The West Hollywood City Council has approved several key provisions of the city's proposed $40.8-million budget, including the doubling of rent registration fees to raise $900,000 in new revenue.
Although tenants pay the fee now, the increase would be paid by landlords. As approved at a public hearing on Monday evening, the monthly rate would be increased from $4 to $8.
The increase, aimed at making the Department of Rent Stabilization self-sufficient, was among several items ironed out during the last of three sessions dealing with the budget for the fiscal year that began July 1. The council is scheduled to adopt the budget next Monday.
Councilman Steve Schulte tried to remove the fee increase from the budget but was voted down 4 to 1. Schulte's proposal to limit the increase to $2 a month was defeated 3 to 2, with Councilman Paul Koretz joining Schulte.
'Too Much, Too Soon'
The fee is "too much, too soon," Koretz said. "It's too much of a jolt for people." However, Koretz later voted with the rest of the council against Schulte in approving the increase while directing the city staff to develop a program that will exempt low-income owners and the owners of small buildings.
Schulte argued that landlords should not have to pay for a program that primarily benefits renters. He proposed instead that the city raise revenues by increasing transient occupancy taxes or parking meter fees.
But Councilman John Heilman argued that landlords do use the services of the Rent Stabilization Department "and in some cases, even benefit from those services."
About 15 West Hollywood landlords argued against the fee increase.
"Those people who benefit from the (rent control) ordinance should pay for it," said Grafton Tanquary, who heads West Hollywood Concerned Citizens, a landlord group.
"In Santa Monica, renters pay the full costs of their rent control program," Tanquary said. "I think the renters of West Hollywood would consider an $8 fee a bargain compared to what they're saving in rent."
Council Urged to Wait
Schulte also sought to remove from the budget a business license tax proposal that would raise $1 million. He argued that the council should wait until a system for collecting the revenues and a fee schedule are developed.
"We're looking at a situation that needs a lot more analysis," Schulte said.
Koretz joined Schulte in opposing the business tax, saying higher rates could drive small businesses out of the city.
But the motion failed, virtually assuring that the tax will be approved as part of the budget when the council meets next week.
The council voted unanimously to reinstate $65,000 to help start an adult day health care program for senior citizens and AIDS patients, $50,000 for immigrant programs, $64,000 for social service programs' cost-of-living adjustments, $35,000 for child care, and $25,000 for a rental assistance program.
Restored Shelter Funds
It also voted to restore $45,000 to continue funding a temporary homeless shelter at West Hollywood Park until the beginning of next year, when a permanent shelter on the city's east side is expected to open.
Funding for five council deputies was also reinstated. City Manager Paul Brotzman had suggested replacing the deputies, who serve at the pleasure of the five council members, with three analysts under his supervision, a change he said would pare $120,000 from the budget. However, a majority of council members were not in favor of the idea.
About $170,000 was cut from the budget, including $25,000 for tree trimming, $11,400 in training programs for city staff, $1,000 for a facsimile machine at the West Hollywood Sheriff's Station, and $93,000 for an in-house print shop at City Hall.
The council also voted to raise parking meter fees from 50 to 75 cents an hour. Officials expect the increase to raise an additional $400,000 to $500,000 in revenue.