City Council handed residents who rent a major setback tonight when the majority agreed to step away from an earlier, unanimous commitment to create a rental unit registry. Indeed our councilmembers appeared to second-guess their decision to create a registry at all. In retreating, Council signals that Beverly Hills may not yet be ready to regulate rental housing. And that has significant implications for both tenants and landlords as we are a half-year into a rent-stabilization policy process that shows no sign of coming soon to a conclusion.
The rental unit registry was unanimously approved by City Council in January to be the foundation of our rent stabilization program. The goal of he registry, City Council said, is to “preserve the City’s rental housing stock, and to protect the health, safety and welfare of tenants and the public.” Now Council is having second thoughts. If tenants don’t fight for it we will lose it – just like we lost our last chance for a registry a decade ago! Read on to learn what we can do to safeguard our only opportunity to hold bad landlords accountable.
City of Beverly Hills last spring implemented an interim rent stabilization policy that capped at 3% annual allowable rent increases, mandated for all tenants relocation fees, and created a rental unit registry. Then Council tossed it to the community to hug-it-out over the key policy details. This latest in the series of sessions focused on these three key issues: tenant-landlord communication; habitability standards for individual units; and the allowed annual rent increase. This is my recap of Dialogue #5.
This third facilitated dialogue was yet another break from expectations: unlike the shared tables of dialogue #2, this session broke us out into two separate groups, tenants and landlords separately, and put us each in a room to talk about issue areas as identified in dialogue #1. Now, I don’t know what happened on the landlord side, but tenants found renewed purpose in working together. And we presented a unified front when it came to defending the current ordinance. Here’s my recap.
Professor Sukhsimranjit Singh facilitated the second scheduled tenant-landlord dialogues this past Wednesday. It was a departure from Monday’s first session in that this session drilled down to the one concern important to every tenant and landlord: How much can the rent increase each year? The ‘consensus’ position that emerged from this session will not make you happy! Read on for my recap.
Facilitator Sukhsimranjit Singh opened the city’s first tenant-landlord facilitated dialogue on Monday with three requests: be respectful, speak up, and listen. That acknowledged the divisions among tenants and landlords that emerged since the city adopted the first urgency ordinance in January. But it was also an admonition to the approximately 80 attendees: however passionate anyone may feel, the overarching goal across four scheduled facilitated dialogues was enhanced communication. Here is my recap.
Did you know that Beverly Hills provides free minor home repairs to multifamily households? This federally-funded ‘housing rehabilitation program’ can provide mobility improvements, weatherization, water conservation, security and other aspects of apartment maintenance to households long-ignored by the landlord. The only catch: households must qualify for the handyworker program [flyer].
On Thursday Beverly Hills wrapped up the second of two rent stabilization ‘education workshops.’ Residents and landlords were invited to these town-hall events to learn about major changes to the city’s rent-stabilization law (read about the changes in the ordinance). This is tenants first opportunity to hear directly from city officials about how the new policies will affect us.
To date, implementation of the rent stabilization program here in Beverly Hills is a mixed bag: the registry to track owners, units and tenancies is in progress, and Community Development Department is working with an outside contractor to develop the tools that we need to monitor compliance with our new policies. Public outreach on the rent stabilization policy, on the other hand, has been disappointing. Will Beverly Hills implement a program as robust as Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Los Angeles?
City Council at its Tuesday, May 16th 7pm meeting will discuss whether to fund a new housing rights legal services program. For the first time the city recognizes that residents who rent can find themselves at the wrong end of an eviction notice, or be harassed by a landlord or even suffer retribution for reporting mold, say. If this proposed $60,000 grant is supported by Council tonight, then residents will finally have access to free legal advice if we need it.
I know my neighbors are asking, What’s the next step in the rent stabilization policy process? Doesn’t everyone think this way? Well, this coming Thursday City Council will continue discussing the implementation of the new rent stabilization policy. Council will focus on two issues: the creation of a rental unit database & registry to track tenancies across rent-stabilized properties; and identifying a format for facilitated roundtable(s) that would bring residents and landlords together later this year around an equitable rent stabilization policy. Get ready for an important meeting!
You might have heard this campaign slogan coined in New York about ten years ago: “The rent is too damn high.” Around that slogan a titular leader emerged and a new political party was formed: The Rent Is Too Damn High Party. It has run candidates for both Mayor and Governor, but it hasn’t scored a win at the ballot box (yet). Well, the rent is too damned high here, too, and so that’s a message that resonates in Beverly Hills – a city of restive tenants bracing for the 60-day notice and otherwise concerned that our allowable increase may creep back up towards the old 10%.
The final Beverly Hills City Council election results were posted by Los Angeles County today. After a prolonged bit of suspense because the County, for the first time in my memory, administered our election, now the tallies are in. What a nail-biter!
Last week the Beverly Hills Courier endorsed Nancy Krasne for City Council. She was the newspaper’s only endorsed candidate even though seven candidates are in the running for three open seats on March 7th. The Courier calls Krasne a “strong supporter” of the police, noting that she voted to extend to officers a 10% raise in the latest contract. Yes, Krasne’s support for the police is generous considering that our city owes $330M in unfunded pension liabilities and the raise will only increase that liability. The Courier has crusaded against runaway personnel costs. Why endorse Krasne?
Yesterday I sent out an email blast to a segment of my Alliance email list wherein I summarized recent changes to the Beverly Hills rent stabilization ordinance. In it, I came out against the re-election of City Council candidate Nancy Krasne, our Vice Mayor. Shortly afterward, I received a call from an angry Nancy Krasne. “How dare you?” she asked, and she demanded a “retraction.” The remainder of the Alliance email list received a blast with two paragraphs scrubbed-out in order to soften the non-endorsement. However I never should have put personal considerations ahead of tenants, and I regret that some email recipients didn’t get the whole message.
City Council baked tenants a full loaf of protections when it unanimously adopted an ‘urgency ordinance’ in January: annual rent increases were limited to 3% and significant relocation fees for an involuntary tenancy termination put the brake on no-cause evictions. Residents who rent have waited for such protections for 30 years! But a month on, it looks like landlords have gobbled half of our loaf!
I want to thank everyone who responded to my Renters Alliance email and showed up to City Council this past Tuesday. Some were reluctant to speak up, but many of you did with heartfelt comments and observations. Unfortunately, our recommendations on the proposed ordinance, which was released Friday evening on a holiday weekend, were lost in our only one-and-a-half minutes at the microphone. So much for democracy: we saw a fully-baked set of half-loaf policies essentially blessed by City Council. (The other half of the loaf was gobbled by the landlords.)
Remember when City Council proclaimed a housing crisis and drafted the original Urgency Ordinance to tame runaway rents and tamp down no-cause evictions? In the last few weeks so-called ‘mom-and-pop’ landlords besieged City Hall. They got an assist from the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (an industry association). And they seem to have checked-off their wish-list of policies to benefit themselves at our expense. IF WE DON’T STAND UP WE WILL LOSE OUR PROTECTIONS.
We are a couple of weeks past the City Council’s urgency ordinance and the important renter protections it put into place in January. We now are hurtling toward a very significant City Council meeting on Tuesday, February 21 at 7PM. Now is the time to pay attention! Renters Alliance has been in a huddle the past week. And we created a website to get the word out. Now it is time to really organize. Where do we go from here?
Beverly Hills City Council felt your pain. Last night, we tenants secured from sympathetic councilmembers greatly-expanded protections. Gone are 10% rent increases. Gone are evictions without relocation fees. In a Council meeting that stretched to midnight and beyond, we heard some tales of landlord hardship but many more persuasive accounts of how tenants invest in our communities only to be tossed out summarily or handed a slow-motion eviction order in the form of successive, capricious rent hikes. At 1a.m. City Council used a seldom-invoked ‘urgency ordinance’ to approve several critical reforms to our rent stabilization ordinances.