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The Biggest Gains for Renters Since the Establishment of Rent Control?

Reviewing a big week at Los Angeles City Council, previewing the week to come.

City Council member Nithya Raman wearing a black-and-white patterned jacket, holding a cellphone in her left hand, seated during a City Council meeting.
Councilmember Nithya Raman of CD 4 during last week’s City Council meeting. (City Council/YouTube)

After significant push and pull, City Council on Friday ultimately voted unanimously to pass three groundbreaking permanent tenant protections. One raises the minimum evictable amount of unpaid rent from $1 to “fair market rate.” Another requires that landlords who significantly increase the rent pay relocation fees to tenants who are displaced by the increase. The third, “universal just cause,” extends just-cause protections (the requirement for landlords to have a good reason to evict tenants) to include market-rate units — extending the protections beyond rent-controlled units, which are already covered by just-cause eviction standards.

The rules — themselves a concession extracted by the council’s progressive, pro-tenant wing out of the council’s commitment to ending the Covid eviction moratorium — did not make it through entirely unscathed. The newly merged Housing and Homelessness Committee is chaired by the progressive councilmember Nithya Raman, but the majority of its five members are decidedly pro-landlord. 

Councilmembers Bob Blumenfield and Monica Rodriguez joined with the council’s lone Independent member, former Republican John Lee, to poke a sizable loophole in the universal just-cause ordinance. Blumenfield spun a hypothetical involving traveling actors and nurses to create a one-year phase-in period on the protection. This would mean that for one year, tenants could be evicted without a just cause, and large-scale landlords — the majority of landlords in Los Angeles — would have an incentive to regularly replace their tenants at the one-year mark to avoid incurring the protection.

When the matter came to full council, Blumenfield rejected a proposed compromise offered by Councilmember Katy Young Yaroslavsky. Her proposed amendment, which would have fixed the loophole by accounting for Blumenfield’s hypothetical while protecting the just-cause ordinance, ultimately failed by just one vote.

Katy Young Yaroslavsky statement. (Twitter: @KnockDotLA)

The debate over this landlord-backed carve-out led to some forceful statements from the progressive councilmembers:

Hugo Soto-Martinez and CM Harris-Dawson statements. (Twitter: @KnockDotLA)

Ultimately, progressives were able to cut the phase-in period from one year down to six months, paving the way for approval of universal just cause and the rent protections package as a whole.

A Big Pot of Money for the Mayor’s Homelessness Initiative?

On Wednesday, council took up — and approved unanimously — the allocation of about $50 million to a homelessness services account that will function essentially as the operating budget for Inside Safe, Mayor Bass’ signature homelessness initiative.

Creating such an account cuts a lot of red tape, which the city identified as necessary for things like paying for hotels, meals, storage, and all of the hard-to-predict expenses that are part of the program. The flipside of cutting red tape means fewer guardrails on how the money is spent. Newly elected controller Kenneth Mejia spoke to council — as a public commenter, rather than an invited guest — to say that he vouches for the program and the transparency checks it includes.

New citywide Housing and Homelessness Chief Mercedes Márquez joined council to answer questions, characterizing Inside Safe as “housing-led” and speaking about the need to “scale up” its operations rather than treating them as pilot programs.

The Week That Was, in One Clip:

Nithya Raman statement. (Twitter: @KnockDotLA)

This Week: Robocop Dogs and RV Parking Bans

On Tuesday, the Public Safety Committee will decide whether or not to allow the LAPD to use robot dogs (“quadruped unmanned ground vehicles”). 

On Wednesday, three Kevin de León motions are on the full council agenda. One would move discretionary funds for improvements in Pico Triangle, one would accept a developer’s donation into an affordable housing fund, and one would authorize a street banner campaign. All are otherwise uncontroversial district services, and all seconded by Councilmember Rodriguez.

Most committees, newly formed, are taking up fairly pro forma items, like approval of contracts and reports they will receive and file. On Wednesday, the Transportation Committee will take up several location-specific RV bans. The proposed bans are in Council Districts 7, 12, 13, and 15, and all were introduced in the previous council session (the CD 13 and CD 15 motions were introduced by former councilmembers Mitch O’Farrell and Joe Buscaino.) 

Where’s Waldo? (A Very Exciting New Game for Knock LA Readers)

One committee will take up the question of whether to make the Coast Live Oak LA’s official tree. Your challenge is to figure out which! Winner gets a retweet.