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Pasadena Landlords Push for Rent Control Changes, Clash with Tenant Advocates

Contentious debate erupts at City Council meeting over proposed exemptions to fair housing law

Published on Tuesday, July 9, 2024 | 6:14 am

Tensions flared at a marathon Pasadena City Council meeting Monday night as landlords and tenant advocates clashed over potential changes to the City’s rent control laws. Property owners pushed for exemptions they argue are necessary to maintain affordable housing stock.

The debate centered on proposed amendments to Article XVIII of the City charter, known as the Pasadena Fair and Equitable Housing Amendment. 

Landlords urged the Council to place several changes on the November ballot for voter approval.

Key proposals included exempting single-family homes, condominiums and properties with four or fewer units from rent control regulations. 

Property owners also sought to allow passing through half of housing registration fees to tenants.

“We need more housing and we need more time to implement these reasonable exemptions,” said Blake Boyd, a landlord who addressed the Council. He argued the current rules are overly restrictive.

Tenant advocates strongly opposed weakening the existing protections. They contended the proposed changes would undermine the law’s intent to preserve affordable housing and prevent displacement.

The rent control Measure H, passed by voters in 2022, has been a contentious issue. Landlords claim it discourages investment in rental properties, while tenants say it provides crucial stability and protections to renters.

Several property owners vented frustration with the City’s Rental Housing Board, which oversees implementation of the law. They argued the Board lacks adequate landlord representation and has been dismissive of their concerns.

“We do not have representation with knowledge and expertise to bring to the table,” said Deborah Lutz, a landlord who spoke at the meeting. 

She urged the Council to recruit more housing providers to serve on the board.

The current Board composition, as mandated by the Charter amendment, consists of 13 total Members, including 11 primary Members (seven Tenant Members (one from each City Council district), four At Large members, and two Alterate Members.

Landlords contend this structure unfairly tilts decision-making against their interests.

Councilmembers grappled with balancing the interests of tenants and landlords. Some expressed openness to putting certain changes before voters, while others argued it was premature to alter the recently enacted law.

Councilmember Felicia Williams suggested allowing voters to decide on modifying the board’s composition and potentially exempting smaller properties. 

“I think there are a couple of changes we could propose to the voters,” Williams said.

Other Councilmembers were more hesitant. 

Councilmember Tyron Hampton emphasized the need for ongoing dialogue between property owners and the Rental Housing Board. 

“I think that there literally needs to be a working group, a working connection between our housing providers and our rental housing board,” Hampton said.

The meeting also saw the introduction of Helen Morales as the new director of the Rent Stabilization Department. Morales, with over 20 years of housing experience, expressed eagerness to collaborate with all stakeholders.

The marathon session, which stretched past midnight, highlighted the ongoing tensions surrounding Pasadena’s housing policies. With both sides digging in, the debate over the administration of Measure H rent control seems far from settled.

The Council ultimately directed City staff to prepare a resolution clarifying certain penal provisions in the Charter amendment but not broader changes to the rent control law, which remain under discussion.

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