Mayor Lili Bosse closes out her term next week when City Council elevates councilmembers as our next Mayor and Vice Mayor on March 20th. As we look ahead to our next leaders, Mayor Gold and Vice-Mayor Mirsch, I want to thank Mayor Bosse for her consistent support of the rent stabilization ordinance on behalf of tenants.
Remember when rent stabilization reform kicked-off over a year ago? In large part we have Lili Bosse to thank for it. As a councilmember, and as City Council liaison to the Human Relations Commission, she put her foot on the accelerator when it looked like rent stabilization reform was going to stall. That has long been the pattern in Beverly Hills: a call for change followed by no action.
Not this time. Without Mayor Bosse’s support our current 3% cap on the annual increase, the relocation fees, and the rental unit registry would likely have gone nowhere. By way of some backstory, I want to touch on that policy process and then move on to more reasons to thank the Mayor for her leadership this past year.
Rent Stabilization Reform
City Council adopted the current rent stabilization law in early 2017. That followed a year of discussion in the Human Relations Commission, tasked three years earlier by City Council to deal with ordinance changes. Then in December of 2016, as the commissioners came under pressure from city staff, endorsed a low-cost alternative to the rental unit registry. It would have tanked any substantive form of rent stabilization, and commissioners were justly reluctant.
But support the recommendation they did. Shortly after, Bosse kicked into gear. She and fellow councilmembers Kathy Reims (both liaisons to that commission) strongly encouraged commissioners to forget about the low-cost alternative to the registry; instead they asked the commission for recommendations on other changes to the ordinance: a lower cap on the allowable increase; relocation fees; and creating a real registry.
The commission did discuss those issues in January of 2017. And Bosse was in the house. When momentum appeared to stall, Bosse repeatedly stepped up to the mic to remind the commission to keep on task. And they did: change the 10% cap on the rent increase (“reduce,” Bosse corrected); impose relocation fees; and to create the registry. Those recommendations went to City Council that month.
City Council the following week then considered the recommendations and, with Bosse’s leadership, councilmembers unanimously agreed — a major turning point for half of city households. At that meeting Bosse also urged that relocation fees be maximized (“the higher the better,” she said). And for a month our city had relocation fees that topped $20,000. (The fees were subsequently scaled back.) Read more about the current policy.
More Reasons to Thank the Mayor
Mayor Bosse backed a new housing rights legal services program. There is a crucial difference between tenants rights and our ability to actually realize those protections. Unless those rights are written into local ordinance, the city will not defend us, and will not assist us to bring a civil action for damages or even to change conduct. We’re on our own.
That makes legal advice very important. During last year’s review of Community Assistance grant applications, I suggested that the city contract for legal services for tenants. That would be in addition to the social services programs we run for seniors (which already included housing rights legal services). Tenants need to be able to turn to a professional for advice, I said, because housing law is simply too complicated to navigate for the layperson. It should be left to professionals. Landlords know that very well: there is no shortage of ‘quick-evict’ attorneys for hire. They work on volume; landlords see the benefit. For tenants these cases are a one-off, and fees come our of our pocket.
Councilmember Lili Bosse along with John Mirisch immediately agreed: the city should fund a legal services program and City Hall then bent over backwards to make it happen. While the program has suffered some challenges in getting off the ground (most notably the city’s failure to promote it), Mayor Lili Bosse instructed staff to address concerns about program performance I raised in February.
Mayor Bosse made good commission liaison appointments. Every Mayor has an opportunity to appoint Council liaisons to each commission. Little-noticed liaision appointments are among the most important decisions an incoming Mayor makes: they confer with each commission and many important policy decisions are settled in the 3rd floor conference room before it ever gets to a committee discussion. (The Planning Commission is a notable exception to the rule.)
Bosse appointed herself and John Mirisch as liaisons to the Human Relations Commission and we tenants could not have had better representation. (It’s inside baseball but it really matters.)
Mayor Bosse prioritized tenant issues when they came to Council. This also seems like inside baseball but it’s not: meetings with rent stabilization on the agenda attracted scores of tenants. Mayor Bosse would take the rent stabilization item out of order so those who showed up could be heard earlier. Meanwhile, hapless Metro representatives and land use lobbyists cooled their heels for hours as we discussed the matter that really does affect residents directly.
With Lili Bosse in the Mayor’s chair you are always heard. Bosse let each speaker talk for 3 minutes (or more) at rent stabilization meetings that went very, very late. The January 2017 urgency ordinance discussion wrapped about 1 AM with a big win for tenants. Everybody was heard.
City Hall accessibility will be her legacy. Lili Bosse has hosted a Monday morning Walk With the Mayor nearly every week since she was elevated to the position last March. It is an unprecedented opportunity for anyone to bend the Mayor’s ear while burning some calories. In my experience she makes you feel like her time is yours alone.
At every Council meeting, on every item, she will ask twice, “Has everyone been heard who wants to speak?” And even when there’s that one, two, or three additional unexpected speakers who step up late, Bosse has never once betrayed an iota of impatience. “Thank you for coming” she says.
Mayor Bosse put residents first every time. And perhaps to no greater effect than when she ensures that residents get the service we expect. Show up at a Council meeting with a real problem and after a few minutes at the mic you’re in a tête-à-tête with a deputy city manager or department head. Many times I have heard her say from the dais, “That’s unacceptable. The Deputy City Manager will straighten this out.”
Alas, Mayors Rotate
Mayor Bosse will hand over the reins to Vice-Mayor Julian Gold this Tuesday. I invite you to attend. We’re a small enough town that you don’t need an invitation. Just show up for the civic pageantry (in the best sense).
By the time the rent stabilization policy process comes to some kind of resolution later this year, it will have spanned three Mayors (Mirisch, Bosse and soon Gold). Mayor Bosse has been the tenants’ most reliable supporter and the most vocal proponent for better tenant protections. She will still be there on Council, thankfully, and we will count on her continued support.