Council (6-3) Directs City Att'y To Draft "Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance" Incl. Trigger By Rent Increase Beyond City-Allowed Percentage With Tenant-Desired Exit On City Allowed Terms Or Landlord Eviction Beyond City-Allowed Reasons

Landlord would pay exiting tenant two months rent plus $2,000 payable to senior or disabled tenants (possibly from city funds, but if not, then landlord funds.) is reader and advertiser supported. Support independent news in LB similar to the way people support NPR and PBS stations. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) helps keep us online.
(April 3, 2019, 4:20 a.m., additional text 1:57 p.m. and 4:20 p.m.) -- After nearly six hours hours of discussion, the City Council voted 6-3 (Price, Supernaw, Mungo dissenting) on a substitute-substitute motion by Richardson (seconded by Mungo) that directs the City Attorney's office to draft and bring to the Council for discussion and voted action a Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance. The Council majority vote seeks an ordinance that will require landlords who own properties of four rental units or more to [rough summary not detailed here] pay a relocation fee to tenants of one year or longer if the landlord chooses to raise rent by more than 10% within one year and the tenant chooses to leave and hasn't committed any action(s) deemed evictable under state law.

The ordinance to be drafted for subsequent Council votes (and possible changes) will include payment of two months rent, with the sum tied to the LB Housing Authority's average fair market rent (which could currently range from $2,706 for a studio flat to $4,500 for a three-bedroom unit or more.) In addition, the Council motion includes $2,000 payable to seniors and those with disabilities (source may be taxpayer paid if available, otherwise landlord payable) and payable to all tenants regardless of income levels

A number of basic options were detailed in a city staff agendized report [ coverage here.] Councilman Richardson's substitute-substitute motion built on the foundation of a motion by Councilwoman Gonzalez to approve city staff's recommendations including payment of $2,000 to tenants with diabilities and seniors regardless of income (source not yet determined, may be taxpayer paid.) Richardson's substitute-substitute added payment of the relocation fee if a landlord tells a tenant to vacate because the landlord seeks to rehabilitate a rental unit within less than 12 months or if the tenant has been in good standing (under nine state law enumerated grounds for eviction) and has occupied a unit for 12 months or longer. Richardson referred to the 12 month term as "vesting" payment of the relocation fee to the tenant (if the landlord seeks to raise the rent over 10% in one year and the tenant chooses to leave.)

Property owners and landlords called the ordinance rent control or a pathway to it. Assistant City manager Tom Modica denied it was rent control on grounds it doesn't limit rent increases but only triggers payment of a relocation fee. Landlords cited their existing cost burdens and called the relocation fee unjust and in some cases unaffordable. One speaker, an attorney, indicated she believes the Council's action may violate the Costa-Hawkins Act. Asked by Councilman Austin about this, Deputy City Attorney Rich Anthony replied that he isn't a rent control expert but believes any motion proposed that night would comply with Costa-Hawkins but will look into the matter further before bringing back an ordinance for possible Council enactment.

Tenants and rent control advocates cited current tenant displacements and insecurity for their families and supported the Council action. Some urged further tenant protections but avoided using the term "rent control" which Mayor Garcia and a number of Councilmembers had previously indicated they oppose. Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez (a state Senate candidate) noted that staff's proposal didn't limit how much landlords could raise rents and said (after colloquy with Assistant City Manager Modica confirming that the proposed ordinance doesn't limit rent increases] "...I just want to make sure because there are a lot of landlords that said they were keeping their rent very low. Then guess what? Then this ordinance doesn't apply to you. I'm glad. I'm glad you're keeping them low; This does not apply to you whatsoever...So again, just to be clear: the City Council's never engaged in a rent control or just-cause [eviction] policy. We've never engaged in that, and that's even despite the multiple resident and economic pressures, and rightfully so by our residents. We've never engaged in those discussions or policies."

[Scroll down for further.]

Councilwoman Suzie Price said her office had received 155 emails all of which were opposed to the proposed ordinance. She said she doesn't oppose the 10% rent cap but does oppose requiring a landlord to pay a relocation fee to terminate a problematic tenant who has created issues (including for other tenants) on grounds not included in the proposed ordinance (and not itemized in state law.) Councilwoman Price sparred with Councilman Richardson over whether his motion amounts to imposing a "just cause" eviction process on LB landlords. Price added that it's unclear in the item whether the landlord or the tenant would have the burden of proof on issues, what that level of proof is amd who would decide. Price suggested removing those aspects of his motion, which Richardson declined to do while indicating he'd agree to discuss them in a Council committee while his ordinance-drafting motion advanced, which was unsatisfactory to Price.



Richardson agreed to accept an amendment by Councilman Austin to specify that the ordinance would return to a Council in three years with data from staff for discussion on its effects before renewing it. Councilman Daryl Supernaw raised issues of "unintended consequences" and said it appeared to him that the proposal wasn't ready for prime time. Councilwoman Stacy Mungo raised various issues. She suggested the 12 month rental period after which Richardson said a relocation fee would "vest" should be a rolling period (should re-set) if a tenant initially fails but then cures late payment of rent. (The City Attorney's office indicated it would study this.) Then Mungo then suggested a landlord should be able to avoid paying the relocation fee by giving a tenant six months notice (instead of shorter notice). Mungo added she has a problem requiring a landlord to pay a relocation fee to a tenant who earns a six figure income and suggesting looking at a tenant's percentage of AMI spent on rent. When Richardson replied that he wanted to keep relocation process simple, Mungo asked if he was comfortable paying a relocation fee to a tenant earning over $100,000 a year, which prompted Richardson to accuse Mungo of trying to score a political point and Mungo backed down.


Ultimately at 12:15 a.m. (April 3), Richardson's substitute-substitute motion was approved 6-3 (with Price, Supernaw and Mungo dissenting) and some issues referred to the City Attorney's office for a "to-from-for" memo to the Council before a formal ordinance text returns to the City Council for discussion and possible changes. Two subsequent Council votes needed for enactment.

Shortly before the Council vote, Mayor Garcia said he supported the underlying motion made by Councilwoman Gonzalez to support a relocation ordinance, a substitute with a small modification made by Pearce, and the substitute-substitute motion by Richardson that built on Gonzalez's motion. By calling on those three Councilmembers in that order, the Mayor effectively enabled them to fill up all three slots for motions, effectively cutting off any substitute motions by opposing Councilmembers.

Mayor Garcia said LB needs to pass a tenant relocation ordinance. He said LB's economy is doing well (cited port volume, low unemployment), asserted that overall crime is low, said growth and investments had increased property values...and said that shared prosperity requires shared responsibility. Garcia said homelessness is real, cited the recommendations of an "Everyone Home" Task Force [whose members he chose] whose recommendations included enactment of a tenant relocation assistance policy that includes households impacted by rising rents. Mayor Garcia [who joined the Council in May 2009, became Mayor in mid-2014] said we [and said he takes personal responsibility for this] had failed to lead appropriately in the past and are now seeking to rectify planning mistakes not just in Long Beach but in the state of California in not building enough housing.

Mayor Garcia said he'd supported every single housing unit proposed, and blamed unnamed LB residents for standing in the way. Garcia said every time we try to build more affordable housing we hear people who oppose it; every time we try to densify opponents say it's too high or too dense; said if we want to allow creation of more afordable housing many neighbors don't want this, Mayor Garcia said he's going to continue to support every unit of housing possible and to support what he called smart, responsible density in the city and to redouble efforts to build more affordable housing. He said a tenant relocation policy isn't a magic solution that will fix all the issues, but called it one part of actions by local government and the state legislature to begin to fix a crisis now faced by LB and CA.

April 3, 4:03 p.m. Clarified Mayor Garcia's statement above. At 4:20 p.m. clarified and added exact quote from Councilwoman Gonzalez above.





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