Rents may be falling elsewhere, but they’re up in Orange County

For Lease sign
David Levy, a housing specialist at the Fair Housing Council of Orange County, believes lawmakers can do more to protect tenants. Santa Ana is the only city in Orange County with its own rent-control law, he said, so most cities rely on the statewide rules.
(Daniel Gaines / Los Angeles Times)
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Happy Valentine’s Day! It’s Wednesday, Feb. 14, and I’m Carol Cormaci, bringing you this week’s TimesOC newsletter with a look at the latest local news and events.

The residential rental market has remained strong post-pandemic for landlords in Orange County, where rates climbed 2.2% last year instead of dropping as they have recently in much of the U.S., including Los Angeles, where they are down by 2.6%, according to this report in the L.A. Times by data reporter Terry Castleman.

Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, rents have fluctuated in L.A. County, dropping 7% that year, only to rebound 15% in 2021, then rising in 2022 before dropping again in 2023, Castleman reports. In O.C., prices never dropped. In 2021, he notes, they rose 22% before leveling out in 2022 and increasing modestly in 2023, according to figures he gleaned from Apartment List.

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The income of many tenants doesn’t come close to allowing them to keep within the 30% income-to-rent ratio recommended by experts. An O.C. community tenant counselor, María Alejandra Barboza, told the reporter people she serves are feeling the squeeze.

This anecdote Barboza shared with The Times is almost painful to read by anyone who can empathize with tenants who may be struggling to make ends meet:

“When Barboza recently visited a friend’s home, she was impressed by new kitchen cabinets,” Castleman writes. “Her friend explained that the cabinets were part of a renovation triggered by the sale of her building. The new owner made the family move out for a month while continuing to pay rent, according to Barboza. ‘They were not given any compensation,’ she said.

“Upon returning after a month away, the family found their rent had increased from $1,460 to $3,200 — more than doubling. She heard similar stories from others who had already been forced out of the building by higher rents.”

Castleman also interviewed David Levy, a housing specialist at the Fair Housing Council of Orange County, who praised California’s Tenant Protection Act of 2019, which requires just cause to terminate a rental agreement and caps rent increases for certain tenants at 10%, or at 5% above the annual change in cost of living, whichever is lower.

But Levy, pointing out that Santa Ana is the only local city with rent control in place, thinks lawmakers can do more to help. “Even an 8.8% increase is a hard hit for some people,” he said.

MORE NEWS

Librarians take books off the shelves for recategorization.
Librarians take books off the shelves for recategorization on Wednesday at the Huntington Beach Central Library.
(Courtesy of Carol Daus)

To the dismay of some community members, Huntington Beach Public Library has begun recataloging certain children’s books to adult sections. Librarians started last Wednesday removing books from the shelves they were originally placed on as part of a process decreed by the City Council majority last fall. The council’s resolution states the city is concerned some books are either obscene or pornographic, and it defines those terms. In other H.B. City Council news, the same conservative majority, on the suggestion of Mayor Pro Tem Pat Burns, also pushed through last week an official statement of solidarity with Texas in its ongoing border dispute. According to reporting on the meeting by my colleague Matt Szabo, “Some in the crowd at Tuesday night’s Huntington Beach City Council meeting yelled out ‘Yee haw!’ after the final vote.”

Will efforts by Democrats to label Republican politicians as anti-choice pay off in Orange County this election year? That’s the question L.A. Times reporter Hannah Fry delves into in this news feature. “Since the Supreme Court in 2022 overturned the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision, abortion policy and the push for a federal ban on the procedure in the Republican-controlled House have been at the forefront of Democratic campaigns,” Fry notes. “But how well the issue mobilizes voters in the four Orange County-based districts that are expected to be among the nation’s most competitive in this election remains unclear.”

Lido House Hotel in Newport Beach can move ahead with expansion plans that have been in limbo since 2022. On Thursday, the California Coastal Commission gave its blessings to the project, which had long ago received city approvals. When completed, roughly 15,000 square feet will have been added to the property, including five more guest cottages. Construction is expected to begin in about nine months.

A decaying gray whale washed up on Bolsa Chica State Beach on Thursday. For its news item on the incident, the L.A. Times spoke to Justin Viezbicke, the California coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program. He said a beached whale gives scientists a great opportunity to study the animal and learn, but the discovery of a gray whale is not unusual. Ten to 12 end up beached in California annually.

Disneyland employees who dress up as characters or perform in parades announced yesterday their hopes to unionize. The L.A. Times reported the workers, calling themselves “Magic United,” are working to join the Actors’ Equity Assn. and have started sending out union authorization cards to 1,700 affected employees. If Disney declines to recognize the union, Actors’ Equity Assn. will file the cards with the National Labor Relations Board, which will schedule a union recognition election for the cast members.

PUBLIC SAFETY

 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) seal.
Federal agents assisted by La Habra Police responded to the 3500 block of Columbine Street in Seal Beach last Wednesday to execute a search warrant, police reported.
(Associated Press)

One person was shot last week as a search warrant was being delivered to a Seal Beach home. Details provided to the press were few, but agents with the Department of Homeland Security, assisted by La Habra police, were at the home on Columbine Street early last Wednesday morning to deliver the order. It is unclear whether a standoff situation ensued or whether the suspect fired shots during the incident, but it was confirmed to the Daily Pilot the search warrant was related to narcotics.

Two people were injured Sunday in the crash of a small plane at John Wayne Airport. KTLA and other media outlets reported the pilot and a passenger, neither of whom were named, were taken to a hospital for treatment after their aircraft crashed in a field at the northeastern section of JWA.

SPORTS

Josephine Lee competes during the women's free skate at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Jan. 26.
Josephine Lee, a 16-year-old Irvine resident, competes during the women’s free skate at the U.S. figure skating championships Friday, Jan. 26 in Columbus, Ohio.
(Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press)

Can you solve a Rubik’s cube with your feet? Sixteen-year-old Irvine resident Josephine Lee can, and she considers it good exercise for her ankles. Lee is making a name for herself in figure skating and has her eyes on the 2026 Olympics, according to this column by the L.A. Times’ Helene Elliott.

The Mater Dei girls’ basketball team stunned Sage Hill Saturday 56-55 in Open Division playoffs. But, according to my Daily Pilot colleague Andrew Turner, Sage Hill is still in the running for state, with a road game against top-seeded Chatsworth Sierra Canyon tonight. “This postseason will mark the final games in the prep careers of Emily Eadie, Kat Righeimer, Annabelle Spotts and Zoie Lamkin, a core four that stepped in and made an immediate and indelible impact after being brought up under the tutelage of the late Kobe Bryant,” writes Turner. In case you missed the news, a statue of of their mentor, the Lakers legend Bryant, was unveiled last week.

In high school wrestling action, Fountain Valley boys and Marina High girls topped the Sunset Conference this year. According to the Daily Pilot’s coverage of the Feb. 3 finals, both programs looked to build on their historic seasons of a year ago, as the Barons and Vikings combined to bring home four individual state championships.

Former UCLA great DeShaun Foster wipes his face as he's introduced as the school's new  football head coach.
Former UCLA great DeShaun Foster wipes his face as he’s introduced as the school’s new NCAA college football head coach at Pauley Pavilion on Tuesday. Foster was a letterman at Tustin High School.
(Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press)

There’s an O.C. connection to the biggest announcement in college football this week. DeShaun Foster, who has been named head coach of the UCLA Bruins following last week’s announcement that Chip Kelly was leaving, played for Tustin High School back in the day. Foster, introduced to the public in his new role yesterday, lettered in football, basketball and track while in high school, cheered on by mascot Tommy the Tiller. From there he was a star running back for UCLA, then he played for the Carolina Panthers from 2002 to 2007 and ended his pro career after signing for one year with the 49ers in 2008. It’s not surprising L.A. Times columnist Bill Plashke has some reservations about this week’s news, given that Foster has never been a head coach. Only time will tell.

LIFE & LEISURE

Will and Courtney Alovis, left and right, stand in front of Sugar 'n Spice frozen banana  with longtime regular Carre Otsuka.
Will and Courtney Alovis, left and right, stand in front of the iconic Sugar ‘n Spice frozen banana stand with longtime regular Carre Otsuka, center, on Balboa Island. The window order stand, a fixture on Balboa since 1946, is on the market.
(Don Leach /Daily Pilot)

The iconic Balboa Island stand that introduced the world to frozen bananas is on the market. The current owners of Sugar ’n Spice, Will and Courtney Alovis, have decided it’s time to pass the bananas to someone interested in keeping the business going. The buildings at the Marine Avenue site were listed last week at $3.49 million; the business itself will be offered at $150,000, according to this Daily Pilot report.

CALENDAR THIS

Michael LeMaster shares his knowledge of Cutco knives for guests during a previous OC Home & Garden Show.
Michael LeMaster shares his knowledge of Cutco knives for guests during a previous OC Home & Garden Show at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa. This year’s show is set for the weekend of Feb. 24 and 25.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

The 47th annual OC Home & Garden Show is coming up later this month. The OC Fair & Event Center hosts this show, scheduled for 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 24 and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 25. General admission is free; parking is $12.

SoCal Swordfight is in Costa Mesa this weekend. This event is billed as the world’s largest historical European martial arts tournament. Doors open at 8 a.m. daily Friday through Sunday, and, like the Home & Garden Show, will be held at the OC Fair & Event Center. Tournaments, lectures, classes, vendors. Registration to participate in a tournament has closed, but spectators can register to attend at this site throughout the weekend.

Pianist Marc-André Hamelin will perform an afternoon recital at the Soka Performing Arts Center on Feb. 25.
(Courtesy of La Jolla Music Society)

Canadian piano virtuoso Marc-André Hamelin will be giving a local recital. Hamelin will perform at the Soka Performing Arts Center in Aliso Viejo on Sunday, Feb. 25, at 3 p.m. Tickets range from $45 to $85; seniors 62 and older, military and student seats range from $40.50 to $76.50. Parking is free. More details can be found here.

Joyful Flowers: Ikebana Show at Sherman Library & Gardens is set for March 2 and 3. The Japanese art of flower arranging will be spotlighted at the nationally known botanical gardens in Corona del Mar. Families who attend will have an opportunity to create their own mini-ikebana box to take home. Kits, books, arrangements and bouquets will be available for purchase. Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Visit this site for more details.

KEEP IN TOUCH

Thank you for reading today’s newsletter. If you have a memory or story about Orange County, I would love to read and share it in this space. Please try to keep your submission to 100 words or less and include your name and current city of residence.

I appreciate your help in making this the best newsletter it can be. Please send news tips, your memory of life in O.C. (photos welcome!) or comments to carol.cormaci@latimes.com.