It was a sad day for the City of Los Angeles on May 22, as the LA City Council essentially provided tenants with a 3% rent increase notice. What was just as sad was the manner in which this decision was made and the events that followed.
The City Council Chambers was overflowing with tenants, including Coalition for Economic Survival members, and landlords there to weigh in on an ordinance introduced by City Council Member Richard Alarcón for a 4 month rent increase moratorium. The freeze was to enable the City Council to finish discussions regarding potential changes to the Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) without tenants being saddled with a new round of unjust rent increase of 3% scheduled to go into effect on July 1.
|Tenants Pack Council Chamber
in Support of Rent Freeze
Two weeks earlier the City Council had approved requesting the drafting of the ordinance on an 8 to 6 vote. Unfortunately, on Friday the crowd was forced sit there for over 5 hours having to endure award ceremonies and other items until the rent freeze issue came up.
Adding insult to injury, because it was so late in the day and some Council Members had to leave, the public testimony and Council discussion was cut short.
Then it was learned that both Council President Eric Garcetti and Council Member Bill Rosendahl had changed their support for the rent freeze and planned to vote against it. This left the rent freeze one vote short of the required eight votes to pass it.
At that point Council Member Garcetti made a motion to send the rent freeze back to Committee. "I think we need to have a comprehensive plan in place before we make any changes to the rent control measure at this time," Garcetti said.
Garcetti's reasoning made no sense since the process of developing a comprehensive plan had been going on for nearly a year and the freeze was not a change in rent control, but merely a temporary 'time-out' to enable the Council to finish a job it have been dragging its feet on.
In the end, the Council voted 8 to 5 to send it back to committee, thus killing any chance of putting a rent freeze in place before the July 1 rent increase is effective. Council Members Garcetti, Rosendahl, Cardenas, La Bonge, Koretz, Parks, Perry, Reyes, Smith and Zine all supported sending the issue back to committee.
Protest Erupts After Rent Freeze is Voted Down
Believing they were disrespected by having to wait all day and betrayed by Council Members Garcetti and Rosendahl, many tenants stood and voiced their outrage at the Council vote. Council Member Zine, who was chairing the meeting at that point, instructed the crowd to leave the Council Chambers. When some tenants refused, Zine called for the LA Police Department to come in and remove them. It then got ugly.
With seniors, women and children still in the Chambers, LAPD started to forcibly push tenants out. A number of tenants were injured and three members of the LA Community Action Network (LACAN) were arrested.
Councilman Richard Alarcón, who proposed the rent freeze, said that during his years working for Mayor Tom Bradley and serving on the council he had never seen the "council lose control of its chamber'' and called the arrests a sad day in the city's history.
It's a very sad day for renters who are going to have to pay more rent when many of them cannot pay their bills now,'' Alarcón said. "What we saw today was an expression of their anger.''
Why the Rent Freeze Was Needed
The need for the freeze was because RSO tenants face a 3% rent increase on July 1st under the existing ordinance. A City commissioned RSO Study indicates 58% of LA's RSO tenants are paying unaffordable rents, while 31% are paying 50% or more of their income to rent.
While increases are based on the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), which is a negative .62%, the increases will be allowed because the RSO has a 3% rent increase floor guaranteeing landlords this amount even though the increase is not in any way justified. If the 3% floor did not exist the rent increase would be zero, based on the CPI The freeze was needed to give the Council more time to fix this and other inequities in the law which the Council is in the process of discussing.
The Debate Continues - Action Needed to Protect & Strengthen Rent Control
The process of addressing changes to the rent control law will continue. But, without the rent freeze in place there is no incentive for the City Council to act quickly. Tenants must become involved in this process, now more than ever. With this vote landlords and some Council Members are likely to feel more empowered to increase their efforts to weaken and destroy rent control. Without a strong tenant presence, they could succeed.
We urge that tenants and supporters of rent control contact Council Members Garcetti and Rosendahl to express your outrage and disappointment in their action which will result in tenants receiving another unjust 3% rent increase.