City Council gives final approval to rent ordinances

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By Cynthia Gibson

Contributing Writer

CULVER CITY — The City Council approved permanent rent control and tenant protection ordinances Sept. 29, replacing an interim rent control ordinance that was set to expire Oct. 31.

The renter protection ordinance was adopted on a unanimous vote, while Culver City Mayor Göran Eriksson was the lone dissenter adopting the rent control ordinance. The two ordinances will go into effect Oct. 29.

Less than 10 people spoke before the final adoption of the ordinances, compared to over 40 voicing their opinion during a special City Council meeting Sept. 21, when the ordinances were introduced. While the majority of speakers at the earlier meeting favored adopting the ordinances, most at the later meeting implored City Council members to reconsider or delay the vote.

The rent control ordinance caps annual rent increases at an amount not exceeding inflation and establishes a method for landlords to pass renovation costs onto tenants without exceeding 3% of the tenant’s rent. Landlords would be permitted to raise rent to market rate once a tenant moves out, with some exceptions.

The tenant protection ordinance would prohibit evictions except for no-fault or for-cause reasons. It would also require landlords to pay relocation assistance, prevent tenant harassment and require temporary tenant relocation assistance in the event of construction work rendering the apartment uninhabitable.

According to a fiscal analysis in a Sept. 29 staff report, the annual cost of the permanent program is expected to range from $650,000 and $950,000 annually. Landlord and tenant petitions and/or appeals could increase costs by an additional $100,000. New rental registration fees associated with the program could potentially offset the program cost by generating $650,000 to $1.5 million annually, depending on the per unit cost imposed on landlords.

In his comment, local landlord Mark Salkin referenced BAE Urban Economics’ Long-Term Rent Control Study focusing on Culver City, taking issue with the finding that 43% of the city’s renters are cost burdened or spend more than 30% of their income on rent.

”What about the 57% that are not overburdened? What about landlords who live on their retirement checks? What about landlords subsidizing tenants who earn more than the landlords and take advantage of the rent control?” Salkin said.

Another landlord, Dennis Page, chided the City Council for incurring extra costs by adopting a local rent control ordinance rather than adhering to the state’s rent control law at no cost.

“Shame on you. You’re about to approve ordinances that will put rental owners out of business,” Page said. “You could help 2,000 tenants, but, no, you will replace a strong statewide program that’s free for a local program with significant disincentive for rental providers.”

Yasmine-Imani McMorrin, a member of Protect Culver City Renters, thanked the City Council for “showing up for renters.”

“I’m really grateful that renters were listened to,” she said. “There were some concessions made, we didn’t win on every point, but I’m really grateful for the political courage and the will that this council has shown for our community members who are vulnerable,” McMorrin said.

Culver City voters will have the opportunity to vote on Ballot Measure B Nov. 3, which amends Chapter 15.09 of the Culver City Municipal Code to require “voter approval of any ordinance establishing interim or permanent rent control or prohibition on residential rent increases . . . adopted by the Culver City Council after Jan. 1, 2019.” Voting for Measure B would nullify the rent control ordinance, which would only go into effect if voters approve it as a ballot measure.

Cynthia Gibson is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers Culver City and West Los Angeles. She can be reached at ckgcommunications@gmail.com.