The council voted unanimously on Tuesday night to enact an "urgency" ordinance enacting a 45-day moratorium on payday lending and check cashing businesses opening up within the city.
Despite not having any businesses of that type currently in the city, and there being no requests for new business licenses for payday lenders, the council heard from speakers that there is a tide of payday lending companies flowing into California taking advantage of the most financially vulnerable residents.
“This is a chance to get ahead of the curve on this and offer thoughtful legislation,” said Melissa Morris of the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley.
Morris said the average payday borrower takes out 10 loans per year, mostly because triple digit loan rates set up a cycle of borrowers who cannot pay back the loan before the next payday, and find themselves forced to take out yet another loan.
Eleanor Clement Glass of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation said payday loans are “a major problem.” She called the loans “usurious practices” that prey on the most vulnerable residents, including those with low incomes and seniors on fixed incomes.
City staff will create legislation in the next 45 days and begin the process of sending it through the approval process. Because the matter is tied to land use, it will go through the Planning Commission before heading to council.
Other issues at Tuesday's meeting included:
- Downtown parking: the council directed staff to prepare a Request for Proposals to find a consulting company that will lay out future plans for the city’s 10 parking plazas.
- Plastic bag ban: the council voted to partner with San Mateo County on an environmental impact report for a possible future ban on plastic bags within the city. The county is footing the bill for the EIR, while asking other cities in Santa Clara County to join in on the report, only asking for some staff time in return.
- Bicycle transportation plan: got a little closer to approval of the plan after almost a year of work, although the council wanted some changes.
- “The Thinker” sculpture donation: sent back to the Sculpture Commission an offer from a couple to donate an 8-foot bronze replica of Rodin’s “The Thinker” sculpture in memory of their son. The commission was willing to accept the donation and place the sculpture at Woodland Library, but council members said they had too many questions about the origin of the replica, and were concerned that the city has no formal policy on accepting memorial donations.