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Glendale City Council eyes rent freeze as it considers long-term solutions to rising rents

Glendale City Council eyes rent freeze as it considers long-term solutions to rising rents
Glendale City Council members are expected to vote on a temporary rent freeze later this month. The decision came at the end of an eight-hour meeting, during which the council could not agree on a long-term solution to rising local rents. (File Photo)

At 2:40 a.m. on Wednesday morning, after a more than eight-hour meeting, Glendale City Council members could not come to a consensus on the best plan to address rising local rents.

Instead, they are poised to adopt a temporary rent freeze as they look at several options.

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It came down to a 2-2 deadlock Wednesday morning, with Mayor Zareh Sinanyan and Councilman Vrej Agajanian favoring rent control and members Paula Devine and Vartan Gharpetian leaning toward an ordinance known as Right to Lease, which would restrict landlords from raising rents more than once a year.

City staff members are preparing reports on both proposals at the direction of the divided council.

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Councilman Ara Najarian recused himself from voting because he owns apartment buildings.

“I’m looking for a systemic solution, not a piecemeal solution,” said Sinanyan, who announced his support for rent control in September, reversing his previous position opposing it.

The solution would likely be multipronged, including using funds from a recent voter-approved sales tax increase to fund affordable housing and offering targeted subsidies, Gharpetian said.

“It will take time to look at all of these options, and, whichever one is feasible, financially responsible, we’ll do [that],” Gharpetian said.

However, with a staff report showing that Glendale rents increased less annually than leases in Los Angeles, which has rent control, Gharpetian said the evidence that rent control works was lacking.

Rent control would cap annual increases at 5% to 7%, according to a plan envisioned by Sinanyan and Agajanian.

Landlords raising their rents over 7% would trigger mandatory arbitration, under the proposed Right to Lease ordinance.

As city staff works to put together the reports, council members introduced — but did not yet implement — a temporary rent increase limit of 2.5% over a six-month period.

A tentative vote on the proposal is scheduled for Nov. 27.

The move, in part, is modeled on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors’ decision in mid-September to implement a six-month rent-increase limit of 3% in the county’s unincorporated areas, which include communities north of Glendale and west of La Cañada Flintridge.

The prospect of rent control in Glendale has energized supporters and critics, and people waited hours Tuesday night to voice their opinions.

There were 111 speaker cards submitted for the meeting.

Glendale homeowner Eveline Matara, who owns an apartment in Long Beach, said she worked two jobs at times for 31 years to buy the rental property she says is part of her retirement plan.

Before she could afford to move to Glendale, which she said was her dream, she lived in Sunland.

“If you can't afford to live here, then live in Sunland.”

Meanwhile, renter Eric Jones also said he worked two jobs when he moved to Glendale in 2011, partially lured by the Americana at Brand and Galleria.

After his landlord raised his rent three times in one year, he said he no longer has extra cash to go out.

“The money I would pay to those establishments, I pay to the landlords,” he said. “So it’s hurting everybody.”

Many rent control critics pointed out that Proposition 10, a statewide ballot initiative that would have given cities more freedom to enact rent control, failed on Nov. 6.

However, Los Angeles County data showed that Glendale voters actually approved the proposition by fewer than 600 votes.

Attendees who stuck around until the end of the meeting appeared baffled by the conclusion, with several asking each other what resolution had been made, if any.

Glendale-based attorney Victor Hairapetian, who spoke against rent control, said after the meeting he felt City Council members have not fully thought out their positions.

“There’s clearly a different opinion all the way across,” Hairapetian said. “And rather than establish the clarity ahead of time, they’re doing it here in public during open session. I think there’s a better way to legislate.”

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