City leaders to review controversial ordinance that allows police to order evictions

December 10, 2018 09:48 PM

The St. Louis Park city council will review a controversial ordinance Monday night that allows police to order landlords to evict their tenants.

The meeting comes less than a month after a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS investigation found more than 150 renters had been forced from their homes for violating the city's crime-free/drug-free ordinance even though they were never convicted, charged or accused of a crime, according to a review of city and court records dating back to 2013.

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The findings outraged tenants, landlords and housing advocates. Now, two council members have suggested changing or repealing the ordinance.

"I don't think we need this ordinance," Anne Mavity, a council member since 2010, said in a recent phone interview.

She said she has raised concerns over the ordinance in the past, concerns that were re-enforced after seeing the report.

Council member Steve Hallfin said he's open to "tweaking" the ordinance, specifically by getting rid of the provisions that allows police to order landlords to terminate the least over petty misdemeanor amounts of marijuana or paraphernalia.

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Ninety tenants have been evicted for possessing a small amount of the drug, even though they were never cited for a petty misdemeanor, according to records.

The story has also prompted housing and tenant advocates to call for rewriting the ordinance in order to offer more tenant protections.

"After your story aired, we did an email and calling campaign," said Aaron Berc, a community organizer with Jewish Community Action. "Seeing the amount of people who were displaced because of this ordinance who were not charged, arrested or convicted of crime seems incredibly unjust."

Berc said he feels that momentum around this issue is building.

"I fully expect [the city council] will want to look and see if this ordinance makes sense or doesn't make sense given all of the facts now," Berc said.

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Kirsten Swanson

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