Story by Zoe Schlaak
The South Pasadena City Council further extended its eviction moratorium, which prevents renters from eviction due to substantial remodel without a permit, another four months at its meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 16. The extension is intended to allow for more community outreach and time for the Planning Commission before finalizing the amount of relocation assistance payments that should be allocated in the proposed ordinance.
City Council passed its most recent eviction moratorium on Wednesday, Nov. 4, and it was designed to be a temporary protection for tenants until a permanent ordinance is enacted.
Councilmembers already extended the moratorium at their Nov. 18 meeting, and although they continued it for another four months, they expressed commitment to finishing the permanent ordinance sooner than that. City Attorney Terri Highsmith explained that the ordinance will be the same as the moratorium, except that it allocates money for relocation assistance payments, which are benefits given to evicted tenants. The City Council has requested additional community input specifically on the amount of relocation assistance payments before it enacts a permanent ordinance.
At the Dec. 16 meeting, City staff presented the results of outreach from the past month, which included both tenant and landlord perspectives. Renters expressed concern that without the temporary moratorium, existing laws create an eviction loophole because they currently do not require landlords to obtain a permit for renovation before terminating a tenant’s lease.
“It is clear to me that this loophole is being used to get around the just cause requirements of the law and it won’t stop without [the City Council’s] decisive action,” resident Annie Chelsea said.
Landlords countered that requiring permits before evicting tenants would be inconvenient and harm mom and pop landlords, which are those who own 10 or fewer properties.
“Requiring [landlords to obtain] a permit prior to serving a tenancy termination notice makes the application process difficult, especially for mom and pop [landlords],” Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles member Danielle Leidner-Peretz said. “Such burdensome local requirements will make it difficult for these small [landlords] who genuinely have limited financial resources to rehabilitate and upgrade their building[s], and as a result such renovations will not be undertaken, allowing for further deterioration of the City’s affordable and aging housing supply.”
Community members have continued to support the ordinance through substantial amounts of public comment, and are frustrated with the Council’s perceived lack of urgency on the issue.
“Renters of this city have come to [the City] in good faith,” resident Anne Bagasao said. “We’ve done the research, the legal analysis, the outreach. We’ve always come to [the City] prepared. We trusted that by doing these things the City would give us the respect of responding [favorably to our position]. Sadly it looks like again that is not the case. Renters are out here trying to survive, trying to teach our kids, manage mental and physical health, stay housed and not give up. There is no reason not to make this ordinance long term and permanent. We are long term and permanent unless that is that [the City] doesn’t want us here and you prefer only to act on the benefit of apartment associations and commercial landlords.”
However, the City Attorney explained that people making public comments misunderstood the steps still needed before going forward with the ordinance.
“The only thing that’s missing [for the ordinance], and I’m not sure that the public commenters realize this, is the request to vastly increase relocation benefits,” Highsmith said. “That matter was briefly discussed twice at the City Council and the Council wished to have more public input for relocation benefits for the City of South Pasadena.”
Per City staff’s recommendation, the City Council continued the public hearing on the ordinance to its next meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 20. Although the moratorium extension is for four months, the councilmembers decided that staff will present more outreach results and a finalized ordinance draft on Jan. 20.