Court scraps Tacoma City Council-backed renter’s measure for Nov. ballot

Aug 31, 2023, 7:39 AM | Updated: 2:32 pm

tacoma measure...

Downtown Tacoma and the port, as seen from the LeMay-America's Car Museum. (George Rose, Getty Images)

(George Rose, Getty Images)

Pierce County Judge Timothy Ashcraft ruled Tuesday Measure 2 has been removed from the city of Tacoma’s November ballot.

The measure, which has already been enacted into law as Amended Ordinance 28831, will no longer appear as an alternative that Ashcraft called “misleading and confusing.”

Measure 2 is an initiative that amended the city’s rental housing code, but was also placed on the November ballot as an alternative to a citizen’s initiative — also known as the Tenant Bill of Rights. Measure 2 was already passed by the city council July 11, meaning it became law and would offer no additional protections if voters selected it over Initiative 1, as the two measures are “competing” on the November ballot.

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Despite the two measures both increasing protections for renters, proponents of the grassroots-sponsored Tenant Bill of Rights believe the city’s measure is not enough for local residents, according to KIRO 7.

“This is a massive victory for grassroots democracy in Tacoma, and a victory for everyone fighting for stronger tenant protections,” Campaign Manager Ty Moore said in a prepared statement. “Today, the court blocked the city’s attempt to derail our campaign on behalf of the landlord lobby, and made it clear that the city council’s actions were not only deceptive, but illegal.”

Measure 2 requires a 120-day notice to raise rent, instead of a 60-day notice and it would also standardize screening criteria for the amount of tenant income required to qualify for housing and require landlords to provide more to tenants.

As noted on the Tacoma For All website, the initiative Moore and others are pushing for would require landlord providing six months’ notice for all rent increases — and not four or two — and relocation assistance for rent hikes over 5%. Also, the law would cap fees and deposits — including for pets, — ban cold weather evictions from November to March and rent hikes when code violations exist and stop school-year evictions of children and educators.

Mayor Victoria Woodards and Deputy Mayor Kristina Walker voted in favor of both passing Measure 2 and placing it on the November ballot alongside City Councilmembers Catherine Ushka, John Hines and Joe Bushnell. Councilmembers Olgy Diaz and Kiara Daniels voted against placing Amended Ordinance 28831 on the ballot.

“It’s important for people everywhere to be able to exercise the right to vote fairly and unimpeded,” Diaz said after the court’s decision.” I’m thrilled to see this community effort moving forward for a fair and democratic vote.”

Moore stated the grassroots campaign had spent nearly $15,000 defending Initiative 1, using a significant amount of volunteer hours in the process.

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“The landlord lobby has failed in their attempt to work through city council to stop us,” Moore said. “Now we fully expect them to spend big on deceptive mailers and ads, but we are confident working people in Tacoma will see through their lies and pass Initiative 1 this November.”

The City of Tacoma released a statement following the court’s ruling.

“In today’s order, Pierce County Superior Judge Timothy Ashcraft validated the Tacoma City Council’s authority under the City Charter to place an alternative on the ballot to a citizen initiative petition,” the city’s statement read. “Nevertheless, the court found a problem in the council’s adoption of the ordinance prior to placing it on the ballot for voter approval (which would prevent the council from changing it for two years without another vote). We are disappointed in this portion of the court’s decision and we are in the process of determining our next steps.”

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Court scraps Tacoma City Council-backed renter’s measure for Nov. ballot