City Council extends COVID-19 state of emergency and temporary renter protections, approves anonymous LAPD donation, and rejects police brutality settlement.
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).
After a month-long summer break, City Council is back in session!
On Wednesday, July 27, the chambers were filled and overflowing with members of the public wishing to offer public comment. Protesters also gathered outside City Hall. Many expressed their opposition to a new item expanding L.A.M.C. 41.18 (criminalizing homelessness) to vast but as-yet-undefined areas of the city. The Council continued this item to the following week, so see our August 2-5 recap for more details.
City Extends COVID-19 State of Emergency
Councilmember Lee objects, telling tenants fearing homelessness that “landlords need stability.”
On July 27, dozens of protesters outside City Hall supported maintaining and expanding the tenant protections tied to the COVID-19 state of emergency, which City Council members were to vote on. When a few landlords arrived with pro-landlord signs, Councilmember John Lee escorted them inside for a private meeting.
During City Council’s public meeting, several tenants spoke of their struggles in the face of poverty and landlord harassment, and urged the city to protect tenants in the wake of the pandemic. “It should be a priority because so many people have lost grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents,” Maria from ACCE said in Spanish. “I know a family who lost their father, the sole breadwinner, and in the same month they were evicted from their homes. It isn’t just.”
In the City of Los Angeles, tenants in most homes built before 1979 are protected by a Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO or LARSO), which limits rent increases and causes for eviction. In March 2020, City Council passed extra protections for those tenants, including a freeze on rent increases, for the duration of the State of Emergency. (You can check here to see if your home is covered by LARSO.)
As soon as tenants move out, landlords are unrestricted in the amount of rent they can charge new tenants. This dynamic results in many landlords unlawfully pressuring tenants in rent-stabilized units to move out.
Rental assistance programs, when poorly executed, have worsened this dynamic. “Housing is Key is selling out tenants,” said Elizabeth, referencing a state program that includes rent relief. “People are not getting paid the money they said they were going to be paid and the landlords are putting pressure on the tenants.” Tenants said that has included water shutoffs and explicit threats of violence.
After public comment concluded, the City Council extended the COVID-19 state of emergency, thereby extending the rent freeze and other protections. CD12 Councilmember John Lee was the sole “no” vote, explaining that he’d heard the struggles of landlords and they needed stability and support.
Housing: Project Roomkey
Last year, Los Angeles failed to spend $48.5 million provided by California’s Project Homekey, a program to turn hotels into housing for people experiencing homelessness. On July 27 City Council voted to roll that money over to next year, and to hire two financial development officers for the program.
Police Accept Gifts, Face Lawsuit
On July 29, City Council voted to accept over $150,000 worth of donations to LAPD, mostly from an anonymous source. They also voted to reject a settlement offer in the case of Laura Montilla vs. the City of Los Angeles. Montilla is suing the city for assault, battery, negligence, false arrest, emotional distress, and unconstitutional violence by the LAPD during 2020 racial justice protests. Soon after the protests she released a statement that read in part:
“I was arrested for peacefully protesting in DTLA…Everyone was peaceful, getting on their knees and even laying face down to show compliance. Then each person was arrested…We were zip-tied and put in cages on a bus…without telling us where we were going they took us to a cemetery parking lot and left us there for five hours. My zip-ties were so tight that when they finally were cut off I couldn’t even hold my arm up to sign my citation or feel my right hand… They abandoned a bunch of young women into an unknown neighborhood at midnight, phones dead…I caught a ride with a stranger who thankfully proved to be friendly. I pray no one was kidnapped that night.”