City Council debates rent control and renter protections

By Cynthia Gibson

Contributing Writer

CULVER CITY — The City Council approved a first reading of both a permanent rent control ordinance and a tenant protection ordinance during a special meeting Sept. 21.

Both ordinances go to a final vote Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. If the City Council adopts the rent control and renter protection ordinances, they will go into effect Oct. 29.

Assistant City Manager Jesse Mays began the meeting with a staff report summarizing the two proposed ordinances. 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 protections 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.

Both ordinances were based on an interim rent control ordinance, set to expire Oct. 31, as well as citywide Culver City rent control and tenant protection study and a series of public meetings held over a three-month period this summer.

Assistant City Attorney Heather Baker advised the City Council that a permanent ordinance would have to be introduced by the end of the special meeting in order to take effect before the expiration of the interim ordinance. Heeding that advice, each City Council member weighed in on both ordinances and heard extensive public comment. The meeting, beginning at 6 p.m., lasted over seven hours, adjourning after 1 a.m.

The council unanimously approved a first reading of the tenant protections ordinance, while also voting 4-1 to approve a first reading of the rent control ordinance. Mayor Göran Eriksson was the dissenting vote on the rent control ordinance.

There were more than 40 people who participated in public comment before the vote, with some advocating for and some opposing these measures.

Erik Alexander, president of E&S Ring Management Company, which manages Meadow Apartments, said that the proposed ordinance is worse than the interim ordinance. He claimed that the ordinance is being enacted against a backdrop of high-market vacancies, delinquencies as high as 25% and rising insurance and operating costs.

“While we’re under the greatest stress since the 2008 economic crash, you’re proposing to put us under even greater pressure. I just don’t understand where the fairness is in this,” he said.

Culver City resident Leah Pressman thanked the City Council for supporting permanent renter protections. “Rent control will keep housing costs stable for renters just as fixed-rate mortgages and predictable property increases do for property owners. Renter protections will protect our community from becoming an exclusively wealthy enclave devoid of diversity,” she said.