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Santa Monica Rent Control Defended

Henry Yarmark recently wrote comparing his experiences in a Polish concentration camp with Santa Monica’s rent control law. (Times, Feb. 5.) While I feel sympathy for anyone who has endured the horrors of a concentration camp, I must correct his misstatements of the facts about rent control.

He claims that the Santa Monica Rent Control Board has prevented him from using his land or getting out of the rental business. This is completely false. Mr. Yarmark did withdraw his property from rental use under the Ellis Act and evicted all of his tenants.

Under two recent court decisions, the Ellis Act entitles him to evict all his tenants and to be free of the removal-permit requirements of the Santa Monica Rent Control Board. The removal permit is normally required of any landlord who wishes to demolish a building containing rental units.

Unless Mr. Yarmark chooses to rent the property again, the rent control law no longer affects his rights in his property. (If he did choose to return the units for use as residential rental property, the rent control law would guarantee him a fair return on his property.) Despite his assertion that he is a “minority” as a landlord, Mr. Yarmark has ceased to be a landlord by his withdrawal of the property from rental use.

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However, Mr. Yarmark must still comply with other state and local laws to get permission to demolish his property.

State law requires that the city include in its general plan a housing element, which assures that housing needs for all income groups will be addressed. The city has adopted a housing element that seeks to preserve the number of affordable rental units in the city.

Mr. Yarmark appears to believe that he has a constitutional right to do anything he wants with his property. However, regulation of the uses of land in Santa Monica has been in effect long before Mr. Yarmark came here to live. He would have needed a permit then to build, demolish or otherwise develop the property, and he still needs one now.

There is no “right” to develop property and thereby obtain greater profits at the expense of the community. The development of property is a privilege that may be limited by local government for the protection of the general welfare.

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Mr. Yarmark is confusing “justice” with his personal desires to make more money. It is understandable that he may wish to make more money. However, his personal desires for greater profit do not excuse him from compliance with permit requirements, any more than a driver’s personal desires for greater speed should excuse him from compliance with speed limits.

In fact, Mr. Yarmark did apply for a demolition permit, and his application was recently approved by the city of Santa Monica. Apparently, he wrote his letter to the editor before the application was granted.

SUSAN PACKER DAVIS

Chairwoman

Santa Monica Rent Control Board


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