Council Majority With Mayor's Tacit Approval Pushes "Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance" Thru First Of Two Req'd Council Votes (6-3), Narrowly Derails Attempt (4-5) To Delay Second Enacting Vote Until After (Ordinance Opponents Assume) Gonzalez Will Be Off Council In Sac'to Senate Seat
|(May 22, 2019, 5:05 a.m.) -- Public testimony was passionate and polarized but wasn't a City Council priority preceding the first of two enacting votes on a "Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance" (text here, accompanying city staff memo here.) The measure, supported by tenant advocacy groups, was opposed by landlords who say it includes aspects of rent control and "just cause eviction" in requiring landlords with four or more rental units to pay tenants of one year or more two months rent if the landlord raises rent by more than 10% within one year and the tenant chooses to leave and hasn't done anything state law deems grounds for eviction.
Mayor Robert Garcia let Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez (whom he's endorsed in a June 4 state Senate election) make the motion to approve the measure. Gonzalez's state Senate campaign chair, Councilman Rex Richardson, seconded Gonzalez's motion.
Ordinance enactment requires two affirmative Council votes on two separate weeks. Thus, an affirmative Council vote on May 21 would advance the measure to a second enacting Council vote on June 11. (LB's Council chooses not to meet on the last Tuesday of the month and recently voted to cancel its June 4 meeting for the state Senate election.)
Councilmembers Suzie Price, Daryl Supernaw and Stacy Mungo sought changes in the draft ordinance. Mungo made a substitute motion, and Supernaw made a substitute-substitute motion, both of which would have required the City Attorney to redraft parts of the ordinance, delaying its first Council vote to June 11 with a second vote on June 18.
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Councilman Al Austin, expected to seek re-election in 2020, signaled his agreement with changes that would delay the ordinance to votes on June 11 and June 18.
Vice Mayor Dee Andrews, facing a 2020 re-election challenge from Suely Saro, signaled his support for the ordinance as currently drafted. Councilmembers Pearce and Uranga supported the ordinance as currently drafted. The math was obvious: if the first vote occurred that night (May 21), supporters had five of nine Council votes to advance the ordinance to a second enacting vote on June 11.
But if Councilwoman Gonzalez prevails in the June 4 state Senate election and the Council delayed the ordinance votes to June 11 and June 18 (as the Price-Supernaw-Mungo substitutes would do), Gonzalez might no longer be on the City Council by June 18 (already sworn into state Senate office) making her unavailable to provide a supportive "yes" Council vote on June 18...and that might cause the ordinance to fail passage on a 4-4 vote. During Council colloquy, Councilman Austin indicated he believes Gonzalez will win the race and\ eight of LB's nine Council incumbents [with the exception of Supernaw] have endorsed her.]
Mayor Garcia (without Council opposition) cut all public testimony to 90 seconds per speaker. Landlords argued the measure would have unintended consequences that would ultimately raise rents and deter investment in new housing. Realtor Joe Sopo cited Councilmembers' previous statements reciting opposition to government intervention in setting rents when they sought realtors' endorsements; Mr. Sopo said (paraphrase) the Council's vote would show the public what the Councilmembers' words were worth.
Josh Butler of Housing Long Beach, a supporter of rent control, said (paraphrase) the type of arguments made by landlords came at the wrong time with the city in the midst of a housing crisis coupled with tenant displacements. He and other tenant advocacy groups urged the Council to approve the ordinance.
The LB Area Chamber of Commerce joined lobbyist Mike Murchison (the latter representing a group of small property owners) in seeking a delay (signed letter submitted here.) Some tenant advocacy groups supporting the ordinance also sought changes. A law firm hired by some property owners sent a letter alleging fatal legal flaws in the ordinance (visible here.)
Councilwoman Gonzalez said renters comprise 60% of the City and said the Council has a duty to them. Councilman Richardson said he was agreeable to "discussing" changes in the ordinance sought by both sides after it was enacted and urged the Council to vote "no" the delaying substitutes and vote "yes" on the Gonzalez-Richardson enactment motion.
The two substitutes failed on
The main ordinance enactment motion by Gonzalez-Richardson carried 6-3 (Yes = Gonzalez, Pearce, Andrews, Uranga, Richardson; No = Price, Supernaw, Mungo.) The vote sends the ordinance to a second enactment vote on June 11 and -- if approved without substantive amendments by at least five Council members -- would take effect August 1.
Before and after the vote, Mayor Garcia offered no comments; with basically no Council business remaining after the vote, he swiftly adjourned the meeting.
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