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CES In The News
Los Angeles Times
L.A. Now
Friday May 7, 2010 | 12:42 PM

L.A. City Council narrowly agrees to consider four-month rent hike moratorium

by David Zahniser

A divided Los Angeles City Council voted Friday to draft an ordinance preventing the owners of thousands of apartments from imposing an optional 3% rent increase between now and Oct. 31.

On an 8-6 vote, the council asked City Atty. Carmen Trutanich to prepare a rent moratorium for buildings constructed before 1978 that have six or more units -– a group that is governed by the city’s rent control law.

However, council members moved at the last minute to exempt rent-controlled buildings with five units or less. That move drew complaints from Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, a renters’ rights group. “We won a little, but not enough,” he said.

Councilman Richard Alarcon voiced disappointment in the last-minute changes and promised to try to rework them in two weeks, when the proposed ordinance comes before the council. Alarcon also said he would continue pushing a one-year rent moratorium for all apartments.

“The 61% of families who are living in rental situations deserve to not have an increase in their rents during these horrid economic times,” he told his colleagues.

Six council members voted against the proposal: Paul Koretz, Tom LaBonge, Jan Perry, Bernard C. Parks, Greig Smith and Dennis Zine. Koretz said that “mom and pop” landlords, or those with small buildings, are also suffering from the effects of the recession. “They’re trying to avoid losing their buildings,” he said.

Housing officials are still trying to determine how many of the city’s 630,000 rent-controlled apartments would be exempted from the proposed moratorium. Out of 118,000 rent-controlled buildings, 89,000 have four units or less, one housing official said.

Advocates on both sides of the issue packed the council chamber and submitted more than 200 requests to speak on the proposal. Half of them were in favor and half of them were opposed, Zine said.

Nevertheless, Councilman Herb Wesson, who heads the committee that vetted the moratorium proposal, asked for no public testimony to occur so that he could see his new granddaughter, who was born Friday morning.

“Let’s just vote,” said Wesson, pointing out that another vote will happen in two weeks anyway. “I really want to go hold my granddaughter.”

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