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.
With the third City Council rent stabilization study session behind us, we can see more clearly what the next rent stabilization ordinance will look like. It is a decidedly mixed picture for those who rent in Beverly Hills. We’ve gained several important protections since this process kicked-off in early 2017. The allowed annual rent increase is limited to the change in consumer prices. Relocation fees assist displaced tenants. The city banned no-just-cause evictions. And landlords now have to register their properties and pay the required business tax. But what Council giveth, Council can take away. Here’s our recap of the third and final rent stabilization study session.
The HR&A analysis underpinning the rent stabilization policy discussion has done our city a service: policymakers, landlords and tenants now have some idea about the character of rental housing stock in Beverly Hills and the tenants who inhabit it. Our city has had a rent stabilization ordinance on the books for four decades yet our city had no accurate tally of rental properties. We had no comprehensive assessment of character or ownership. Nor did the city understand the rental market and where Beverly Hills fit in. The city’s rental unit registry and the HR&A Advisors study has filled in those gaps.
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?
City of Beverly Hills has released a raft of draft rent stabilization issue papers produced by the city’s consultant, HR&A Advisors. As we explained in a recent post, The City’s Roadmap for Rent Stabilization, the consultant’s work will shape the City Council’s policy discussion this fall. That includes key issues like the no-just-cause eviction, rent increases and relocation fees; but it also includes proposals that favor landlords like rent-banking and exemptions from the rent stabilization program. Let’s look at what the city laid on us this week.
Landlord Kevin Davis penned a letter to the Courier in the June 13th issue that warned of a “massacre” upon those who lease apartments should the Beverly Hills rent stabilization program continue. While we are accustomed to hyperbolic bloviating by property interest associations (like the hammer-and-sickle theme from the Apartment Owners Association of LA), when landlords offer specious and unfounded claims they should be knocked down. Here is the Renters Alliance rebuttal was published in the July 20th issue.
Beverly Hills City Council continues its 18-month long discussion about rent stabilization starting at its August 7th meeting, where staff will present findings from the city’s consultant study for consideration. Council will also identify the next steps in the policy process, which may include yet more facilitated dialogues between tenants and landlords. Then City Council will get down to business on a final rent stabilization ordinance in September or October. This process will move very quickly come the end of the summer with the process wrapped up before the holidays. Here’s what to expect!
It has been a while since residents received an update from City Hall about rent stabilization. The rental unit registry was completed in January and other aspects of program implementation have continued, yet we’ve heard nothing about either. The tenant workshops came and went nine months ago, and though City Council approved the hiring of a rent stabilization program director in September, no one has been hired for the position. This very important housing program seems not to be a priority for City Hall.
Months have passed without a single word from Beverly Hills officials about rent stabilization reform. No press release, newspaper ad, or website update keeps us informed about the process even though the current policy is only temporary and change will come. Officials let weeks go by without a reply when asked. Even a public records request can be met with an incomplete response. And don’t get me started about the programs that must be managed better in order to properly serve tenants.
Update: Tenants and landlords looking forward to a final rent stabilization policy for Beverly Hills will have to wait a while longer. On November 21st City Council handed over to a national consulting firm, HR&A Advisors, the task of rent stabilization analysis. The consultant will undertake data collection, analysis, and even convene additional facilitated dialogues, culminating in a process that may unfold over the next 18-22 weeks. That extends the timeline for the rent stabilization discussion to nearly to years between the time that Council issued an urgency ordinance last January and the conclusion of the policy process by the new year.