|(June 12, 2019, 10:37 a.m.) -- With leading proponent Councilwoman/state Senator-elect Lena Gonzalez casting her supportive vote on her final Council day, the LB City Council voted
It was a significant political victory for Housing Long Beach, Long Beach Forward and LiBRE whose supporters indicated they will now press for further measures including more affordable housing (rental units below market rate subsidized by other tenants, or government, or both.) Property owners who'd relied on LB electeds' previously stated opposition to rent control -- and in some cases gave campaign and "officeholder" contributions to the incumbents -- viewed the Council vote as a disorienting betrayal.
Two Councilmembers -- on opposite sides of the vote -- signaled a possible future attempt(s) to change at least some portion(s) of the ordinance.
Councilman Al Austin, who voted to support the ordinance, said that during Council discussions it was "acknowledged this is an imperfect policy and it still needs work and I look forward to making it an even better that protects tenants and gives them that flexibility."
Councilwoman Suzie Price said she would be voting against the ordinance consistent with her previously stated concerns over what she called its "just cause eviction" provisions but said she looks forward to "bringing this item back, or having somebody bring it back and so that we can make those modifications which I do believe is in the works and I will happily and proudly support the modifications made at that time."
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After losing an April vote that directed the City Attorney to draft the ordinance (LBREPORT.com coverage here) and losing an initial ordinance approval vote in May (LBREPORT.com coverage here), no organized opposition groups spoke at the June 11 enacting vote. It fell to individual property owners to warn that it will trigger higher rents and tenant displacements as landlords raise rents up to the allowed 10% annually to offset tenant relocation payments. Joani Weir argued it won't assistant tenants; it will displace and hurt them. Robert Fox, who chose not to pursue a 2018 challenge to Mayor Garcia after the Mayor issued a statement that he doesn't believe rent control works (Amnesia File: text below) asked about the whereabouts of changes indicated by some Councilmembers on the ordinance's May initial vote.)
Dissenting Councilman Daryl Supernaw asked city staff if it had baseline figures to judge the impacts of the new ordinance; he cited a figure of 2,829 four-plexes in LB of which he said 97 had sold in the past year (didn't cite his data source) and sought a benchmark of where rents have been raised. City Development Services Director Linda Tatum said staff was agreeable to start tracking that data when the ordinance takes effect and payments are made. Dissenter Stacy Mungo said nothing.
Could some type of future ordinance changes garner five Council votes now? And what about the upcoming November special election in LB's 1st Council district to replace now-exited Gonzalez?
Consider the currently announced 1st dist Council candidates. Mary Zendejas was a supporter of Council incumbent Gonzalez and allied with rent-control-initiative proponent Housing Long Beach. Elliot Gonzales is running as a "democratic socialist." However Ray Morquecho was the paid campaign manager to Wesley Turnbow's unsuccessful "pro-business" 2016 campaign to unseat 8th district incumbent Al Austin.
Some in LB's business community had assumed, incorrectly, that Coucilmembers Austin and Andrews would oppose the Tenant Relocation Ordinance...but they both supported it, perhaps not coincidentally as both face re-election challenges in 2020.
Austin, who was effectively shoved out of the state Senate race by Gonzalez, will face Tunua Thrash-Ntuk (spouse of LBCC Trustee Uduak Ntuk) and other candidate(s) may also surface in the race.
In the 6th district, Vice Mayor Andrews, first elected in 2007, faces a re-election challenge from Suely Saro.
Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce, seeking a second term, has angered some property owners after signing a 2016 endorsement questionnaire from the Pacific West Association of Realtors indicating she opposed government regulation of the rental market. She now faces a speculated upcoming challenge from Robert Fox, an early supporter of a failed attempt to recall her and now further angered by Pearce's vote to enable increased 2nd district density in the Land Use Element coupled with her support for a Broadway Corridor "road diet."
Would Mayor Garcia use his veto to force six (not five) supportive Council votes to change to the Tenant Reloction Ordinance? When Fox decided not to file papers to run for Mayor, he extracted from Garcia the following statement:
[Jan. 2018 Garcia statement] Over the last couple of days, I've had some great conversations with Robert Fox, the President of CONO and a longtime community leader. We have been discussing next steps on the Land Use Element and other important issues. We are working together to host a series of Mayoral Land Use Roundtables in the weeks ahead. n addition, we have been discussing ways to ensure that we focus on housing production in the Downtown, including affordable housing for seniors. We don't believe that rent control works, or is the right solution. Just look at rent controlled cities like San Francisco, the most expensive market in the country. I look forward to working with Mr. Fox on this and other issues in the future.
A little over a year later and safely re-elected, Maytor Garcia said nothing following the May and June 2019 Council votes that enacted the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance but did speak in April on the key Council vote that directed the City Attorney to draft the measure. Mayor Garcia said:LB needed to pass a tenant relocation ordinance. He boasted that LB's economy is doing well (cited port volume, low unemployment), claimed overall crime is low, said growth and investments had increased property values...and said that shared prosperity requires "shared responsibility."
Mayor Garcia cited the recommendations of an "Everyone Home" Task Force [whose members he chose] which included enactment of a tenant relocation assistance policy that includes households impacted by rising rents. 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.
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