Glendale City Council adopts temporary rent freeze but appears to reject rent control

Landlords in Glendale will not be able to raise their rents more than 5 percent for two months beginning in late December.
Landlords in Glendale will not be able to raise their rents more than 5 percent for two months beginning in late December.
(File Photo)

The city will implement a two-month rent freeze beginning at the end of next month, as city officials wait for staff to bring back an ordinance that would place regulations on rent increases that have sent some longtime residents packing.

After Dec. 27, landlords will not be able to raise their rents more than 5% above what they were on Sept. 18, according to the ordinance passed in a 3-1 vote by the Glendale City Council at nearly 1 a.m. on Wednesday.

“Then we can come back with something robust, that has teeth,” said Mayor Zareh Sinanyan, who made the motion for the freeze toward the end of a seven-hour meeting.

By the freeze’s expiration date of Feb. 27, city manager Yasmin Beers said staff members could have ready what’s known as a Right to Lease ordinance for council members to consider.

The ordinance would require landlords to offer tenants a one-year lease and attend mandatory hearings if they propose large rent hikes.

Tenants would also have the right to receive relocation fees if rent increases exceed a specified percentage per year.

With the debate over how to address the lack of affordable housing in the city spanning more than two years, lone dissenter Councilwoman Paula Devine said the few months staff said it needed to prepare the ordinance was negligible.

Instead, she said the ordinance would do more harm than good, potentially scaring away investors and rattling the local market.

“It’s a broad stroke that’s affecting all of the landlords because of a few that are disreputable, so I don’t think it’s fair to them,” Devine said.

In the past two years, thousands of people have left Glendale, Sinanyan responded.

“It’s not just time, it’s lives that have been disrupted,” he added. “We’ve lost human assets.”

Supporters, including Councilman Vrej Agajanian, said the goal is to prevent landlords from jacking up rents as the possibility of more permanent regulations loom.

Councilman Vartan Gharpetian, who seemed to be on the fence, was the one who suggested reducing the length of the freeze to two months. He also said he would not vote to extend it. Originally, the council was considering a six-month freeze.

Councilman Ara Najarian recused himself from the meeting — and all other meetings concerning rent control for the time being — because he owns an interest in several apartment buildings in the city.

He said he was disappointed by the recusal ordered by a federal agency overseeing conflict-of-interest laws.

“I would like nothing more [than] to participate in this process and break the 2-2 tie that is tearing this city apart,” Najarian said.

Najarian was referring to a Nov. 13 Council meeting that ended with Sinanyan and Agajanian favoring rent control and Devine and Gharpetian leaning toward a Right to Lease ordinance.

Staff was directed to prepare reports on both options.

At that time, the council also seemed poised to adopt a six-month, 5% rent freeze, with Devine joining the rest in directing staff to prepare an ordinance.

The initial move, in part, was 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.

At the most recent meeting, Agajanian rescinded his support for rent control and said he would support a Right to Lease ordinance with several conditions.

Sinanyan announced his support for rent control in September, but also appeared ready to compromise. There was no mention this week of bringing back a rent control report.

Residents and stakeholders on both sides of the issue registered a lack of clarity following Tuesday’s meeting, similar to a feeling that prevailed at the previous one.

“[Council members] had very muddled thinking about what they were there to do tonight,” said Linda Neumier, a Glendale resident who supports rent control, just after the meeting.

“They were also naive to think that their inaction wouldn’t have an immediate financial repercussion for renters. Our rents are going up,” she added.

Local real estate broker Albert Hairapetian, who said he thinks the market will naturally stabilize rents, also said confusion has already set in, with people in the hallway after the meeting asking him to explain what had happened.

“By the time someone enacts a rent increase, or tries to figure out the algorithm [based] on how the meeting turned out … the sunset clause will pretty much put an end to it, and we’re going to be back to square one again,” Hairapetian said.

Twitter: @lila_seidman