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Glendale renters are organizing the city's first union for tenants

About 15 Glendale residents — mostly renters and at least one property owner — gathered last week for the third time to form the early makings of a group called the Glendale Tenants Union, an organized voice for tenant issues to professionally counter landlords in a city where about two-thirds of its residents are renters.

The meeting was led by former Glendale City Council candidate and renter Mike Van Gorder, along with fellow renters Karen Kwak and John Bagdzhyan, in the community room at Fire Station 21, near downtown.

Van Gorder stressed the “unofficial” capacity of the group early on in the meeting, as most of the night’s discussion was to define goals, rules and general logistics that will guide the organization’s future.

“We’re not trying to put anyone on blast. We are not going in angry right now. All we are trying to figure out is what will the purpose of this tenants’ union be,” Van Gorder said. “Currently, there’s not really a mouthpiece for renters of this city so, first and foremost, we want this to be a support group, of sorts.”

Up for debate was how to form something equivalent to a homeowners association, where renters can go to express their concerns, administer aid in case of emergencies and provide information about renters’ rights.

One resident said a recent rent hike of about $250 a month led him to attend the meeting. Another renter said he wants to stop unreasonable monthly increases before they happen because he said he can “barely afford” his rent now.

Attendees later broke into three groups. The first group discussed the union’s outreach efforts, proposing the group meet every two weeks on Tuesdays, set up an online presence and begin to post fliers around the city.

Another group laid out the union’s infrastructure and came to a consensus that anyone should be allowed to join, but voting power will only go to Glendale renters. That group also proposed monthly dues of between $1 and $5, and discussed possibly registering as some type of official body to make funding transparent.

In another group, attendees learned more about a proposed rent-stabilization measure drafted by a few members of the unofficial union and how members could collect signatures in the community as well as recruit support.

The proposed measure would closely follow the Los Angeles Tenants Union’s rent-stabilization model and would seek to control rent increases by a maximum of 3% a year in Glendale. The group would need to collect about 11,000 verified signatures from the community or gain endorsement by at least three City Council members in order to bring the effort before voters.

“If the constituents of the city manage to compile thousands of signatures expressing our concern toward [rent control], then that can help with having a conversation about a ballot measure endorsement by City Council members,” Van Gorder said.

The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for July 18 in a conference room located at 100 N. Brand Blvd.

jeff.landa@latimes.com

Twitter: @JeffLanda

An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled John Bagdzhyan's last name as Bagdzhuan.
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