Does this sound familiar? “Housing campaigners have hailed a groundbreaking shift for tenants’ rights after the government announced plans to scrap ‘no-fault evictions” (reports The Guardian). Tenants groups called it “the biggest overhaul for renters in a generation.” It should sound familiar because six months ago Beverly Hills ended no-just-cause termination for many of the same reasons driving this change of law now in the UK. It turns out that we in hills of Beverly have more in common with the UK than we might have thought!
City Council at the April 2nd meeting formally created a new Rent Stabilization Commission comprised of tenants and landlords and tasked with recommending changes to the city’s rent stabilization ordinance. This is only the latest step in a two year effort to amend our ordinance. Yet it is a bold move to give tenants and landlords a real voice in the process. And it is the most tangible sign to date of the city’s commitment to the effective regulation of rental housing in Beverly Hills. Read on about the membership, scope and duties of the new commission as well as the next steps in standing it up.
Here is the message that SoCalGas has for Dr. Stephen Copen’s tenants at 152 South Reeves: Pay up the $1,359 your landlord owes or we’ll shut off your gas. Helpfully this NOTICE TO TENANTS lets residents know that they could take this burden off the landlord by assuming “individual or joint responsibility” for the account (and then be on the hook for the money). Tenants could then deduct the arrears from the rent. Good luck with that!
There are many issues up for discussion at the Tuesday City Council meeting, but among the most important for Chapter 6 tenants is the proposed 3.5% floor on the maximum allowed annual rent increase. Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 tenants may be increased annually by the percentage change in consumer prices (CPI) but with a crucial difference: only Chapter 6 tenants could see their rent increased as much as 3.5% in any year even when the landlord’s costs don’t increase at all. This is nothing more than a City Council subsidy to landlords and it should be removed from our rent stabilization ordinance.
Rent day is an opportune moment to revisit City Council’s proposal to raise to 3.5% the floor on the range for the maximum allowed annual rent for Chapter 6 tenants. At the last meeting, councilmembers appeared ready to allow landlords a 3.5% increase even inflation is low and landlords’ costs hardly increase. As Councilmember Bob Wunderlich honestly described it, this is a straight-up subsidy. Indeed it is an unearned bonus that every tenant would have to pay should Council agree to keep a floor in place.
One of the more interesting proposals to emerge from the City Council’s rent stabilization discussion concerns a benefit for a ‘qualified subset’ of tenants who pay a low-dollar rent to pay more than 30% of household income in rent. An estimated 400 households under the program could ‘qualify’ for a cash subsidy to cushion rent increases. Councilmember Bob Wunderlich proposed it as a way of focusing rent control on “those who really need it” and Council supported it. Yet now it seems pushed to the back burner.
There is an important step in the policy process where the needs of the public are served or thwarted by hidden hands: when a staff report and draft ordinance is presented to City Council. A draft ordinance should reflect the broad intent of City Council but also nail down the policy particulars necessary to codify Council direction into law. Sometimes there are surprises. I call these Easter eggs.
City Council recently discussed the maximum allowed annual rent increase. The good news is that councilmembers agreed to keep it indexed to the annual change in consumer prices (CPI). We can call that a win! The bad news is that Council will keep it at 100% of CPI. That generates the allowed increases of 4.1% and 3.8% (for Chapter 6 and for Chapter 5 tenants respectively). That more than is necessary to provide the landlord with a ‘fair return’ under the law.
Beverly Hills City Council appears ready to exempt ‘luxury’ units from the reach of the city’s rent stabilization ordinance. Along with the exemption for duplexes this represents another major break from the past. Since 1978 the ordinance has applied to every unit in multifamily rental properties of 2-units or more. That will further change if City Council embraces a ’luxury’ unit exemption because tenants paying higher rents would be denied tenant protections. Will you be affected?
Since Beverly Hills enacted rent stabilization in 1978 the RSO ordinance has applied to multifamily rental properties of two units or more. A few rental properties escaped its reach, namely condominiums and buildings built after 1995. Now City Council appears ready to categorically exempt many more, including owner-occupied duplexes. It is a major break from precedent with real implications for hundreds of families. Here’s what a duplex exemption means for tenants.
City Council’s immediate end to no-just-cause tenancy terminations was a clear sign that the residential stability was a priority. As part of that deal, though, City Council created a new, lower standard for termination with cause and defined a new City Hall process to terminate so-called ’disruptive’ tenants. What’s more, Council appears ready to let a neighbor haul the allegedly disruptive tenant in to face judgment too.
City Council’s most significant step since it revisited the rent stabilization ordinance is the new prohibition on no-just-cause termination. Unfortunate tenants will remember the traumatic moment they received notice to find a new home. Some didn’t even know it could happen. We are grateful that the city put an end to it. But City Council recently backtracked by agreeing to create a probationary tenancy by making the first lease year a ‘trial’ period, after which the landlord could terminate for no cause and with no relocation fee. The provision would affect more than 400 households with new tenancies each year.
In October Beverly Hills ended no-just-cause evictions for all residents who rent. This important change repealed the ‘original sin’ of our rent stabilization ordinance: with just 60 days notice a landlord could terminate a tenant with no reason necessary and no relocation fee payable. Beverly Hills allowed that abuse to occur for three decades (only Chapter 5 tenants were spared). Finally the current City Council heeded the call to end it by outlawing it with the adoption of an urgency ordinance.
There’s no way to sugarcoat the voters’ rejection of Proposition 10: it was a shellacking and a thumping that has set the cause of rent control in California back decades. And it has emboldened already-empowered property interests to push back on any legislative effort to repeal or amend Costa-Hawkins (which limits how every locality regulates rents in California). No matter that voters — and even the tenants it could benefit — may have not understood the measure. The voters have spoken.
Multifamily residents from Reeves to Crescent recently received a mailed notice that the Traffic & Parking Commission would consider modifying the preferential parking permit zones on the 200 and 300 blocks of Canon Drive. These blocks are in the ‘Q’ zone, which is shared with multifamily households on Reeves, Canon, Crescent and Elm. We said NO to the petition and the commissioners supported us. No change to Canon parking!
Traffic and Parking commissioners denied the petition to change the parking hours and zone on Canon Drive. Thanks to everyone who stepped up with an email or showed up to explain to the commission why it’s important to multifamily areas that the city take our needs into account.
My neighbors and I recently received a mailed notice that the Traffic & Parking Commission would consider modifying the preferential parking permit zones on the 200 and 300 blocks of Canon Drive. These blocks are in the ‘Q’ zone, which is shared with multifamily households on Reeves, Canon, Crescent and Elm. The proposed modification as noticed would make the two blocks of Canon ‘No parking anytime,’ Q-permit exempt. Multifamily permit holders would be allowed to park during daytime hours with no time limit while residents without permits, and visitors, including non-permit disabled visitors, would not be able to park.
However streets fronting multifamily blocks already provide less on-street parking than our densely-settled community needs. May of our buildings are ‘under-parked’ and cannot provide for the existing parking demand. (Some include no off-street parking at all.)
Add to that the guests who visit and those who patronize South Beverly businesses and we have considerable additional demand on our limited street parking capacity. Also complicating the issue is that ‘Q’ parking permits are in demand by employers who would have their employees park on streets like Reeves and Canon using an unlawfully-procured resident permit.
Renters Alliance was opposed to the change in regulation to permit-only by eliminating the 1-hour parking allowance. For one thing, it would have pushed demand for street parking to our multifamily blocks by those who park on Canon without a permit, including our guests and those shopping and dining on South Beverly. Not all multifamily households have purchased a permit (they are not required) and some choose to park on Canon for a short duration when convenient. For another thing, permit holders depend on Canon Drive to parking when there is no available parking on a multifamily block adjacent to home; or on street cleaning days; or even for personal convenience.
That was bad enough, but the commission’s staff report departed from the mailed notice by indicating the Canon homeowners wanted more: to exclude residents of multifamily areas by changing their Q-zone to something else. Q-permit holders would not be able to park there with the passes we just purchased.
At that point Renters Alliance contacted residents on the multifamily blocks of Elm, Crescent and Canon to alert them, and in tumbled more emails to the city opposing the change. The Traffic and Parking Commission cited emails in opposition in turning back the effort to make Canon for homeowners only.
Should the effort go to City Council (necessary for a permit zone change) we will remind our councilmembers that this petition should not have even been heard by the commission because it was improperly noticed: the change described in the postal notice differed from what petitioners were asking the commission to change.
Read down for the reasons Renters Alliance opposes onerous restrictions on street parking especially in multifamily zones.
Lessons to Take Away
Many multifamily areas are called ‘under-parked’ by planners because a preponderance of older residential rental structures don’t provide enough parking for occupants. Nearly without exception they do not conform to today’s parking requirements and the city considers them ‘legally non-conforming.’ These areas deserve added deference when the city establishes parking regulations.
The 100 blocks of Reeves, Canon, Crescent and Elm are part of the Q-zone that includes Canon Drive because the side streets, and during non-overnight hours, play an important role in providing on-street parking capacity.
Yet homeowners on single-family blocks that abut multifamily areas are increasingly reaching for the ‘No Parking Any Time’ prohibition. Homeowners in the Southwest secured that for streets south of Charleville and west of Beverly. That only pushes demand for street parking onto other streets.
If you receive notice that homeowners are petitioning to change the local parking regulation on their block(s), look carefully at the notice and assess the objective of the petitioners. Are they looking to exclude multifamily residents? If so, organize your neighbors to oppose the petition. Petitioners count on high enthusiasm among their ranks and low interest on the part of the neighbors.
Then get in touch with Renters Alliance and we’ll see if we can help. Remember that nobody has a proprietary claim to a public street!
Why We Opposed Onerous Parking Restrictions for Canon Drive
- The parking needs of multifamily areas need special consideration. Multifamily (R–4) areas are higher residential density than are single-family (R–1) areas. There is also a preponderance of older, multifamily properties that do not provide sufficient parking. Residents without off-street parking compete for very limited street parking and pushing parking demand onto our already-overburdened streets only compounds the problem.
- Our multifamily blocks are already affected by parking demand from South Beverly Drive businesses. My neighbors and I should not have to bear that burden exclusively. We are fortunate to live near a vibrant commercial corridor and we enjoy the outdoor dining options that South Beverly provides. But business visitors may choose to park on our blocks during daytime hours and we sacrifice our limited parking opportunities to accommodate them.
- Restricting Canon Drive to ‘No parking anytime’ will remove much-needed, short-term daytime parking capacity. Today that capacity accommodates some of the demand for parking on our multifamily blocks. Even if it is only 1-hour parking, still it accommodates neighborhood visitors who would otherwise park on our over-crowded streets.
- Restricting Canon Drive to ‘No Parking Any Time’ will take away a parking option for multifamily residents. Today we and our guests can avail ourselves of short-term parking in a pinch. Even if we have not purchased a preferential permit. That will change if parking is entirely restricted to homeowners on Canon.
- Restricting Canon Drive to ‘No parking anytime’ would throw our street-cleaning shuffle into chaos. It’s a game of ‘musical chairs’ from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Canon provides an important relief valve when the curbs are cleared of cars in the multifamily areas. Restricting Canon parking to ‘No Parking Anytime’ would compound the street-cleaning impact.
- We already suffer impacts from past parking policy choices. Nobody shared with my neighbors and I the rationale for eliminating parking on El Camino, Rodeo and other streets west of Beverly (including Gregory). Certainly nobody asked our opinion. Yet the ‘No parking anytime’ restriction there has pushed demand for street parking into our neighborhood. Today our multifamily streets are not merely an option for business visitors but the only option. Restricting Canon in the same fashion will only add to existing impacts.
- Lastly, single-family properties by law already provide sufficient parking for their occupants and guests. They are required to by the Municipal Code. In contrast, multifamily areas are ‘under-parked’ (in planner’s lingo) because the city allows older rental properties to continue to operate despite the shortage of parking. These are ‘legally non-conforming’ when it comes to parking. If Canon Drive is a necessary relief valve for under-parked multifamily areas, why would transportation staff recommend reserving those 200 and 300 blocks for just homeowner use?
We made some of these arguments to the commissioners and emphasized that multifamily interests have to be a part of the discussion.
Beverly Hills City Council has endorsed Proposition 10 for the November ballot. If passed by voters, Proposition 10 would enact the Affordable Housing Act to repeal the state’s Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing law — the legislature’s ‘gift to landlords’ because it ties the hands of any city that would enact rent controls. Our city’s endorsement is a statement in support of local control and self-determination and anyone, tenant or landlord, who is concerned about local control for Beverly Hills should support Proposition 10. That’s why our City Council voted unanimously to endorse it.
Dialogue #1 kicked off with an introduction by Susan Healy Keene, Director of the Community Development Department, and then moved straight to a series of four issue presentations from city consultant, HR&A Advisors. Each was followed by followed by an open mic for public comments. Unlike last summer’s roundtable discussions, this series of dialogues is highly structured. There is a walk-through of each issue; then a bit about what the issue means to Beverly Hills tenants and landlords; and finally HR&A provides policy options to which the public is invited to respond.
Beverly Hills landlords have never liked the city’s rental unit registry. That year-old ledger of landlords, properties and tenancies is a must-have tool for the city to hold landlords accountable. That’s why landlords fought tooth and nail against it. Last fall their Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles brought a lawsuit in Superior Court to tank it. Having failed, the AAGLA is back with a literal federal case and a local landlord as plaintiff. Let’s take a look!
City Council at the
July 24th August 7th study session will continue a long discussion about how to fix structural deficiencies in about 300 residential buildings identified as seismically-vulnerable. Affected are predominantly ‘soft-story’ wood frame buildings (where the building overhangs outside parking) that comprise nearly a quarter of the city’s entire rental housing stock. They also provide much of the city’s relatively-affordable housing. So the suggestion that the cost of seismic retrofit be pushed on to tenants should give us pause. What is euphemistically termed “cost recovery” in reality would make nearly 2,000 renting households investors in their landlord’s property. But we would hold zero equity. Is this the right approach for Beverly Hills?