Knock, Knock Who’s There? Protect Culver City Founder Defends Both Petition and Process

Protect Culver City, a political action committee formed after City Council approved an interim rent control measure last year, continues to collect signatures around Culver City for a petition requiring City Council to put rent control on an upcoming ballot.

But some residents feel the petition was misrepresented to them by those canvassing the petition. In an article last month, Culver City Crossroads reported that residents like Mike Plewa, of Carlson Park, felt they were misled by canvassers of a petition to end the City’s current rent control and put the issue up to a future vote. You can read the story by going to culvercitycrossroads.com/2020/02/24/knock-knock-whos-there-contentious-petition-seeks-to-put-it-to-the-voters/

This week, Culver City Crossroads reached out to Ron Bassilian, the president of and spokesperson for Protect Culver City, about the allegations that canvassers are misrepresenting the purpose of the petition.

“We’ve done everything we can to audit our canvassers and see what they’re doing,” Bassilian said.

PCC has so far collected about 2,500 signatures, according to Bassilian, only a few hundred away from the 2,801 needed. The PAC has until April 9, 2020 to collect the remaining signatures, which are then verified by the City Council. If all signatures are verified as authentic, this would effectively end the current rent control measure and require voter approval to reinstate it.

“I’m not in charge of selecting [the canvassers]” he said about the process of deciding who will go door to door. “I do audits for sure, especially after we got these reports about what [residents are] saying.”

PCC hired Initiative and Referendum Campaign Management Services to manage the hiring of canvassers and collection of signatures. Bassilian said he does not know how Initiative and Referendum pays canvassers for their work.

IRCMS did not immediately respond to calls from Culver City Crossroads.

However, Bassilian said canvassers are told to explain the petition. The canvasser script is available on PCC’s website, and reads, “We’re circulating a petition to require voter approval for rent control recently passed by City Council. Would you be interested in signing?”

As of the time this story was published, PCC had not filled out forms with the Secretary of State which disclose a PAC’s total financial activity. Bassilian said PCC is funded through donations, but declined to disclose how much in donations it has received.

Rent control may be what “spawned” PCC, as Bassilian puts it, but he says it is not their defining issue. They’re invested in solutions for the growing homelessness issue and forming neighborhood watchdog groups to combat crime.

Bassilian says the PCC is frustrated with what he says is City Council’s “lack of transparency and honesty.”

“We realized we needed to do something to make ourselves heard, and we realized a PAC was the way to go about it,” he said.

If the petition passes and the interim measure is retired, the City would default to the state’s rent control, passed last October by Gov. Newsom. California caps rent increases at five percent plus inflation, but compared to Culver City’s current rent control, has less stringent renter protections in place. For instance, “just cause” provisions in Culver City under the current rent control ordinance say that a landlord must pay Relocation Assistance Fees of three times the monthly rent plus $1,000 to any tenant who is asked to vacate a rental unit without Just Cause. Under the state’s rent control, the fee is equal to one month’s rent.

“We’re looking to wrap this up soon,” Bassilian said.

Elizabeth Moss

Knock, Knock will continue as an ongoing series in Culver City Crossroads while the issue is a matter of public concern.

www.culvercitysymphony.org

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