Acting in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Anaheim City Council this week approved protections Coronavirus-affected residents from eviction and an economic recovery package to help the city’s tourism-based economy to quickly rebound from the pandemic shutdown.

At its regular-scheduled March 24 meeting, the council unanimously approved a request by Mayor Harry Sidhu to enact a temporary moratorium on evictions for both residential and commercial tenants experiencing difficulty paying rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Landlords cannot initiate eviction proceedings against residential and commercial tenants who can show their inability to pay their rent is due to COVID-19.  The ordinance covers both single- and multi-family homes, as well as mobile homes or “other structures lawfully used as a residential dwelling.”

In order to qualify, a tenant would have to:

  • Notify the landlord before the day on which rent is due
  • Document that they are unable to pay rent due to COVID-19

Tenants would still be required to pay the portion of the rent which they are able to pay.

The proposed ordinance is effectively a rent deferral program:  it does not absolve tenants of their responsibility to pay rent.

The program as proposed would remain in effect until April 30, 2020 unless extended by council action, and required participating tenants to pay the deferred rent within 90 days. The mayor and city council agreed to a request from Councilman Jose F. Moreno to extend temporary moratorium to May 31, 2020 and the deferred rent payment deadline to 120 days.

Economic Recovery Program
Mayor Sidhu called an emergency council meeting for Thursday, March 26 to consider a $15 million economic recovery package, aimed to at assisting residents and spurring a local economic recovery which was divided into three parts:

The plan consists of:

A $2,000,000 grant to the Anaheim Community Foundation for direct assistance to residents and community non-profits that are helping Anaheim residents in need.

Up to $6,000,000 for housing assistance programs, city workforce continuity and homeless assistance.

A grant of up to $6,500,000 to Visit Anaheim, Anaheim to tourists, conventions, conferences and other events. According to the city:

The funding for Visit Anaheim is expected to support the continued marketing of the Anaheim Convention Center to conventions, conferences and other events.

As visitors come to Anaheim for conventions, conferences and events, they stay in hotels and dine out, which generates revenue for public safety and community services.

About 60 percent of what Anaheim spends on police, fire, staffing at libraries and community centers and other services comes from visitor spending at hotels, restaurants and shops.

With an annual budget of $21 million funded largely by hotels, Visit Anaheim is facing a 50 percent drop in funding as hotels have temporarily closed or are hosting few visitors.

The one-time city funding aims to keep the organization in place as the tourism downturn of March continues into April and potentially beyond.

Visit Anaheim will be expected to help reschedule Anaheim Convention Center events deferred from March, April and May.

It will also seek to bring new business to the convention center as groups that deferred in other markets look to reschedule their events, potentially in Anaheim.

And Visit Anaheim will also help book events for the Anaheim Convention Center in 2021 and beyond.

The plan calls for Visit Anaheim to provide performance measures to account for the city funding it receives.

The economic recovery plan also budgets $500,000 to encourage dining, shopping and buying at Anaheim businesses as part of a shop local campaign.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, occupancy has plummeted at Anaheim hotels, many of which have closed temporarily. Under the economic recovery program, hotels will be able to defer any fines, penalties or enforcement if they are unable to pay the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) for 90 days.

In order to help economic development project continue moving forward in this challenging environment, the city will extend deadlines, defer, reduce or waive fees, streamlined plan checks and undertake other regulatory relief.

“Coronavirus is the challenge of our time,” Sidhu said. “Our first responders and our entire city is rising to that challenge. But a vital part of any crisis is recovery. This plan will address the needs of those who are suffering now and prepare for us to welcome back visitors when it is safe and responsible to do so.”

Councilman Trevor  O’Neil credited the wisdom of tapping funds generated by the Anaheim Convention Center to fund the economic recovery portion of the package.

“To me is makes better sense when we have the Resort District driving a major part of our economy, that we use money that’s already restricted for that area to promote it, and that protects our general fund as best we can,” said O’Neil, who later clarified the funds aren’t restricted in a legal sense, but intended for

“When we do that, essentially we’re looking at general fund money going towards helping our residents and Convention Center money that is helping our economy,” said O’Neil.

“I know there are a lot of residents out there who are really hurting right now,” continued O’Neil. “There are, however, state and federal packages that will be providing the kind of economic relief that people need to get back on their feet.”

District 5 Councilman Steve Faessel spoke of the need for immediate action by the council, noting he’d visited several impacted neighborhoods that morning.

“Those people are hurting. We need to get services to them as quickly as possible,” said Faessel. “I’ve been out almost every day volunteering, supplying materials to some of these communities. I just cannot see us waiting any longer.”

“There may be opportunities to fine-tune this in the future, but we have to take decisive action now,” said Faessel.

The city council voted 5-1-1 to approved the economic recovery program. Mayor Sidhu, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Faessel and Councilmembers Trevor O’Neil, Jordan Brandman and Lucille Kring voted in favor. Councilwoman Denise Barnes abstained, and Councilman Jose F. Moreno voted against the economic recovery program, citing his opposition to targeting city resources to spurring the vital tourism and convention sector.