Concord to review signatures challenging rent ordinance

Concord City Council approved the Residential Tenant Protection Program on March 5.

CONCORD, CA (Apr. 17, 2024) — As the deadline approached, about 100 residents canvassed the town gathering signatures for a referendum on the city’s new rent ordinance.

“It’s a grass-roots effort, homeowners, Realtors,” said Jo Sciarroni, a local real estate broker and property manager who launched the petition drive last month. “They’re everywhere – all the grocery stores, three different businesses and my office.”

Sciarroni was expected to turn in the signatures on April 18, after the Pioneer’s deadline. City Clerk Joelle Fockler will do a “prima facie” review and tally the signatures. Then she will hand it over to the Contra Costa County Elections Office to verify that there are at least 7,204 signatures – or 10% of Concord residents registered to vote per the county’s last official report. The Elections Office has 30 days from the date of the petition filing, excluding weekends and holidays.

Debate over single-family homes

At issue is the Residential Tenant Protection Program the City Council approved 4-1 on March 5. It increased “just cause” eviction protections, expanded the city’s Rent Registry and established a Rent Stabilization Program.

Sciarroni said she started the signature drive because the council “had a deaf ear to how it would affect homeowners and home providers.”

Rent stabilization and rent roll-back components would only apply to multi-family rental complexes of two or more units built before Feb. 1, 1995. However, owners of single-family homes and condos would be included in the just-cause, no-fault eviction portions. That means if the owners want to move in, they would have to pay the tenants $2,000 plus two months’ rent.

“When I saw the defeated look on the poor people who were at the council meeting – I mean a lot of them were senior citizens – I thought: This is just not right,” Sciarroni said.

“I think the intention was a good one – to protect tenants’ rights,” she added, “but I don’t think they gave enough consideration to the others it would be affecting.”

Despite others’ claims to the contrary, Sciarroni insists she doesn’t have the backing of any official groups – including the California Apartment Association (CAA).

“This was just me being upset because they snuck in single-family homes up to four units,” she said. “This is an unfair taking of property rights, especially when it concerns single-family homes.”

Council review of the process

At the Feb. 13 meeting, Councilmember Carlyn Obringer brought up concerns about homeowners being unaware of the ordinance and suggested it be put up for a citywide vote in November.

“If I asked anyone in my neighborhood, even people who are renting out homes, I don’t think they would know anything about this. And I think it would only be fair to enable them to get engaged on the topic,” Obringer said, adding that there could be “backlash” to the single-family component.

Councilmember Dominic Aliano countered that “the conversation about single-family homes has been part of our normal public process.”

Once Sciarroni submitted her petition, the city suspended implementation of the ordinance. Meanwhile, tenant groups rallied on April 7 regarding the need for rent control in Concord.

If successful, the referendum will be on the November ballot – unless the council decides to repeal the ordinance. If the petition is deemed invalid, community relations manager Jennifer Ortega said the city will implement the new rules.

Bev Britton
Bev Britton
Copy Editor at The Concord Clayton Pioneer |

Bev Britton graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of North Dakota and moved to the Bay Area with her soon-to-be husband Jim in 1986. She was features editor at the Contra Costa Times in Walnut Creek before becoming managing editor of the Contra Costa Sun in Lafayette in 1995. She retired from newsrooms in 2001, but an ad for the Clayton Pioneer drew her back in. The family moved to Lake Wildwood in the Gold Country a few years ago - but working at the Pioneer keeps her in touch with her old neighborhoods in Concord and Clayton.