In an attempt to reverse an embarrassing oversight in the new slum housing reform law, the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday approved an emergency allocation for a corps of building inspectors to enforce the law.
The 12-0 vote allows the Housing Department to hire 22 inspectors and support staff to answer about 65 complaints a day about bad rental units.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” said Larry Gross, executive director of the Center for Economic Survival in Los Angeles. “If they really want to do the program right, they need 50 inspectors. But 22 is better than nothing.”
The ordinance now goes before Mayor Richard Riordan, whose spokeswoman, Noelia Rodriguez, said two weeks ago that he intended to sign it.
Riordan’s staff said he planned to allocate money for the positions in the budget he will present to the council in May, but council members Jackie Goldberg and Mike Feuer led an effort to act sooner, saying that the lack of inspectors was an emergency.
Los Angeles has been short of inspectors since last summer, when a law passed by the council and signed by the mayor to improve slum housing inspections fell flat.
The law called for proactive inspection of all rental housing, about 700,000 units, to be funded by a monthly $1 per-unit fee imposed on landlords.
To do that, the officials created about 60 positions in the Housing Department for inspectors and support staff. In addition, 23 positions were to be transferred to the Housing Department from the Building and Safety Department, to be filled by people who would respond to complaints.
But in an embarrassing mistake, the mayor’s office in July failed to allocate nearly $3 million to fund the complaint staff in last year’s fiscal budget, leaving no inspectors to answer calls.
Tenants who felt they were protected by the new housing reform law mobilized to protest the lack of response to complaints about roaches biting children, faulty heating, lack of hot water, crumbling ceilings and a host of other problems.