Rent Stabilization Commission Appointments

One year ago Beverly Hills city council formally created a new Rent Stabilization Commission to discuss changes to the rent stabilization ordinance and to decide certain disputes between tenants and landlords. Standing up the new commission signaled city council support for the rent stabilization program, but more immediately it heralded the next step in our ongoing three-year process to revise the ordinance. We anticipated commission appointments soon but then the city erroneously sent out letters announcing it. Here is a look at who will be appointed next Tuesday.

Update:City council at the March 31st COVID-19 emergency measures meeting appointed the commission as expected. There is renewed haste to get this commission going because it has been tasked with hearing tenant appeals under the city’s moratorium on eviction for the non-payment of rent. We can anticipate the magnitude of that docket as we hear reports from landlord groups that report a sharp uptick in tenants who have not paid rent for April.
Tenant appeals will likely push back the primary task for new commissioners: discussing changes to the rent stabilization ordinance. (And that piece of business supplanted the original charge for the commission, which was to hear tenant-landlord disputes.) Welcome new commissioners! Be prepared to hear tales of tenant and landlord woe as the local emergency stretches on.

Background

The Rent Stabilization Commission emerged from roundtable dialogues between tenants and landlords in the summer of 2017. We agreed that a tenant-landlord body could hear disputes and make rent stabilization policy recommendations. Councilmembers supported the concept in the fall of 2018 during an elaborated rent stabilization policy process.

A rent stabilization commission is not without precedent. In 1979 the city created a Rent Adjustments Board to adjudicate landlord requests for a rent increase higher than what was then allowed. The board was remade as a commission in 1992 but then decommissioned shortly after in 1998 when landlord hardship applications declined. (More and more tenancies were Chapter 6 and that allowed landlords a generous rent increase. Landlords couldn’t demonstrate hardship.)

Reviving the rent stabilization commission gained renewed support from city council it would allow councilmembers to hand-over the whole ’hot potato’ of rent stabilization to another body for recommendations. And that means some political cover. Thus city council agreed to it last March 3rd and subsequently at the April 2nd meeting formally created the commission.

However exactly one year later there has been no appointment made to the commission. What accounts for the delay? City hall moves slowly!

Selecting the Commissioners

Making commission appointments ran into several delays. For one thing, commissioner qualifications had to be determined. The commission was conceived as an unusual six-member commission with two designated seats for each of three categories: tenant, landlord and at-large (neither tenant nor landlord). The two members in each designated category are complemented by a third (alternate) member. It took quite a bit of discussing (and revising) to come to the qualifications included in Municipal Code subsection 2–2–501(b):

The Commission shall be comprised of two landlords, as defined in Chapters 5 and 6 of Title 4 of this code, who own one or more residential rental properties within the City; two tenants, and two members who are not tenants, managers of an apartment building, and each of whom does not directly control or have a financial interest of 5% or more in a multi-family residential rental property (apartment building) either within or outside of the City (“at large member”).

Second, commissioner appointments have to be announced and advertised for a some period of time. Next more time is needed for applicant review and the scheduling of interviews. The unique dual city council interview panel set up for the process added more time to scheduling.

Third, selection of ‘at-large’ members proved to be problematic. After the first round of ‘at-large’ commissioner applicants were found to have interests in rental properties, the ‘at-large’ qualifications was revised. Added was the requirement that at-large members must “not directly control or have a financial interest of 5% or more in a multi-family residential rental property….’

Finally, the at-large vacancies had to be advertised again in August of 2019. Then new at-large interviews conducted. But we heard nothing more until it popped-up as an action item on the city council’s March 17th agenda. But that meeting never happened. Instead an emergency meeting was calendared for the prior day where city council agreed to an eviction moratorium.

The need to appoint commissioners in timely fashion was underscored when the city enacted the eviction moratorium on March 16th. The new Rent Stabilization Commission was newly tasked with hearing tenant applications for a delay in the payment of rent pursuant to the moratorium. (Read more in our explainer, Beverly Hills Eviction Moratorium: What You Need to Know.)

Commissioners Are Announced — Prematurely

The commission had to get up-and-running fast and so the appointments item was re-calendared for March 31st. But before city council could discuss it, the announcement letter erroneously went out to all commission applicants. Dated March 18th it named commission appointees:

Category Name Residency Occupation
Tenant Kathryn Jacoby Resident Developer
Tenant Kathy Bronte Resident N/A
Tenant Gwendolyn Owens Resident N/A
Landlord Neal Baseman Resident Attorney
Landlord Remmie Maden Resident Landlord
Landlord Frances Miller Resident N/A
At large Ryan Gurman Resident N/A
At large Donna Tryfman Resident Investor
At large Lou Milkowsky Resident N/A

Of course city council never made those appointments! We expect those appointments will be made this coming Tuesday March 31st.

Do you have any feedback on any of the would-be appointees? Get in touch!