Council Approves Expanded Tenant Protection Ordinance

New ordinance would increase relocation expenses, but some say law is still not enough

Published : Tuesday, June 11, 2019 | 4:46 AM

The City Council Monday unanimously approved the second reading of Pasadena’s expanded Tenant Protection Ordinance, which could significantly help some of the 16 tenants at a Northwest Pasadena apartment building who were recently served eviction notices by the property’s new owners. The ordinance will take effect in 30 days.

Members of the Pasadena Tenants’ Union, however, say the ordinance doesn’t go far enough to provide proper tenant protection.

The vote was cast by a depleted Council. Councilmembers Victor Gordo, Andy Wilson, and Margaret McAustin were absent for the meeting.

Before the vote a handful of local residents, most of whom live in an apartment complex at 278 East Washington Boulevard, told the Council emotional and tearful stories of receiving eviction notices in recent weeks. One of the speakers has lived in her apartment for 22 years. Another suffers from cancer. Many of the residents are elderly.

“I don’t know where I’m going to go,” said resident Jose Soriano.

Added Victoria Baker, a two-year resident of the Washington Boulevard property who recently received a 60-day notice, “It was a complete surprise.”

“I’m being forced out of Pasadena,” said lifelong city resident Dorian Schamberger, “and not by choice.”

Both City Manager Steve Mermell and City Attorney Michele Bagneris explained the new ordinance could help those tenants who qualify by providing funds for moving expenses as well as rental deposits for their new move-in.

Mermell also told the Council that City staff would be reaching out to tenants at the complex beginning Tuesday to determine their eligibility for relocation assistance.

According to a report from the City Attorney’s office, the new version of the City’s Tenant Protection Ordinance expands the code to apply to Pasadena renters who are displaced because of a change in ownership of rental properties which results in large rent increases, lease terminations, or evictions. New property owners will be required to provide relocation allowance and moving expenses to income-qualified tenants in good standing if the tenancies are terminated within 18 months of the date the property is transferred, said the report.

The expanded ordinance increases relocation allowances in recognition of the fact that “Pasadena rental rates are increasing faster than HUD fair market rental values,” said the report.

Relocation allowances for long-term tenancies of 10 years or more are also being increased by 10 percent for every year after the tenth year, until reaching a 100 percent increase after 20 years, the report added.

The Tenant Protection Ordinance was identified as needing “strengthening” in the 2014-2021 Housing Element of the City’s General Plan. It has been on the books since in some form since 2004.

“The changes expanding and enhancing the Ordinance,” said the report, “are intended to provide more assistance to displaced tenants and to keep pace with the rapidly rising rental housing market as directed by the City Council. Adoption of this Ordinance is necessary to carry out the Council’s direction.”

Meanwhile, an online listing for an apartment unit at the Washington Boulevard property said, “This property is no longer available to rent or to buy.”

According to “Jesse,” who answered the phone at the property Monday afternoon, apartments were being renovated and would be available after July 31, with rents starting at $2,000.

Richard Byrd, a Pasadena resident who is listed as an owner of the property through The Liu-Byrd Family trust, told Pasadena Now that  the trust owns only about “three percent” of the property and that he was not aware of the eviction situation.

City Manager Steve Mermell said the City had no information as to the owners of the property. According to Jane Panangaden of the Pasadena Tenants’ Union, the LA County Assessor’s office has not recorded a recent change in ownership for the property, only a change in management. Lakeview Properties,  based in Glendora, are reportedly the  current managers.

“There is a lack of clarity on the ownership issue,” said Panangaden.

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