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    Santa Ana residents to vote on rent control protections and maybe on noncitizen voting
    • October 20, 2023

    Santa Ana voters will be asked about the city’s rent control and just cause eviction ordinances – public support would make the laws harder to overturn in the future – and will likely also be polled if ballots in city elections should be extended to noncitizens.

    City staffers have been asked to return at a later date with a drafted measure regarding noncitizen voting for the council’s approval – possibly in time for inclusion on the November 2024 ballot.

    Also, a council majority on Tuesday put in place the requirement for a supermajority, meaning five votes, of the council to make changes to city laws setting rent caps and limiting when landlords can evict tenants. And the same four council members – Johnathan Ryan Hernandez, Thai Viet Phan, Benjamin Vazquez and Jessie Lopez – decided voters in November 2024 will be asked to affirm the need for the housing laws, which include setting rent controls annually at 3% or 80% of inflation.

    If voters reject the measure, the laws will remain in place but could be overturned by a future vote of council; if voters support the measure, it would take a public vote to overturn the laws in the future.

    The same four council members supported asking voters about extending participation in council elections. It isn’t the first time Santa Ana leaders have considered extending voting rights to the city’s noncitizen residents, who make up about 24% of the local population.

    San Francisco voters in 2016 approved allowing noncitizens there to cast ballots in school board elections.

    Councilmember David Penaloza, who opposed both measures along with Mayor Valerie Amezcua and Councilmember Phil Bacerra, said the council majority was making decisions without thinking about cost or implementation.

    “Here we have a City Council majority putting the cart before the horse again,” Penaloza said. “It’s not so much that they’re bad ideas or bad ordinances, but it’s the process that they make these decisions under.”

    Councilmember Thai Viet Phan said the least the council could do is leave it up for voters to decide.

    “To me, giving these issues to our residents, to the voters of the city is sound and fair,” Councilmember Jessie Lopez agreed. “I am always going to be interested in understanding what the voters of the city think, because I believe that it can provide me with valuable insight.”

    Giving noncitizens the right to vote for their city leaders is “important to make sure that our residents feel heard,” Phan said. “When we talk about who gets to vote, whose voices matter, what does that mean for us?”

    Amezcua said her concern is there are too many unknowns surrounding the measure, not that she doesn’t support the immigrant community.

    “This is not about immigrants,” Amezcua said. “This is about doing the right thing.”

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    ​ Orange County Register