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California Apartment Association Files Opening Brief in Appeal Against Measure H

Published on Friday, February 2, 2024 | 5:16 am

The California Apartment Association on Wednesday filed an opening brief in its efforts to get an appellate court to rule Pasadena’s rent control law is unconstitutional.

The appellate court’s decision on this matter will have significant implications for the future of rent control in Pasadena and potentially beyond. 

The appeal contains many of the arguments shot down in a 35-page ruling by Judge Mary Strobel in late March 2023. During the appeals process new arguments cannot be introduced. 

Rental Housing Board President Ryan Bell would not comment on the legal matter.

The lawsuit lists Ryan Bell, Michelle White and Affordable Pasadena as respondents.

Affordable Pasadena is a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization. The IRS classifies the 510(c)(4) nonprofits as tax-exempt social welfare organizations whose contributions receipts are not eligible for tax deductions. Affordable Pasadena operated the Measure H campaign.   

The California Apartment Association claims Measure H is a significant revision to the City’s charter and not an amendment, and since the Charter cannot be changed without a vote of the people, the lawsuit claims the amendment overrides the City Council-City manager form of governance model adopted by the City and replaces it with a rent board that acts independently of government.

“The measure, which nearly doubled the charter’s length and established a new, independent branch of city government, necessitates a more thorough charter revision process,” the CAA claims.

The brief also argues that the Rental Board imposes unconstitutional restrictions on Board membership pointing to a mandate allowing seven of the 11 board seats to be occupied by tenants, with no seats reserved for rental housing providers. 

In a recent opinion piece, Whitney Prout, CAA’s Executive Vice President of Legal Affairs, wrote “the board is designed to be hostile to rental housing providers.”

Finally, the brief challenges the legality of Measure H’s requirement that relocation assistance be paid to tenants who opt to vacate due to rent increases. This aspect of the measure, CAA argues, unlawfully applies to units exempt from rent control under the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act.

According to the group’s website, the California Apartment Association is the nation’s largest statewide trade group representing owners, investors, developers, managers and suppliers of rental homes and apartment communities.

The group does not mention representation for tenants or renters. 

In March, Judge Strobel ruled in favor of the City, which had acted on behalf of the Rental Housing Board.

“Petitioners cannot prevail by suggesting that in some future hypothetical situation constitutional problems may possibly arise as to the particular application of the statute,” Judge Mary Strobel wrote in her ruling. “Rather, petitioners must demonstrate that the act’s provisions inevitably pose a present total and fatal conflict with applicable constitutional prohibitions.”

The ruling allowed the City to establish the Rental Housing Board which is responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the rent control initiative.

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