(The Center Square) – Tacoma voters will not see two competing measures regarding tenant protections on this fall’s ballot.
On Wednesday, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Timothy Ashcraft ordered the county to remove the Tacoma City Council’s measure from the upcoming election ballot in November.
A citizen’s group called Tacoma For All got a renter protection initiative known as a Tenant Bill of Rights on the ballot. It would require more notice for rent increases, require landlords to offer relocation assistance if the rent increases more than 5% and would ban evictions during the winter and evictions of students and educators during school year, among other protections.
At about the same time, the Tacoma City Council passed its own updates to the city’s rental housing code in July that went into effect on July 24.
The city council’s Ordinance 28831, sponsored by Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards, would require landlords to comply with health and safety laws and sets limits on late fees for rent and on pet deposits. The measure also requires landlords to have a city business license before increasing rent or evicting tenants, requires only one 120-day notice to raise rent, adds new regulations for shared housing and standardizes screening criteria for the amount of tenant income required to qualify for housing.
The council then voted to place the ordinance on the November ballot, calling it Measure 2, as an alternative to the citizen’s initiative
Tacoma for All and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 367 filed a lawsuit asserting that the city charter guarantees voters the right to an up-or–down majority vote on citizens’ initiatives. They argued the city council did not have the authority to place an alternate ballot, claiming it was a tactic designed to sow confusion.
Aschraft agreed, characterizing the city’s measure as misleading and confusing to voters and prohibited it from going on the ballot.
“This is a massive victory for grassroots democracy in Tacoma and a victory for everyone fighting for stronger tenant protections,” Ty Moore, Tacoma for All campaign manager, said in a social media post. “The court blocked the city’s attempt to derail our campaign on behalf of the landlord lobby and made it clear that city council’s actions were not only deceptive but illegal.”
On Nov. 7, Tacoma voters will decide the fate of the Tenant Bill of Rights.