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L.A. on the Record: Maneuvering on tenant protections

Sunset at City Hall in downtown Los Angeles on Dec. 12.
Sunset at City Hall in downtown Los Angeles on Dec. 12.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
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Good morning, and welcome to L.A. on the Record — our City Hall newsletter. It’s Julia Wick, with a little help from David Zahniser.

After nearly three years, Los Angeles’ emergency COVID-19 eviction protections are set to expire at the end of the month. The question of what comes next dominated City Hall this week, with new tenant protections still in limbo.

As housing reporter Liam Dillon explained in December, the City Council had originally intended to advance a package of tenant protections alongside the end of the COVID emergency order. There are varying opinions on the council about how extensive the new policy should be, but the general thinking was that some new protections would go into effect as the anti-eviction rules expire.

Makes sense in theory. But it’s now mid-January, the new tenant protection package has yet to come before the full council for a vote and the clock is rapidly ticking.

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At Tuesday’s meeting, the council’s progressive bloc once again attempted to buy some time. With a vote on the docket to terminate the state of emergency at the end of the month, Councilmembers Hugo Soto-Martínez and Eunisses Hernandez filed an amendment to try to remove the deadline on the eviction moratorium until new tenant protections pass. The proposal narrowly failed, as did a similar amendment just before the council’s winter recess.

Before Tuesday’s vote, Councilmembers Soto-Martínez, Hernandez and Katy Yaroslavsky spoke forcefully about why the moratorium should remain in place until new protections passed, describing a potential spike in evictions that could worsen the city’s homelessness crisis. All three members are new to the council, having taken office in mid-December.

Council President Paul Krekorian pushed back on the direction of the discussion, as well as the actual question at hand.

“It’s clear that what’s driving the concerns about this is the fact that once the COVID emergency declaration expires, so do those tenant protections that were enacted in connection with that emergency declaration, but those are two separate issues,” Krekorian said.

He argued that the council should be able to finalize the new tenant protections before February. And he noted that council members have had two years to prepare for the end of the moratorium. There was also no reason the council should continue to extend the COVID emergency, Krekorian said, and the council had to draw a distinction between the two issues.

Councilmember Nithya Raman disagreed, essentially contending that because the current eviction protections were tied to the COVID emergency order, it would be impossible to discuss the latter in isolation.

“Like it or not, we are voting on ending those tenant protections today, if we are voting to end the state of emergency,” Raman said.

The tenant protections package will be discussed Wednesday in the city’s housing committee, which is chaired by Raman, and then probably move to a full council vote Friday.

As with most legislation, the issue comes down to what points should be included — and what can get enough votes to pass.

The full council will probably be deciding on a four-pronged package. The city attorney’s office has already written draft ordinances for two of the prongs, with one extending “just cause” eviction protections citywide and another delaying certain classes of evictions for set time frames. Two other proposals, which stem from Housing Department recommendations and are backed by the progressive bloc, have not yet gone to the city attorney’s office and may face more political resistance with the full council.

STATE OF PLAY

LAPD SCRUTINY: The Los Angeles Police Department was under heavy scrutiny this week as footage was released of three deadly encounters, including two fatal shootings. Mayor Karen Bass released a statement saying she had “grave concerns about the deeply disturbing tapes” and pledged a transparent investigation. Several councilmembers also spoke out, with at least two calling for the officers responsible for the deaths to be fired.

The deaths have shaken public confidence in the LAPD as Chief Michel Moore seeks a second term as chief. Moore said Monday that, if appointed for a second term as the city’s top cop, he would serve for two or three years before turning the department over to a new chief ahead of the 2028 Olympic Games.

— MAYOR ON THE MOVE: With L.A. inundated by winter storms, Bass and her Inside Safe initiative moved scores of people at a Venice homeless encampment into motel rooms. Bass, while discussing the initiative, said she concluded that Angelenos want the tents gone from city sidewalks. “I could build half a million units of housing,” she said. “And if there are still tents, people will not believe that you did anything except to steal their money.”

Bass also spoke at length about a host of housing and homelessness issues this week in an interview on “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast.”

HILL TO HALL: Three staffers from Bass’ former congressional office have joined the still relatively short list of hires she has made since taking office. Claudia Aragon is focusing on implementing special projects related to constituent services and casework, Abigail Howell is starting off supporting the transition advisory team and Kenneth Ahn is working with the Mayor’s Office of Budget, per mayoral spokesperson Zach Seidl.

And one new face: Leigh Hoffman-Kipp has been hired as director of strategic initiatives for the mayor’s Housing and Homelessness Solutions team. Prior to joining City Hall, she was the associate director at Hands4Hope LA.

— CENSURE FIGHT: Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin de León publicly addressed his colleagues for the first time since October, arguing against an effort to impose new penalties on council members who have been censured. De León warned his colleagues that they were on a “slippery slope,” arguing that the censure process could hurt his constituents and be misused during future City Hall disputes.

— GUNS IN THE CHAMBER: Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez called this week for the city’s policy analysts to determine whether the council can require that LAPD officers be unarmed when they are assigned to council meetings. Hernandez told KNX Radio that having officers in the council chamber — the site of months of unruly protests — has “created a lot of intimidation, a lot of the tensions” during the meetings.

CITY CARS, NOT TAKEN, BRIEFLY MISSING: During an Instagram Live on Dec. 30, Hernandez alleged that her office was missing quite a few things when she took over from Gil Cedillo, including city cars provided by the Department of General Services.

“I was like, OK, no communication, but y'all took cars and the cellphones and a fridge and all the things,” Hernandez told comedian River Butcher during the conversation.

But it seems no cars were taken. General Services said Friday that although they were initially unable to locate two vehicles assigned to the Cedillo administration, the cars were later accounted for.

“The prior administration simply left the vehicles in City Hall East (CHE) in locations we were not expecting,” a GSD spokesperson said.

In a text message, Cedillo said: “I really hope that she can now focus on serving Council District 1 as opposed to making baseless accusations.”

BRING ON THE CHARTER REFORM: Councilmember Tim McOsker thinks the city needs charter reform “and we need it now.” Speaking to the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum crowd over lunch at the Palm, McOsker compared the current mood of civic distrust to the late 1990s, when L.A. last undertook comprehensive charter reform, and said the time was right for another round. He then went a step further, suggesting that it might make sense to review the charter every 20 years. He also strongly endorsed the need for an independent redistricting commission.

REPLACING NURY: The City Clerk finished poring through petitions turned in by candidates seeking to replace former Councilmember Nury Martinez in the April 4 special election in the San Fernando Valley. On Friday evening, the clerk announced that seven candidates have made the ballot, and an additional four failed to submit enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.

— CHALLENGES AHEAD FOR DODGER GONDOLA: A Dodger Stadium gondola could be built by the 2028 Olympics. However, the proposal just lost its biggest backer, and it’s unclear if Bass supports the project.

INAUGURAL $$$

After more than a month, we now have a little more clarity on who shelled out for Mayor Bass’ Dec. 11 inauguration ceremony at downtown’s Microsoft Theater.

The event was paid for with private funds raised by the Bass campaign that were administered through the nonprofit Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles, as we previously reported. It’s a funding mechanism that resulted in less transparency than prior inaugurations.

Since funds donated to a nonprofit at an elected official’s request qualify as “behested payments,” Bass is required to disclose only donations over $5,000, per state rules. We’ve asked her office if they’ll disclose those over $1,000 for the sake of transparency. (Still waiting to hear back on that one.)

Per the mayor’s office and reports filed with the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, Atec Water Systems, California Community Foundation, Delta Airlines, Hanjin International Corp. and Janice Bryant Howroyd each donated $25,000 toward the inauguration.

The Southern California I.B.E.W.-N.E.C.A Labor Management Cooperation Committee put in $20,000, the J. Yang & Family Foundation donated $12,500 and $5,000 came in from MCR Investors, LLC.

Behested payments must be reported within 30 days of the payment being made, and Bass spokesperson Zach Seidl said more payments may still come in. He did not immediately answer questions about the total amount raised or the estimated cost of the ceremony.

FURTHER AFIELD

2023 has only just begun, but the 2024 dominoes are already in motion.

This week, Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) and Katie Porter (D-Irvine) both announced plans to run for Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Senate seat in 2024.

Meanwhile, with Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) also widely expected to jump into the race, candidates have already begun circling his coveted congressional seat. Per the ever useful @CATargetBot, LAUSD board member Nick Melvoin and Assemblymember Laura Friedman both filed papers to run for Schiff’s seat. And former L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer told Politico that he was “very seriously” considering running if Schiff moves on. (State Sen. Anthony Portantino is also expected to throw his hat into that soon-to-be-very-crowded race.)

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QUICK HITS

  • Councilmembers — they’re just like us!: Which is to say, they also can’t resist sharing really good Wordle results. Congratulations to Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson on his 2/6 score, tweeted out at 6:33 a.m. on Thursday.
  • On the docket for next week: Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Council is in session for the rest of the week.

Stay in touch

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