With the third City Council rent stabilization study session behind us, we can see more clearly what the next rent stabilization ordinance will look like. It is a decidedly mixed picture for those who rent in Beverly Hills. We’ve gained several important protections since this process kicked-off in early 2017. The allowed annual rent increase is limited to the change in consumer prices. Relocation fees assist displaced tenants. The city banned no-just-cause evictions. And landlords now have to register their properties and pay the required business tax. But what Council giveth, Council can take away. Here’s our recap of the third and final rent stabilization study session.
City Council held the first scheduled rent stabilization study session last Thursday. This latest step in the 18-month process to reform the ordinance is a sign that the endgame is near. In this first study session, our councilmembers suggested what a final rent stabilization ordinance might look like. However they continue to discuss both the key issues and the process itself. Here’s our recap as we look ahead to the second study session on October 18th.
Dialogue #2 was convened to address three issue areas up for discussion at City Council this fall: rent banking, exemption of certain properties from rent stabilization, and the rent adjustment process. Like dialogue #1, city consultant HR&A Advisors presented each issue then passed the microphone to tenants and landlords for comment. Like dialogue #1, this session was less ‘dialogue’ and more call-and-response to have us reflect on a set of defined policy options.
City Council in Tuesday’s September 19th evening session adopted a resolution to create the rental unit registry. It was a formality, really. Council had decided to move ahead with it on September 5th despite a small parade of landlords who argued that the registry was not only unlawful but too costly and the product of an improper process. Councilmembers brushed those self-serving arguments aside, however, and at this meeting merely needed to adopt a resolution to formalize their decision. After hearing a few landlords again mount a last-chance campaign, the registry got Council’s OK in mere minutes.
Mayor Bosse tonight was able tonight to focus councilmembers on several key issues that are necessary to move the rent stabilization program forward: proceeding with a rental registry, funding the program, and hiring a deputy director. There were other areas of council agreement, too, like forming a tenant-landlord committee or board and enact new habitability standards. While the program moved forward, though, the next steps are unclear. Should the key policy questions go to a Council workshop? Get tossed back to the community for more dialogues? Let’s take a look at were councilmembers at the September 5, 2017 meeting were able to find consensus.
Facilitator Sukhsimranjit Singh approached dialogue #7 with an agenda that focused on several items from the previous table dialogue: the annual rent increase; relocation fees; no-just-cause tenancy terminations; and exemptions from rent stabilization for up to 4-unit structures. (For background read dialogue #5 recap and dialogue #6 recap.) In this final facilitated dialogue, though, landlords and tenants found little more to agree on. This is my recap.
This past Sunday, City of Beverly Hills convened the second roundtable dialogue involving committees of tenants and landlords. “We are moving towards a middle ground,” Facilitator Sukhsimranjit Singh said. “We will try to conclude these issues today without war stories.” Like July’s dialogue #5, this dialogue #6 was organized to allow representatives from each side an opportunity to search for common interests in a focused, facilitated discussion. What follows is my summary. (Don’t need to read the details? Read my takeaway from this the session.)
City Council handed residents who rent a major setback tonight when the majority agreed to step away from an earlier, unanimous commitment to create a rental unit registry. Indeed our councilmembers appeared to second-guess their decision to create a registry at all. In retreating, Council signals that Beverly Hills may not yet be ready to regulate rental housing. And that has significant implications for both tenants and landlords as we are a half-year into a rent-stabilization policy process that shows no sign of coming soon to a conclusion.
City of Beverly Hills last spring implemented an interim rent stabilization policy that capped at 3% annual allowable rent increases, mandated for all tenants relocation fees, and created a rental unit registry. Then Council tossed it to the community to hug-it-out over the key policy details. This latest in the series of sessions focused on these three key issues: tenant-landlord communication; habitability standards for individual units; and the allowed annual rent increase. This is my recap of Dialogue #5.
This third facilitated dialogue was yet another break from expectations: unlike the shared tables of dialogue #2, this session broke us out into two separate groups, tenants and landlords separately, and put us each in a room to talk about issue areas as identified in dialogue #1. Now, I don’t know what happened on the landlord side, but tenants found renewed purpose in working together. And we presented a unified front when it came to defending the current ordinance. Here’s my recap.
Professor Sukhsimranjit Singh facilitated the second scheduled tenant-landlord dialogues this past Wednesday. It was a departure from Monday’s first session in that this session drilled down to the one concern important to every tenant and landlord: How much can the rent increase each year? The ‘consensus’ position that emerged from this session will not make you happy! Read on for my recap.
Facilitator Sukhsimranjit Singh opened the city’s first tenant-landlord facilitated dialogue on Monday with three requests: be respectful, speak up, and listen. That acknowledged the divisions among tenants and landlords that emerged since the city adopted the first urgency ordinance in January. But it was also an admonition to the approximately 80 attendees: however passionate anyone may feel, the overarching goal across four scheduled facilitated dialogues was enhanced communication. Here is my recap.
City Council baked tenants a full loaf of protections when it unanimously adopted an ‘urgency ordinance’ in January: annual rent increases were limited to 3% and significant relocation fees for an involuntary tenancy termination put the brake on no-cause evictions. Residents who rent have waited for such protections for 30 years! But a month on, it looks like landlords have gobbled half of our loaf!
I want to thank everyone who responded to my Renters Alliance email and showed up to City Council this past Tuesday. Some were reluctant to speak up, but many of you did with heartfelt comments and observations. Unfortunately, our recommendations on the proposed ordinance, which was released Friday evening on a holiday weekend, were lost in our only <em>one-and-a-half minutes at the microphone</em>. So much for democracy: we saw a fully-baked set of half-loaf policies essentially blessed by City Council. (The other half of the loaf was gobbled by the landlords.)
Beverly Hills City Council felt your pain. Last night, we tenants secured from sympathetic councilmembers greatly-expanded protections. Gone are 10% rent increases. Gone are evictions without relocation fees. In a Council meeting that stretched to midnight and beyond, we heard some tales of landlord hardship but many more persuasive accounts of how tenants invest in our communities only to be tossed out summarily or handed a slow-motion eviction order in the form of successive, capricious rent hikes. At 1a.m. City Council used a seldom-invoked ‘urgency ordinance’ to approve several critical reforms to our rent stabilization ordinances.