Tenant Representative Needed for the Rent Stabilization Commission

Commissioner Zachary Sokoloff has informed city hall that he must resign his appointment to Beverly Hills Rent Stabilization Commission. Though he steps away only 15 months into his term, he has been a thoughtful and constructive member of the commission. Most recently he secured commission’s agreement to recommend not more than a 10% effective annual rent increase including any pass-through surcharges. The December meeting will be his last but consequential appearance as the commission is likely to agree on more pass-throughs for tenants.

The commission vacancy provides an opportunity for an interested tenant in the city to step up for commission service. But we warned: this unexpected vacancy is only the latest hiccup for the commission.

City Council tasked the new commission in early 2019 with discussing amendments to the rent stabilization ordinance. But there was a year-long delay in appointing commissioners as councilmembers grappled with the commission’s composition and what role ‘at-large’ members (who are neither a tenant nor landlord) should play.

Two of the commissioners who were appointed in early 2020 had resigned by early 2021. After six cancelled monthly meetings Council was able to reconstitute the commission with two new tenant representatives: Zachary Sokoloff and Kandace Lindsey-Cerqueira (alternate). As a result of this vacancy, Kandace Lindsey-Cerqueira will become a full voting tenant representative and the city clerk will post a notice of commission vacancy to fill the alternate representative position. Early next year Council will interview candidates.

Tenants who are interested in serving on the commission would be advised to get in touch with Renters Alliance for more information about the commission and keep an eye on the commission vacancy webpage.

Sokoloff formally tendered his resignation internally on November 11, 2022 but city hall stayed quiet until we got the tip recently. The resignation reads:

Please consider this email my formal resignation from my role as a Tenant Representative on the Rent Stabilization Commission. This resignation is effective after the Commission’s December meeting. After said meeting, I will no longer be a tenant or a resident of the City of Beverly Hills, which disqualifies me from continuing to serve in this role. It has been a true honor to serve as a Commissioner on the Rent Stabilization Commission and to represent the people of Beverly Hills. My fellow Commissioners are dedicated and passionate advocates and the City Staff has been professional and partnering. I am more optimistic about the future of Beverly Hills and our country having been exposed to the work of City government – much to the contrary of what gets reported on the decay of politics, my experience has been the exact opposite. The individuals with whom I served are kind and listen and genuinely want to do the right thing. I am sad to move on from this role but hope to find other ways of serving my community and know the City will find a very capable replacement to continue the important work of the Rent Stabilization Commission.

Sokoloff will announce his resignation at his last commission meeting on December 7th. That meeting will also be the commission’s final word on whether to recommend that landlords be allowed to pass-through a wider range of their operating expenses. The commission in November appeared ready to allow landlords to pass-through expenses mandated by law (including seismic retrofit) and possibly even a surcharge that would allow landlords to recover the cost of capital improvements to a property. (Watch the November 7, 2022 video).

More About the Commission

The Rent Stabilization Commission created by City Council in 2019 and tasked with discussing amendments to the city’s rent stabilization ordinance. The unusual 6-member Rent Stabilization Commission is comprised of tenants, landlords, and ‘at-large’ members who neither rent in Beverly Hills nor own rental property in the city. For each category there are two appointed voting members plus an appointed alternate non-voting member.

Unlike other commissions, the appointed representatives are expected to represent the interests of their constituents: tenants generally represent tenant interests, landlords represent landlord interests, and at-large members in theory represent the public interest and break a deadlock when necessary.

For a resident in rent-stabilized housing who wants to serve on any commission, this vacancy may provide be the straightest path: it is a designated seat for tenants so there is no non-tenant competition.  Because the pool of applicants is generally not robust, Council is likely to overlook what is ordinarily an informal requirement for commission appointment: completion of the Team Beverly Hills program.

The Team Beverly Hills program, according to the city, “nurtures and encourages leadership, participation and responsibility by the City’s citizenry.” However we think the program was ginned-up to co-opt whomever is inclined to get their nose into city hall business. Instead we would rather a commission applicant bring real-world experience with the problems that affect rent-stabilized residents.

In other words, we don’t need ‘team players.’ Tenants need a representative who knows what it is to get the run-around from the Rent Stabilization Office; or know what it is like to have their quality-of-life concerns put on the back burner by city hall. That’s what it is to be a Beverly Hills tenant and that’s the voice we need on this commission.

Please get in touch with Renters Alliance to talk more about commission service. Happy to answer any question!