City Council Votes for Rent Freeze

When a Monday night council meeting does not end until Tuesday morning, it’s proof that democracy takes time. It took more than six hours on August 12, 2019, concluding in a four- to- one vote by the Culver City Council approving a rent increase moratorium at 1:20 am on August 13. With 110 people requesting to speak, and another 40 contributing comments to be read into the record, almost every possible perspective on property ownership, rent, tenants and landlords was aired, all of them more than once. In the end, the city council held that a year long moratorium on rent increases was needed to allow for a safe space for dialogue, and a search for long term solutions.

According to the presentation by the city, 85% of all rental units qualify for the freeze, capping annual increases to 3% in buildings built on or before February 1, 1995. The protections passed last night include ‘just-cause’ eviction and relocation assistance.

While based on the Los Angeles County temporary rent ordinance that was recently extended by the Board of Supervisors, the measure was rewritten by the city staff, and then again by the council to be more explicit and precise.

That a freeze needed to be put in place for the city to discuss rent control without landlords retaliating against tenants was evidenced by a number of speakers, several of whom cited the 2015 council discussion on rent control. Disa Lindgren, a homeowner who spoke in favor of the group Protect Culver City Renters, said that she had spoken to people who were not willing to appear at the meeting for fear of eviction or rent increase as a result of going on record.

Local realtor Joan Moon spoke of landlords trading out buildings “selling rental property in Culver City, and buying in Burbank, where there is no rent control.”

Renters spoke of the fear of being homeless; of leaving schools and friends and neighbors. Landlords spoke of the fear of losing their income; of being unable to make repairs, or evict a troublesome tenant.

The least fearful ones who took to the podium to reflect on the issue were the people who had a foot in both camps – former renters who were now landlords, former landlords who were now renters. Deb Thierry said “I’ve been on both sides here, and it’s just not easy.”

This issue of rent control also brought in a number of related problems – diversity dropping in the school district, policies on homelessness, the upsurge in jobs, and commuter traffic.

With the council voting for a one year moratorium, the dialogue can be expected to continue. What the end result will be for housing policy in Culver City could have a profound effect on all residents, renters and owners alike.

Judith Martin-Straw

Editor’s Note – CulverCityCrossroads will have the complete text of the ordinance once the final draft is posted by the city. 

www.culvercitysymphony.org

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