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May 8, 2010

Coalition for Economic Survival
But Victory is Incomplete as City Council
Votes to Deny Freeze to Tenants
in Building With 5 Units or Less!

> Check Out The Vote Breakdown Below

May 7, 2010

City Council Backs Rent Freeze
by Rick Orlov, Staff Writer

Torn between helping tenants and trying not to hurt landlords, the Los Angeles City Council on Friday called for a temporary rent freeze on large rent-controlled apartment buildings.

By an 8-6 vote, the council requested the drafting of an ordinance to impose a rent freeze for at least four months, and possibly six, for tenants in rent-controlled complexes of more than five units.

City Council Rent Freeze
Tenants from Various Allied Tenant Groups & Labor Unions
Pack LA City Council Chambers in Support of a Rent Freeze.
City officials estimate that 40 percent to 60 percent of the city's 630,000 rent-controlled units will be exempt from the freeze because they are in buildings with less than five apartments.

Councilman Richard Alarcon, who wanted the rent freeze to apply to all rent control units, said he will continue to fight to broaden the measure.

"I know everyone is hurting in this economy, but renters are hurting more," Alarcon said.

Councilwoman Janice Hahn called for exempting the "mom-and-pop" landlords with five or fewer units.

"I know tenants are suffering, but landlords are people too and we should not punish them," Hahn said.

The matter will return to the council in two weeks when the final legislation is drafted.

Alarcon said he proposed the freeze because of the city's rent law allowing for a 3 percent increase regardless of the Consumer Price Index.

"If we went by the Consumer Price Index, we would see rents reduced," Alarcon said. "Last year, it was a negative 6.5 percent."

A full study of changes to the city's rent control law is underway and is expected to be completed during the four-month freeze, said Douglas Guthrie, general manager of the city Housing Department.

Ryan Minniear, executive director of the California Apartment Association, Los Angeles chapter, said they were glad the council at least acknowledged the problems landlords face.

"We believe the city needs to conduct a comprehensive review of rent control in Los Angeles instead of taking a piecemeal approach," Minniear said. "The 3 percent rent increase is not out of line when compared to other California rent-controlled cities."

Minniear said landlords are faced with other increases while property value have plummeted.

But Larry Gross of the tenants-rights group Coalition for Economic Survival, which supports the freeze, said the council vote was a mixed victory.

"While we are pleased they support the concept of a moratorium, this still leaves too many renters without any protection," Gross said. "Too many tenants are paying 50 percent or more of their income for rents. I am not sure the council really thought this out. Just because someone owns five units or less does not mean they are mom-and-pop operations. This only addressed the annual increase and it didn't affect the other pass-throughs."

Gross said the landlords also could file an appeal to the freeze if they are not getting a reasonable return.

Councilman Bernard Parks pushed for a delay in the freeze, by sending the proposal back to the Housing, Commerce and Economic Development Committee to wait for the final recommendations.

"We have been waiting four years for this study," Parks said. "My concern is we shouldn't cherry-pick any recommendations until the study is completed. I also find it odd that we are looking to give tenants a break a week after we increased electrical rates."

Alarcon said most tenants pay their own electric bills and landlords are still allowed to pass on such costs to the tenants.

"This does not affect the pass-throughs," Alarcon said. "It is only the rent and we are talking about giving tenants a break of anywhere form $24 to $100 a month."

Voting for the proposal were Alarcon, Hahn, Eric Garcetti, Jose Huizar, Paul Krekorian, Ed Reyes, Bill Rosendahl and Herb Wesson.

Opposing it were council members Parks, Paul Koretz, Tom LaBonge, Jan Perry, Greig Smith and Dennis Zine. Councilman Tony Cardenas was absent.


How Did They Vote?

Much appreciation goes to Council Member Richard Alarcón, who introduced the rent freeze and was unwavering in his fight and commitment to see it passed without any of the amendments proposed to weaken it and deny protections to tenants living in buildings with 5 units or less.

At the same, tenant groups were extremely disappointed in Council Members Paul Koretz and Janice Hahn, normally thought to be supportive of renter issues, who were the driving forces in weakening the rent freeze and pushing through the exemptions. Koretz even ended up voting against the freeze after he was successful in weakening it.

The Two Key Votes

> To exempt buildings with 5 units or less.
(Passed 10 to 4)

Voting Yes:

- Paul Koretz
- Janice Hahn
- Eric Garcetti
- Bill Rosendahl
- Paul Krekorian
- Herb Wesson
- Jan Perry
- Dennis Zine
- Tom LaBonge
- Bernard Parks

Voting No:

- Richard Alarcón
- Ed Reyes
- Jose Huizar
- Greig Smith

> To Instruct the City Attorney to Draft an Ordinance Resulting in a 4 Month Rent Freeze with the Option of 2 Additional Months & exempting buildings with 5 units or less.
(Passed 8 to 6)

Voting Yes:

- Richard Alarcón
- Ed Reyes
- Jose Huizar
- Janice Hahn
- Eric Garcetti
- Bill Rosendahl
- Paul Krekorian
- Herb Wesson

Voting No:

- Paul Koretz
- Jan Perry
- Dennis Zine
- Tom LaBonge
- Bernard Parks
- Greig Smith

May 7, 2010

L.A. City Council Narrowly Agrees to Consider Four-Month Rent Hike Moratorium

By David Zahniser, LA Times Staff Writer

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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