Letter to the Editor | ‘Demand for a Local Ordinance to Protect Tenants’

General Public Comment Re: Agenda Item 18 for City Council meeting on Wednesday, December 16

FILE PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | SouthPasadenan.com News | Residents fully pack the city council chamber Nov 6, 2019 to make public comments and bear witness to the decision to halt 'no-fault' evictions to renters in South Pasadena - until Jan. 1, 2020, the COVID Pandemic has only exacerbated the housing crisis in California and South Pasadena

By South Pasadena Tenants Union (SPTU)

The undersigned ask the City Council to pass a straightforward, modest measure to stem the tide of evictions without further delay.

Under existing law, landlords can evict tenants under the pretense of “substantial remodeling” without proof that any remodeling will actually be performed, much less that remodeling will be substantial. The proposed ordinance builds on state law by requiring landlords to obtain all necessary permits in advance of issuing an eviction notice, and describe in the eviction notice the nature of the remodel and why it cannot be performed in under 30 days.

Strengthening renter protections to prevent erosion of affordable housing stock and gamesmanship by landlords enjoys broad support in South Pasadena. The South Pasadena Tenants Union, the Housing Rights Center, and the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles all support passage of the ordinance. It has been a month since the Council continued this item to seek stakeholder input. The stakeholders have now had ample opportunity to weigh in.

Yet, rather than taking swift action to adopt the proposed ordinance, city staff have recommended extending the current moratorium on renovictions for more than 10 months in an apparent capitulation to the landlord lobby.

From the staff memo, it is clear that landlords have been hard at work at City Hall. Their complaints about the ordinance lack merit. Units do not have to be vacant in order to assess whether permitting will be required to remodel them. With notice to tenants, landlords have the right to bring in contractors, architects and engineers to occupied units to evaluate what work needs to be done. Property owners cannot start demolition before obtaining permits—regardless of the scope of work contemplated.

The landlord lobby spuriously complains that landlords cannot shoulder additional relocation costs during the current economic downturn. But the proposed ordinance does not increase relocation assistance. It is a simple procedural requirement that landlords undertake due diligence regarding planned remodeling before evicting a tenant.

The property owners transparently seek to avoid enforcement altogether by advocating for backend financial penalties in lieu of requiring front-end permits prior to eviction. The vast majority of tenants opt to move out and avoid litigation when served an eviction notice. It is exceedingly unlikely that an unrepresented tenant will obtain discovery about the nature of the remodeling her landlord ultimately undertook in the unit she was forced to vacate. Landlords are advocating for penalties in lieu of prospective permitting because they know, in reality, such penalties will never touch them.

We are looking to our City Council for bold leadership. You know many of us. We are your friends and neighbors. We are asking for your vote on behalf of every neighbor we stand to lose if the city does not enhance tenant protections. A crushing wave of evictions is anticipated for early 2021. Further delay is not warranted.

Please direct staff to come back with a substantial remodeling ordinance modeled after Long Beach’s ordinance, and vote on its passage at the first City Council meeting of 2021.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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