City passes emergency tenant protections in light of coronavirus outbreak

Story by Sofia Alva
Staff Writer

Photo by Katelyn Hernandez
Staff Photographer

The South Pasadena City Council passed a resolution to declare a local emergency and establish residential and commercial renter protections at their meeting on Wednesday, Mar. 18, due to the coronavirus outbreak. This declaration also adopts regulations for private and public facilities and gatherings and authorizes the City Manager to take all necessary actions as the Director of Emergency Services.

With this declaration, the city can more easily accept state and federal funding for emergency response resources. It also allows the city to offer a greater level of protection for residents and businesses. City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe also addressed the council, informing members that the city activated its emergency response center and is readily available for use. 

Additionally, the tenant protections resolution will disallow landlords to start the eviction process for tenants within city boundaries for the next 60 days. The resolution for emergency tenant protections passed 4-1, with councilmembers largely citing support for the emergency actions due to the coronavirus’ consequences on the community.

“What I’m hearing is a lot of anxiety from tenants…For now, what can we do today to relieve some of that anxiety and give some sense of relief [to tenants]?” councilmember Dr. Marina Khubesrian said. 

However, councilmember Diana Mahmud cited several reasons against the city’s tenant protections, noting the closure of the Los Angeles County Superior Court already backlogging any possibility of eviction cases and the need to also support local landlords.

“Things are happening so quickly; I am concerned that tenants are going to get a notion of false relief if we approve this as is,” Mahmud said. “We need our tenants to talk to their landlords… It’s an incomplete solution [to pass emergency tenant protections].”

The council received multiple voices on the issue prior to the meeting, with councilmember Michael Cacciotti noting the large support from residents in his emails. Chamber of Commerce president Laurie Wheeler, Holy Family representative Cambria Tortorelli, and South Pasadena Tenant Union (SPTU) representative John Srebalus spoke during public comment, supporting the resolution for tenant protections.

“[The council’s] action tonight is necessary to safeguard vulnerable residents against the minority bad actor [landlords],” Srebalus said.

The SPTU drafted two emergency ordinances for emergency tenant protections before the city council’s meeting, asserting the need to protect tenants who are struggling due to the financial consequences of the coronavirus outbreak.

The next city council meeting will be held on Wednesday, Apr. 15.

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