Nithya Raman fights to stop illegal rent increases while the LAPD offers a milquetoast apology for exploding 42 pounds of fireworks in a residential neighborhood last June.
Every week, Knock LA provides live coverage of Los Angeles City Council meetings from our Twitter account. While you can follow along live, we’ve also put together this breakdown of what’s happening at the highest levels of power in our city for those who don’t have 12 hours a week to spend on City Council meetings (including regularly absent city councilmembers).
According to a comprehensive recent survey, two-thirds of Los Angeles’ unhoused population is from Los Angeles. Los Angeles does not attract already-unhoused people from around the country or the world. It fails its residents through exorbitant rent prices and rampant evictions. If the city does not address these issues, no amount of building or sheltering will solve the housing crisis because it won’t keep up with the rate of people falling into homelessness.
Last week, city council made some attempts to stop the flow of people from their homes to the streets.
CD 4 Councilmember Nithya Raman sponsored a motion to create a rent registry, an online tool accessible by tenants and landlords in LARSO-protected units. Landlords would report rent amounts, and tenants could dispute those amounts and view registration information about their unit.
Speaking on the motion, Raman said more than a quarter of all Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance (LARSO)-protected tenants have faced illegal rent increases and more than a third don’t even know that they live in protected units at all. She said if we want to keep people in their homes and off the streets, then we should help them understand their rights.
Raman also sponsored a bill to enforce a Home-Sharing Ordinance that the city council approved in 2018. Vacation rental sites like Airbnb contribute to raising rents because they remove housing stock from the market. Renters build community; vacationers do not.
The 2018 ordinance placed restrictions on which homes could be used for sites like Airbnb, but residents complain that the city’s enforcement has been inadequate. “What’s a $500 fine for a rental making $8,000 a night?” asked one caller whose next-door neighbor runs an illegal Airbnb.
The motion, which passed, called for a study on how to improve enforcement measures, including investigating how New Orleans, San Francisco, Toronto, Lisbon, and Berlin have faced this challenge.
City council also passed a motion supporting AB 2050, a state bill that would restrict Ellis Act evictions.
The 1985 Ellis Act allows for evictions in California, even in rent-stabilized homes, if the landlord ceases to rent the property entirely. It was supposedly enacted to support “mom and pop” landlords seeking to leave the rental business, but advocates say it’s “almost exclusively” used by corporate landlords and developers to evict low-income tenants, destroy old homes, and build luxury housing. Over 27,000 Los Angeles households have been evicted this way in the last 20 years.
AB 2050 would require five years of ownership before landlords could use the Ellis Act to evict. City council’s motion to support the bill passed on April 26.
On April 27, CD 15 Councilmember Joe Buscaino presented a different narrative of the housing crisis, one in which landlords are the true victims. He said the “eviction moratorium” must end. In reality, as CD 11 Councilmember Mike Bonin correctly stated, there is no eviction moratorium. There are some emergency defenses against evictions, and as a result fewer pandemic evictions than expected, but at no point during the pandemic did evictions cease entirely.
Buscaino said “we can not cancel rent forever.” At no point during the pandemic did the city cancel rent for tenants, despite community demands that they do so.
Renters who lost income because of the pandemic, whether through layoffs or deaths of wage-earners in their families, have imperfect protections against eviction for nonpayment of rent. They will likely never recover the wages lost during the pandemic, but they will be required to pay back rent when the state of emergency ends.
Buscaino is eager for the state of emergency to end and says we should “move past COVID.” Maskless, he said, “we’re all wearing masks.” He voted no on continuing the state of emergency, but the majority of his colleagues voted yes and the motion passed.
In new construction news, city council made progress on: a series of tiny metal shacks, aka. a “tiny home village” in Councilmember Kevin de León’s district, a Crenshaw development that one caller said would destroy old-growth sycamores, and a project in rapidly-gentrifying West Adams that will have five units of affordable housing and 94 units of unaffordable housing.
Last week, city council passed motions reacting to a variety of forms of police misconduct.
In June 2021, LAPD collected and intentionally exploded 42 pounds of fireworks in a South LA residential neighborhood. The blast injured 17 people, displaced over 80, and damaged or destroyed 37 homes or cars. Two elderly residents died soon after they were suddenly relocated from their homes without their oxygen tanks.
LAPD offered a limp apology saying they’d eyeballed the fireworks and thought it was only about 16 pounds (it was over 40). Friday’s motion contributed $1.2 million to the neighborhood’s 27th Street Neighborhood Recovery Plan Fund and $100k to 27th Street Neighborhood Recovery Center.
On April 27, city council agreed to a total of $1.5 million in settlements for lawsuits against LAPD, including one from a man who lost a testicle after LAPD shot him at a racial justice protest.
LAPD runs a gun store that was found to be rife with fraud as the manager regularly waited until closing time to steal dozens of guns and sell them himself. On April 29, city council passed a vaguely-worded motion to consider how to perhaps make it less easy for police to do that.
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