Housing Committee Hears Cedillo/Harris-Dawson Just Cause Eviction Motion, Public Comments From Opposition Continue To Make No Damn Sense Whatsoever, Motion Scheduled For Full Council On June 28

This is just a short (very late, sorry) report on the progress of the Cedillo/Harris-Dawson motion (found in CF 17-0454) to extend the same protections against arbitrary evictions granted to tenants in buildings covered by the Rent Stabilization Ordinance to all tenants in the City. The motion was heard by the Housing Committee at its June 21 meeting. A report was approved (transcription after the break) and sent to the full Council, where it is on the calendar for June 28.1 The motion instructs HCIDLA to report back to the Council on the feasibility of preparing an ordinance. It looks like it’s headed for passage, and it looks like Cedillo is pushing it hard, but there’s a lot to be done before we have a law in place.

Anyway, I downloaded the audio of the meeting from the City and put it up on Archive.Org if you’re interested. This item starts at 1:28:58.2 It’s definitely worth a listen. Both Cedillo and Harris-Dawson are actually willing to argue with the opposing comment-makers, which is refreshing behavior from our Council, and they don’t seem willing to compromise about this ordinance, which bodes well for its success.3 In particular, Gil Cedillo repeatedly makes the point that it makes no sense at all to have one level of protection for poorer tenants in RSO buildings and another, weaker level for tenants in non-RSO buildings.

Meanwhile, it’s instructive to listen to the opposing public comments, if only to understand the class rage and the sense of entitlement of the property-owning classes in Los Angeles. They’re so used to getting their way that they don’t seem to even feel like their arguments have to make sense. Just for instance, listen to this comment by Valley landlord and former bandleader Horace Heidt, Jr. (transcription after the break). His argument seems to be that if they’re required to have reasons for evicting tenants, the construction of new units will halt completely. It’s not the worst comment, it’s not the meanest comment, but it’s unique in that he makes no attempt whatsoever to connect the two propositions. Why would this happen? Being a zillionaire, it seems, means never having to explain what the heck you’re talking about.

Horace Heidt’s comment:

Yes, good afternoon, it’s an honor for me to be here.

Gil Cedillo: Your name for the record?

My name is Horace Heidt, and I’m a housing provider. I look at my tenants as part of my family. I care about them. I watch over them. And I’ve worked in this business since 1981. I oppose the Just Cause Act, mainly because it’s gonna discourage construction. All I’ve heard here today is that we have a housing shortage, and all you’re talking about is converting condos to apartments. I’m talking about adding apartments. We have about a million apartment house shortage, or unit, housing unit shortage in the state of California. I would like to encourage the development of more low and moderate income housing. Thank you.

Transcription of the Housing Committee’s report:

File No. 17-0454

HOUSING COMMITTEE REPORT relative to the feasibility of prohibiting landlords from terminating tenancies in rental units not subject to the City’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) unless for just cause.

Recommendation for Council action, pursuant to Motion (Cedillo – Harris-Dawson):
DIRECT the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department (HCIDLA), in consultation with the City Attorney, to communicate with cities in the Bay Area and report to Council in 30 days with recommendations on the feasibility of preparing an ordinance to prohibit landlords from terminating tenancies in rental units not subject to the RSO unless for just cause, as defined by the City’s fourteen legal reasons for termination of a tenancy found in the RSO.

Fiscal Impact Statement: Neither the City Administrative Officer nor the Chief Legislative Analyst has completed a financial analysis of this report.

Community Impact Statement: None submitted.

SUMMARY
On April 19, 2017, Council considered Motion (Cedillo – Harris-Dawson) relative to the feasibility prohibiting landlords from terminating tenancies in rental units not subject to the City’s RSO unless for just cause. Motion states that the City of Los Angeles is experiencing a severe housing supply and affordability crisis that requires action by the City. Median rent in Los Angeles County increased 28 percent since 2000 while median renter household income had declined 8 percent adjusted for inflation. Los Angeles renters need to earn 3.9 times the local minimum wage to afford the average monthly asking rent of $2,108. Los Angeles County’s lowest-income renters spend 71 percent of income on rent, leaving little left for food, transportation, health, expenses, and other needs. To afford this average monthly rent, individuals making the City’s median income of $49,500 would have to spend more than 50 percent of their income on rent. According to the Los Angeles Times, many of the neighborhoods in Council Districts 1, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, and 15 have median incomes below $35,000.

Motion goes on to state that displacement through evictions has a direct impact on the health, safety and/or welfare of Los Angeles citizens by uprooting children from their schools, disrupting longstanding community networks that are integral to citizens’ welfare, forcing low-income residents to pay unaffordable relocation costs, segregating low income residents into less healthy, less safe, and more overcrowded housing that is often further removed from vital public services and leaving residents with unhealthy levels of stress and anxiety as they attempt to cope with the threat of homelessness.

Motion further states that Bay area cities are implementing new eviction and rent stabilization measures in response to their severe housing supply shortage and affordability crisis. Almost all of them include provisions that prohibit landlords from terminating tenancies of rental units except for just cause. Motion movers believe that HCIDLA and the City Attorney should provide Council with recommendations for instituting similar laws in Los Angeles. Council referred Motion to the Housing Committee for consideration.At its meeting held June 21, 2017, the Housing Committee discussed this matter with a representative of HCIDLA. During the public comment period, apartment building owners and representatives of apartment owner associations expressed opposition to Motion. Speakers stated that the process of evicting tenants for just cause is difficult and expensive. Problem tenants reduce the quality of life for other tenants of the building. It was also stated that approving this Motion will discourage construction of new apartment buildings and create a disincentive for investors.

Residents and tenant advocates expressed support for the proposal. It was stated that all tenants deserve the same protection as tenants of rental property regulated by the RSO, including notice of eviction and relocation assistance. In response to real estate market conditions, property owners are evicting long-term tenants for new ones able to pay higher rent.

The Housing Committee recommended that Council approve Motion’s recommendation as shown above.

Respectfully Submitted,

HOUSING COMMITTEE
MEMBER
VOTE
CEDILLO:
YES
KORETZ:
ABSENT
HUIZAR:
ABSENT
PRICE:
YES
HARRIS-DAWSON: YES
jaw
-NOT OFFICIAL UNTIL COUNCIL ACTS-


Image of Horace Heidt, Jr. started out as this image from Wikimedia, made available by its creator, Horace Heidt, Jr., under those super-free terms that things on Wikimedia are made available. The present modified version is ©2017 MichaelKohlhaas.Org.

  1. Note that because public comments were heard at the committee meeting, it’s legal for the full Council not to hear comments. I don’t know what they’ll actually do, though.
  2. I’m sorry, I don’t know how to link straight to a time on the Archive, but it’s easy enough to move around in their built-in player.
  3. Perhaps gaining the ability to pass the occasional ordinance like this one, which protects the poor and relatively helpless, is made possible by all those unanimous yes-votes on every random zillionaire behested zoning variance over the years. Who can say if the price is too high, though. Maybe, just maybe, it’d be better to have a Council where actual debate and controversy took place. We’re not going to get one soon, though, so in the meantime, I guess it’s good that the system seems to allow for an occasional ordinance like the one that’s being prepared here.
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