Pasadena Tenants Union Hosts Public Rent Control Forum, Ramps Up Signature Collection Effort for Ballot Initiative

Residents hear panel discuss pros and cons of proposed rent control charter amendment.

Published : Wednesday, March 21, 2018 | 5:45 AM

Frank Senterfitt address ACLU rent control forum on Tuesday, March 21, 2018 in Pasadena. Walter Senterfitt addresses ACLU rent control forum on Tuesday, March 21, 2018 in Pasadena.

“Rent control is a moral, ethical, and human issue,” said tenant organizer Walter Senterfitt Tuesday evening, in laying out his position at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California Pasadena/Foothills Chapter Forum on rent control.

Continued Senterfitt, “Rent control is a human right,” as he laid out a brief history of rent control in Southern California. Senterfitt was joined at the speakers table by Allison Henry of the Pasadena Tenants Union and attorney Frank Broccolo.

The event was moderated by ACLU Southern California Pasadena/Foothills Chapter’s Economic Justice Committee Chair Michelle White, and co-sponsored by Pasadena Tenants Union and the LA Progressive newspaper.

Senterfitt, who is also working with  efforts to convince the Los Angeles County Supervisors to adopt a rent control/just cause eviction ordinance to cover unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, said the proposed rent control charter amendment being organized by Pasadena Tenants Union would limit rent increases in multiple-unit apartment buildings to only once per lease period, with sufficient notice.

He also said the proposed ordinance would create a City rent control board made up of tenants, landlords, and homeowners, and eliminate “no cause” evictions, as well as tie rent increases to the Consumer Price Index.

According to the Pasadena Tenants Union, their proposed “Pasadena Fair and Equitable Housing Charter Amendment” would restrict landlords from terminating a tenancy when the tenant is not at fault, with a few exceptions, such as an owner move-in. In “no fault” evictions, landlords would be required to pay relocation benefits to displaced tenants.

Landlords would also be prohibited from retaliating or harassing their tenants for reporting violations of the ordinance if it passed, or for joining tenants’ organizations.

Pasadena is 57.1% renter occupied and 42.9% homeowner occupied, the Union claims. The average rent for a one-bedroom unit in Pasadena has risen 51.7% in the last 6 years, according to the Pasadena Tenants Union.

Henry said she also has heard of current cases of tenants receiving rental increases of $200, $800 and more a month. Tenants also live the risk of being evicted for no cause under current ordinances.

“Pasadena’s declining school enrollment is also directly tied to the sharp increases in rent,” added Henry, a Pasadena renter and former teacher.

Henry told the group that her rent recently increased $250 a month, and her apartment complex neighbors saw rent increases of $100-650 a month.

“A two-bedroom, two-bath apartment on Washington is now between $2,400 and $2,600,” Henry told the group. “And to move in, you’re looking at about $4,400.”

“Of 16 apartment units in my complex, 13 were turned over,” said Henry. “I saw four children leave PUSD in March. I saw a mom and daughter split up, so that her daughter could stay in Pasadena schools. This really galvanized me into realizing that politics is local.”

With Pasadena resident Nicole Hodgson, Henry helped organize the charter amendment group advocating for the proposed “Pasadena Fair and Equitable Housing Charter Amendment.”

Attorney Broccolo said he believed all of the renters in the group would definitely benefit from the charter amendment. He also said that the burden of providing affordable housing in the city falls on local landlords, “the people you see around you.”

“This is a disproportionate burden on property owners,” he said.

Henry responded that the proposed charter amendment includes a provision for a fair return for landlords.

“There is also an advantageous tax system for landlords, as well as an advantageous system of banking and lending,” she said.

Broccolo added later, “If you make things for difficult for property owners, they won’t want to build here anymore.”

Senterfitt countered with a claim that a recent study in Berkeley, California showed more construction in the city following the introduction of rent regulations.

“We’re not asking anyone here to provide a new service out of their own pockets,” Senterfitt said. “What we’re recognizing is the fact that everything, including all markets, are in fact, not totally free. They are regulated in one way or another, and they are often regulated, most commonly, I would argue, for the benefit of those who have the most to start with.”

“What rent stabilization is about is helping people stay in their homes, and without threatening a fair rate of return for people who own the properties.”

According to Hodgson, the proposed measure, which is being readied for the November 2108 General Election, will require 12,892 valid signatures by May, in order to qualify for the ballot.

The Pasadena Fair & Equitable Housing Coalition has organized a number of organized canvassing drives starting tonight and is urging rent control supporters to come out, receive training on how to properly collect valid signatures and to engage the community. Follow up drives for Old Pasadena are planned for Thursday and Friday.

Organizers said those interested should RSVP to info@pasadenatenantsunion.com or call 626/491-1044.

How close is the Tenants Union to collecting the required number of signatures?

Saying she she did not want to reveal exact numbers, Hodgson would allow that “We’re in good shape.”

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