Poll by Rent Control, "Just" Evictions Advocates Claims Majority of Pasadenans Support Both

Activist group claims their poll of 700 Pasadena registered voters shows “overwhelming support” for new City rent laws; similar effort fell short last year

Published : Thursday, May 23, 2019 | 5:39 AM

Pasadena rent control supporters shown a year ago campaigning for an initiative which failed to earn a place on the ballot. A new poll this week claims a majority of Pasadenans now might support a similar new initiative. Image via Facebook

Advocacy group Pasadenans Organizing for Progress on Wednesday issued the results of a poll it said showed 69% of Pasadena voters would support a rent control ordinance in Pasadena.

At the same time, the group said its poll showed an even larger number of voters – 82% – would support a law preventing landlords from evicting tenants unless there is a valid reason, such as not paying rent, destruction of property, or exhibiting loud or violent behavior.

The group said the telephone survey of 700 Pasadenans was conducted by David Binder Research from January 30 through February 5, 2019 and has an error rate of +/- 3.7%.

The poll also reported that rent control had 81% support in District 5, Councilmember Victor Gordo’s district, with the lowest support, 61%, in Councilmember Andy Wilson’s District 7, according to the group.

“We’re about to launch a major voter registration drive, focusing on tenants, who represent a majority of voters in Pasadena,” explained Kim Douglas, Pasadenans Organizing for Progress.

“We want tenants’ voices to be heard. We’re also heartened that so many homeowners recognize the importance of protecting the city’s affordable rental housing so that janitors, nurses, teachers, retail clerks, waiters and waitresses, social workers, and others can live in our city.”

Armed with the poll, Pasadenans Organizing for Progress, known as POP!, has joined five area tenants’ rights organizations in a coalition to get behind a new rent control and eviction protections ballot initiative for the November 2020 general election.

The coalition, called the Pasadena Tenant Justice Coalition (PTJC), includes the Pasadena Tenants Union, the American Civil Liberties Union-Southern California (ACLU SoCal) and its Pasadena-Foothills Chapter, Affordable Housing Services, and the Democratic Socialists of America LA.

Last spring, an effort by the Pasadena Fair and Equitable Housing Coalition and the Pasadena Tenants Union for similar rent control laws collected 10,224 signatures, fewer than the 12,982 signatures necessary to earn a place on the ballot.

“The survey results aren’t surprising,” said Ed Washatka, chair of POP’s housing committee. “The voters are telling the Mayor and City Council that they want them to pass laws that protect renters against skyrocketing rent increases and unjust evictions.”

Pablo Alvarado, POP board member and executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, added, “The political establishment is out of touch with the reality of ever-rising housing costs and unjust evictions for immigrant and working-class families and families of color.”

The new rent control measure is not being met with support from local political and business leaders. At least a few have said that the end result of rent control is not always what voters expect.

“My response to this would not be favorable,” said Mayor Terry Tornek, who said he had not yet seen the poll.

Tornek said Wednesday, “Many economists and universities have said that rent control can have an impact, and can be a golden ticket for some renters, but for the rest of the market, it can be destructive. It hurts other renters.”

Tornek acknowledged that a “lot of people are being squeezed by high rents,” and that the City has developed its Tenant Protection Ordinance as a result, and is trying to build more affordable housing, but added that he did not believe rent control “would be beneficial to most residents.”

Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Paul Little agreed with Tornek, and called the poll “an emotional pulse poll.”

Little said Wednesday that the only apartments that can be subject to rent control based on state law, are apartments that are more than 40 years old now.

Little used the examples of Santa Monica and New York, where he said that “People who have rent-controlled apartments have a wonderful entitlement that other people can’t get and can’t have, and won’t have unless they get very lucky. And people who have rent controlled departments never move, they never leave.”

Councilmember Gordo, who also had not seen the poll results, said that he “does not see the success in rent control that others see.”

But Gordo added, that should the measure reach the ballot, “the electorate will weigh in. This is a democracy and we must always respect the will of the voters, whatever it may be.”

The rent control issue took center stage at last Monday’s City Council meeting as a number of local renters told the Council that they were being unfairly evicted from their homes.

Northwest Pasadena resident and City employee Nathaniel Cook told the Council that he had lived in his apartment for six years, and that the rent had risen from $1,100 to $2,200, following the sale of the building. Resident Carlos Moreno also told the Council that he was being evicted from his apartment where he and his family had lived for 23 years. A neighbor, who was also being evicted, has lived in the building for 34 years, said Moreno.

“I don’t think that’s fair,” said Moreno, who told the Council he would need $5,000 to find a new apartment.

“The Tenant Protection Ordinance does not apply to me, since I live in a single-family home,” he added.

Meanwhile, Council Member Andy Wilson took a measured view of the issue, calling the cost of living in Southern California “overwhelming.”

Wilson told Pasadena Now Wednesday, “I’m sympathetic and understand the logic of the folks who support this. I think frankly there’s enough voter interest and resident interest that the discussion that deserves more examination. I certainly myself would be open to being educated on the pros and cons.”

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