic, that’s been my experience with large commercial landlords and small commercial landlords.”
He said that because commercial tenants have employees, they’re eligible for Paycheck Protection Program loans and other financial assistance from the federal or state government.
“Not as many of those options are available for landlords at this time that I’ve seen, so that’s a concern for me as well. Although I understand both sides of it, at this point, I’m not likely to support the ordinance,” Mr. Nelson said. “There are other impacts we’re not necessarily seeing. A lot of us just imagine the big commercial landlord and we forget about the little guy.”
In other business, the board unanimously approved a proposed amendment to the environmental thresholds and guidelines manual to include new interim thresholds for determining the significance of impacts from greenhouse gas emissions from land use projects and plans.
This move will assist the county in complying with the California Environmental Quality Act guidelines and streamline the environmental review process.
“In the housing sense, to me, it just makes imminent business sense as well as environmental sense to incentivize construction of housing closest to jobs, which is what this does,” said 1st District Supervisor Das Williams.
The board also received a COVID-19 update, and discussed the lifting of the regional stay-at-home order, and Santa Barbara County’s new regulations in the purple tier.