Pasadena Tenants Union Takes Responsibility for Rent Control Initiative Petition

“Rent Control and Just Cause will give our city hope,” the Tenants Union said; Mayor Terry Tornek responded he believes rent control is not the answer

Published : Monday, November 20, 2017 | 6:38 AM

The Pasadena Tenants Union said on social media that it is behind the filing of papers last Wednesday notifying City officials of the intended public circulation of a petition supporting a new City Charter Amendment which would create rent control in Pasadena.

The “notice of intent to circulate” the petition was signed by three people who did not state their affiliation with any group. On Friday, on Facebook, the Pasadena Tenants Union acknowledged it had “filed for Rent Control and Just Cause in the City of Pasadena for the November 6th, 2018 election.”

“Fifty-six percent of Pasadena residents are renters, yet we have no housing security in our City,” the Union claimed in its posting. “Pasadena values a diverse community and as a community if we do not have a rental policy that recognizes both tenant and landlord stability we’ll be left with a community that no longer strives to be inclusive.”

In seeking support from Pasadena residents, the Union said that “renters are part of the fabric of Pasadena and we are your neighbors who care for and love Pasadena.”

“Once we are gone, who is left?” the posting asked.

The Union claimed that the average rent for a one-bedroom unit in Pasadena has risen 51.7 percent in the last six years.

California tenant law attorney Ken Carlson said that 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.

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.

Carlson said that if a city council like Pasadena’s moves to establish rent control, it would come in the form of an ordinance or city law; in contrast, by filing for an initiative for rent control, the Tenants Union can move towards a city-wide public vote making it a Charter Amendment – a change in the city’s constitution – which is more powerful.

A City Charter amendment vote places the outcome under the control of the electorate, as opposed to the City Council.

Judging by successful recent movements such as the push for a higher minimum wage, both of these means to enact rent control will require significant tenant clout – meaning relatively large numbers of tenants must voice their support for rent control, be registered voters and demonstrate that they likely will vote together as a block.

The Tenants Union said in its post that rent control would provide renters assurances that rents may increase only a certain reasonable amount each year while providing landlords the assurance of economic security. Just cause would provide the security to tenants that evictions are based on lease violations, while protecting landlords with cause to evict tenants for non-payment of rent and unlawful activity, according to the Union.

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.

“I don’t think that Pasadena has an appetite for rent control,” Tornek said.

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