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Newsom extends price-gouging protections for North Bay counties

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order Friday extending price-gouging protections in place for renters in three North Bay counties since the 2017 wildfires until the end of the year.

The order extends a measure imposed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in the second day of the wildfire siege that destroyed more than ?6,200 homes across Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino.

The same measure - preventing rate hikes of more than 10 percent - also covers renters in wildfire-impacted Santa Barbara and Shasta counties, where destructive fires burned in 2018.

The protections, which had been set to expire Friday, have underpinned at least seven criminal cases brought against landlords so far by the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office, as well as two civil cases targeting owners of two large apartment complexes in the area.

State Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, said the renewed safeguards will help protect tenants impacted by wildfires against unethical landlords.

“I think it’s an important step to just make sure that people know and understand that this kind of behavior is not going to be tolerated,” he said. “I just think it’s important that people not be taken advantage of because they were one of the unfortunate ones that had their homes burned in the wildfire.”

Dodd praised Newsom for taking the step, and said he played no role in the governor’s move. His signature response to the two deadly years of California wildfires was an omnibus bill, SB 901, that among other things required utilities to create fire prevention plans and provided ?$1 billion for state wildfire prevention plans.

“These wildfires really are?climate-driven. A lot of them are utility-caused, not all of them are. These are all tools in the tool belt of all these different issues,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Andrew Beale at 707-521-5205 or andrew.beale@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @iambeale.

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