Dear Editor – Culver City Renters Group Notes Draft Does Not Reflect Directions

Dear Editor,

Tonight, August 12, at 7PM, the Culver City City Council will vote on the terms of a one-year rent freeze, like those passed recently in Glendale, Inglewood, and the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. This ordinance will limit rent increases and restrict evictions to protect renters so long-term solutions to our housing crisis can be freely discussed.

Culver City renters currently are only protected by state law. The City grants them no additional rights. Landlords can raise rents as often and as much as they wish, and can evict at will. A strong and fair rent freeze will fix this.

Because of this lack of protection, renters have been shut out of the political process. Those who have spoken up for protections in the past have suffered retaliation and intimidation, including rent hikes and evictions. A strong and fair rent freeze will fix this as well.

There is no question we are in a housing crisis. According to the US Census, almost 1/4 of Culver City renters are “severely rent-burdened,” which means they are spending over half of their household income on rent. Another quarter are “rent-burdened,” spending at least 30%. A strong and fair rent freeze will be an important step towards real help for these people.

On May 28, Protect Culver City Renters, a coalition of local activists including renters, homeowners, and landlords, asked the City Council to consider a rent freeze. They put it on the agenda for June 24. That meeting lasted until 1:30AM, with what the City Clerk believes may have been a record number of participants. At the end, after a moving speech by Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells, the Council voted 4-1 to direct staff to draft an ordinance modeled on the LA County one, incorporating additional material suggested by Protect Culver City Renters.

A survey of Culver City renters conducted by Protect Culver City Renters found overwhelming support for renter protections, and Prop. 10, last year’s unsuccessful attempt to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Act which limits rent control statewide, got almost 60% of the vote in Culver City.

Tonight the Council will make history by passing a rent freeze. Culver City will no longer be the worst City in the region for renters. However, Protect Culver City Renters wants to make sure this is a strong and fair ordinance.

The draft under consideration does not reflect the instructions given by the Council in June. It caps rent increases at 4% instead of 3%, even though the staff report accompanying the draft shows 3% is more than enough for landlords to maintain their current rates of profit.

It also uses June 11 as the reference date for these rent increases, which means landlords had two weeks between May 28 and June 11 to preemptively increase rents, knowing that a freeze might be coming. A reference date before May 28 will better protect renters. Protect Culver City Renters suggests April 23, when the Parks, Recreation, and Community Services Commission and the Committee on Homelessness held an intense standing-room-only forum on affordable housing.

The “just cause” protections, which will require landlords to give a reason for eviction and limit what those reasons can be, are broader and vaguer than those in any nearby city. They do not adequately protect renters.

In cases of “no-fault” evictions, such as owner move-ins, condo conversions, and major renovations, the rent freeze requires landlords to pay relocation assistance, both to help support displaced tenants and to make these displacements less profitable. However, the draft ordinance sets these payments lower than recommended by Protect Culver City Renters and directed by the Council.

It also sets a very low threshold for “major renovations,” enabling so-called “renovictions,” where landlords use remodeling as an excuse to evict tenants and hike rents.

Protect Culver City Renters is optimistic that the City Council will fix these issues in the draft and pass a rent freeze which protects our friends and neighbors.

Protect Culver City Renters

www.culvercitysymphony.org

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