La Crescenta residents struggling to pay rising rents may soon find relief, with a temporary measure passed by Los Angeles County Supervisors to address rent hikes currently under draft.
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday to pass the measure that will freeze rent increases for six months at 3% per year in the county’s unincorporated areas, which include communities north of Glendale and west of La Cañada Flintridge.
County attorneys have two months to draft the ordinance while supervisors consider a more permanent solution.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose district includes — among many other communities — La Crescenta, cast the dissenting vote after her proposed amendments were rejected.
“I understand the concerns about high rent in Los Angeles, but I’m also concerned about the impact of rent control on our local economy,” Barger said in a statement.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who has championed the measure, said county renters need relief.
“Many of our county families and seniors live month to month in fear of homelessness, knowing that their rents could rise significantly and quickly at any time,” Kuehl said in a statement.
Barger said that because the measure is not targeted toward a particular socioeconomic segment of the population, it could potentially help higher wage earners rather than financially vulnerable individuals, which the measure should be designed to assist.
Renters in the area tended to agree that leases have been rising more in recent years, though most were not aware of the supervisors’ recently passed measure.
“There should be rent control,” local renter John Karg said. “Now, it’s 100 bucks [higher per month] every year. It didn’t used to be that much. That means no vacation.”
Janci Farwell, a Glendale resident whose daughter rents in the area, said she isn’t sure rent control is the answer.
“I’m for fair rents, but I’m not sure rent control is always fair,” Farwell said, adding that she’s heard “horror stories,” where some individuals pay little, while their neighbors pay exorbitant amounts.
Mike Shaar, chief executive of SIG Property Management, said it comes down to a supply-and-demand problem: There’s not enough housing to meet the demand.
Compounding the problem, there’s not enough incentive for developers to build affordable housing, added Shaar, whose company manages properties in La Crescenta.
For investors to invest, “it has to pencil out,” Shaar said. “And it’s been difficult for them to do that because of cost of construction, permits fees, parking requirements, and all the things that go along with bringing new properties to the new market.”
Jim Nasella with the Glendale Tenants Union, which represents renters bordering the affected area, agreed the housing shortage is the root of the problem. However, that doesn’t mean renters don’t need assistance, , he said.
The union has twice failed to collect enough signatures to place a proposed rent-increase-limiting measure for Glendale on a ballot, but organization members haven’t given up.
The group showed up in droves to the Glendale City Council meeting on Tuesday, with union member Hayk Makhmuryan touting the supervisors’ measure, passed earlier that day, as something the council has failed to address.
“A lot of these people are out there protesting with their signs [at council meetings], and they can barely walk,” Nasella said. “These are the victims.”
Nasella estimates that 130 union members and supporters showed up to the meeting. After Makhmuryan addressed council members, he invited supporters to protest outside, leaving the council chambers nearly empty.
As they filed out, Councilwoman Paula Devine said, “We’ll watch that, see how it works in [L.A. County], and see if we can look at that in Glendale,” referring to the supervisors’ measure.
“I believe we need to continue evaluating short-term solutions that will result in immediate help for tenants without creating major financial hardships for landlords,” Devine said in an email after the meeting.
The council is expected to evaluate an inclusionary housing ordinance soon, which Devine said could offer faster relief than building affordable housing.
Council members are also scheduled to reevaluate what’s known as the Right to Lease Ordinance, Devine said. The ordinance would require landlords to offer a one-year initial lease to all tenants, along with a tenant option to renew for a second year.
Currently, under a 1995 state law known as Costa-Hawkins, city officials are limited regarding the types of rent-control policies they can implement.
Following guidelines set out by the law, the supervisors’ measure applies only to buildings constructed before 1995 and excludes condominiums and single-family homes.