Solana Beach landlord waives April rent

Clutch Modern is one of many businesses that have had to close their storefronts.

A longtime Solana Beach resident and commercial landlord, Daniel Powell, decided to waive rent for 17 tenants to help alleviate the financial burdens and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When I realized it was going to be a challenge and a struggle for people to pay, I just thought that it would be a nice gesture to waive it, just so there was some piece of good news and something they could look toward and say, OK things aren’t so bad,” he said.

Business owners, landlords, city councils and other local elected officials have been trying to navigate the public health orders that have slowed the economy to a near standstill and eliminated about 10 years of job growth. Businesses that have been deemed “non-essential” by the government are applying for loans and taking other measures to persevere.

Among potential relief measures for local businesses, the Solana Beach City Council on April 22 discussed holding off on new business certificate fee increases. Council members also discussed holding off on putting Solana Energy Alliance customers into collections if they are unable to pay due to financial difficulties caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

The city could also waive grading permit fees that property owners might need after recent heavy rainfall impacted several slopes throughout the city.

Solana Beach has been maintaining a list on its website of the restaurants that are still open for takeout and delivery, and directing business owners to federal, state and other potential resources.

COVID-19 business closures have led to many conflicts between landlords and tenants over rent payments. Powell, a Solana Beach resident of 24 years, said he wanted to have more productive relationships with his tenants as they figure out how to weather the crisis.

Sarah Paschall, a Carmel Valley resident who has owned the furniture and decor store Clutch Modern for more than three years, was one of the tenants who benefited from Powell’s decision to waive April rent. Her storefront has been closed, but she’s still been able to continue online sales.

“If all of your profitability is gone, then how are you going to survive? A little bit of anxiety set in as everything was starting to unfold,” she said.

At the end of March, Paschall received an email from Powell announcing his April rent forgiveness.

“I just want to give him all the credit here for really doing something great for the community,” she said.

She added that it’s important to maintain the “boutique atmosphere” that she called the “heart and soul of Solana Beach.”

Powell said the 2008 recession resulted in a lot of turnover among his commercial tenants, but the mandatory closures of so many businesses because of COVID-19 has created a new set of challenges. He said he was still in the process of calculating how the April rent waivers will impact his finances. His tenants will continue owing rent in May.

“It was actually more significant than I thought originally but I still think it was the right thing to do,” Powell said.