Renters Alliance Election Non-Endorsement

For those who rent in Beverly Hills there is no issue more relevant than the rent stabilization ordinance. That’s why Tuesday’s City Council election is the most important for us in decades. Literally it has been decades since City Council adopted rent stabilization ‘lite.’ We need better, and this election the eight thousand renting households can make a difference.

The incoming City Council will decide how much we will pay in rent increases; whether we can be evicted for no cause; and much we could walk away with if the landlord wants the apartment for a family member. We must choose carefully and — most important of all — TURN OUT AT THE POLLS.

A Non-Endorsement of Sorts

The most significant decision point concerns our next mayor. Who will shepherd amendments to the rent stabilization ordinance through the process? The mayor runs the meetings, sets the agendas, and behind the scenes exerts some influence to shape the agenda. The choice we make on Tuesday for City Council will determine our next Mayor.

The rotation of councilmembers into the mayor’s chair for one-year terms is set by protocol. The vice-mayor gets elevated to mayor and the next councilmember elevated to vice-mayor is ranked by votes cast. Today Nancy Krasne is vice-mayor. If she is elected she will be elevated to mayor immediately at the Council installation later in March. If she is not elected, then councilmember Lili Bosse ascends. Krasne may be your candidate on other issues, but on tenants’ issues I believe we must choose an alternative to Krasne for City Council.

Councilmember Bosse is not only our champion (in my view) but the councilmember most able to move the rent stabilization amendments through to completion. She is a positive and predictable presence on Council and, best of all, she prioritizes public input and participation above all else. She is a people’s councilmember and will be a people’s mayor (again).

Lili Bosse is not on the ballot this year. We can’t write her in. That makes this endorsement more of a non-endorsement: I can’t support Nancy Krasne for re-election. Were the mayor’s chair not in the balance it might be a different story because she has spoken up on behalf of tenants. And Krasne helped to put the rent stabilization amendments onto the Council’s agenda.

Whom I Do Support

I support John Mirisch and Robert Wunderlich because both are reasonable, reasoning thinkers whom I trust when it comes to making policy. Rent stabilization is a complicated policy that is framed by state law and local ordinance. It is important we have a Council that can work though very specific considerations because each and every shade of amendment to the ordinance will affect tenants.

John Mirisch simply puts residents first and he has eight years on the Council already. He is an easy choice. Bob Wunderlich has been serving as the city’s delegate to the Metropolitan Water Board. He is a seasoned policy-minded candidate and he’s cerebral too, which is no small consideration given the challenge of amending our ordinance. He’s an easy choice, too.

I support Frances Bilak because she has proven herself to be a kind and compassionate (not to mention accessible) Recreation and Parks Commissioner and Chair. I know she will care about those of us who rent. And her background as an attorney will be helpful in parsing those complex laws and ordinance provisions.

Why not the others? We are fortunate in Beverly Hills to have a field of candidates that other small cities would envy: long records of community service; experience on school boards and commissions; accomplished professionals all.

However from the tenant’s perspective they do not rise to the top of the endorsement ticket for various reasons. We have one candidate endorsed by the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles. That is a deal-killer right there. We have others who have accepted contributions from real estate interests, which puts a thumb on the side of no endorsement. Some candidates are untested or unpredictable. At least one has indicated the January 2017 urgency rent stabilization amendments was unwise. Various concerns serve to push our three endorsed candidates to the top of the field.

Nancy Krasne: Renters’ Champion?

Nancy Krasne has spoken up for renters over the years and has even extended personal assistance to tenants. But the fact is that she can’t help every household. Residential stability is a policy problem that requires a policy solution. Yet Krasne’s position on rent stabilization policy is unclear to me. At the two City Council meetings where rent stabilization was on the agenda, Krasne focused on individual cases of hardship and problem landlords. (And good for her.)

But Bosse, Reims and Mirisch talked about no-just-cause evictions and the necessity of relocation fees and housing policy generally. Krasne instead focuses on people. But a good heart is not enough when we need a strong rent stabilization ordinance.

To that point, at the February 21st Council meeting Krasne was reluctant to support a rental unit registry. She cited the cost and effectiveness. Yet a rent registry is not only a proven mechanism it is an essential part of rent stabilization. Every other rent-stabilized city uses a registry. Solid data is essential if we are to hold landlords to account! (Ultimately Krasne did agree to a registry.)

At that meeting Krasne circulated an article titled, ‘The High Cost of Rent Control,’ from the February issue of Apartment Owners Magazine. That’s great read if you’re a landlord but you won’t find many tenant protections in there. Krasne is not reassuring to some rent stabilization advocates because we just don’t know her policy preferences or how she would translate her concern for individual renters into a policy that protects all of us.

Regardless of your choice of other candidate(s), I believe that the most important vote that anyone who rents will cast on Tuesday is the one vote that we don’t cast.

Hail Mary Time for the Krasne Campaign

I’ve been asked by people confused by campaign messaging, Isn’t Nancy Krasne for the renters? I reply, Don’t be fooled by her campaign material!

Until last week, Krasne’s campaign made no mention of those of us who rent. Now she’s all about those she calls “the renters.” She has a new website theme and a new pro-renter flyer in our mailboxes. But we’re not just ‘renters.’ We’re residents who rent. And there’s a difference: ‘renter’ is a category but we’re residents foremost. And we need stable housing.

Don’t believe everything you read in the Courier either!

2017 Courier endorsements headline

Where Mirish and Wunderlich saw rock-bottom financial support from property interests, Krasne’s contributions over the latest reporting period show that she’s pulled in half of her money from that sector. Moreover, she received most of those contributions from a handful of firms at the same business address and on the same day. When was that day? Only three days before the February 21st City Council meeting where rent stabilization was back on the agenda.

We simply need our next Mayor to properly set the agenda for the rent stabilization policy process this year. Who you send to City Council matters. Want to know more about the candidates? I am happy to share my views if you email me.