Pasadena Tenants Union Members Say They Are Going Door to Door Seven Days a Week, in Campaign for Citywide Rent Control

Published : Monday, February 26, 2018 | 6:51 AM

Pasadena Tenants Union members Nicole Hodgson and Allison Henry.

Pasadena Tenants Union members Nicole Hodgson and Allison Henry.

Members of the Pasadena Tenants Union, the renters rights advocacy group which launched a rent control initiative petition drive late last year, said they are canvassing seven days a week going door-to-door in virtually every city neighborhood to secure thousands of signatures needed to qualify a charter amendment for the voters on next November’s ballot.

This charter amendment would authorize a form of limited rent control that is pegged to the rate of inflation and includes “just cause” language that would stipulate landlords must have legitimate reasons to evict tenants.

The Pasadena Tenants Union still has a way to go, however, in collecting at least 12,292 signatures by the May deadline, Union representatives said. Its members are putting in hours every day to make their cause known to the public.

“We try to get a lot [of signatures] everyday. A few of us … do it everyday and Saturdays and Sundays,” said Pasadena renter and Pasadena Tenants Union member Allison Henry.

“We’re figuring it out,” Henry added.

Henry and fellow Pasadena Tenants Union member Nicole Hodgson were featured speakers at a recent Progressive Discussion Group meeting at Du Par’s Restaurant where they took questions and shared insight on the state of Pasadena Tenants Union’s grassroot efforts.

Since the petition went live last December, Henry says Pasadena Tenants Union members, which consist of 20 active members and 235 supporters, take to the streets on a daily basis to educate homeowners and renters alike about the benefits of rent control in Pasadena.

Her findings?

“Everyone is sweating rent,” said Henry. “The variety of age of people who are sweating rent, it’s across the board — people in good jobs, people in not so good jobs.”

The new initiative measure is proposed as City Charter amendment, which needs to be voted on by citizens and not the City Council, and would only cover multi-unit apartments.

“We created a breathing document that gives the city options years from now,” explained Hodgson. “It’s specific, but it’s also loose”.

The 4.5% cap on rents would be tied to the Consumer Price Index.

Henry alone has collected over 250 signatures from her hours spent going door-to-door over the past two months.

“We met some folks in Northwest Pasadena in a two bed and two bath [apartment] and there are six people living there. They’re really worried,” Henry said. “Their rents have gone up [by] $200 to $300 dollars every year for the past three years,” added Henry.

Filing for rent control and just cause is one of two solutions that tenants rights groups often pursue to counter the effects of California’s Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act.

Enacted in 1995, Costa-Hawkins places limits on municipal rent control.

Under the Act, when a tenant voluntarily leaves or is evicted for most reasons, the landlord can raise the rent to any amount for the new tenant, whose rents are thereafter locked into rent control limits. Any rental unit built after 1995, as well as houses and condos, are not under rent restrictions.

According to an earlier report, Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek, after acknowledging the increasingly difficult financial situation many local renters face, said he believes that rent control is not the answer.

The other means of getting rent control that tenants’ rights groups also pursue is urging the local governing body to enact it into municipal code.

“We expect lots of opposition,” said Henry about the months leading up to the November ballot if the petition for the charter amendment qualifies.

Henry is optimistic in her encounters with a handful of longtime homeowners she encountered during her canvassing.

“We have a lot of homeowner allies and we have a lot of landlords that sign this.

They see equity in the charter, which is really cool,” Henry said.

The Pasadena Tenant Union also has other allies that include League of Women Voters, NAACP and other stakeholders, according to Henry.

“You’re going to be seeing like signs and stuff because we’re going to get support in that second phase,” said Henry about Pasadena Tenants Union’s hopeful campaigning efforts if the petition qualifies.

Pasadena Tenants Union encourages concerned residents and homeowners who are interested in canvassing to reach out to the group directly.

“We’re looking for fellow tenants to bring this out to the streets, to their neighborhoods because people are very willing to sign including homeowners. Unfortunately, we don’t all have the range,” said Henry.

For more information about the Pasadena Tenants Union, go to pasadenatenantsunion.com.