|(November 3, 2017, 12:10 p.m.) -- Is "Housing Long Beach," a well-funded advocacy group whose self-declared mission is to [website text] "improve, preserve and increase the supply of affordable housing for the well-being of Long Beach residents through community organizing, policy work and systems change," preparing to mount a petition-initiated drive to put a Long Beach rent control ballot on the ballot?
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The group's open Facebook page contains multiple webpostings supporting rent control for Long Beach and recently began mentioning an unspecified opportunity related to upcoming state developments.
We presume the state developments refer to efforts to repeal the 1995 statewide Costa-Hawkins Act that currently blunts the effectiveness of local rent control measures. A bill to repeal Costa-Hawkins stalled in the state legislature in 2017...and while it could resurface in 2018 (aided by momentum from the 2017 package of Dem-leadship-supported housing-related bills, including SB 35), a statewide petition-initiated ballot measure has also been filed to collect signatures to qualify a statewide ballot measure to repeal Costa-Hawkins.
If Costa-Hawkins is repealed, it would swiftly make Long Beach (L.A. County's second largest city with 60% renters now and moves by the Mayor/Council to increase that number in future years) a target for a rent control measure. That could happen in any one of three ways. A City Council majority (subject to a Mayoral veto that six Councilmembers can override) could write a rent control measure and enact it, or the Council could write it and put it on the ballot where LB voters could enact or reject it, or local rent control advocates could write it to their liking, collect sufficient initiative petition signatures and put it on the ballot where LB voters could enact or reject it. A likely target for ballot measure proponents would be November 2018, coinciding with the high turnout general election.
LB's City Council and Mayor have thus far publicly avoided the hot button issue approaching the 2018 election cycle. On May 2, 2017, the Council (with support by Mayor Garcia) voted 8-0 (Mungo absent) to approve a City Hall-"Task Force" created package of policies to promote affordable (below market rent) housing that stopped short of including measures for "just cause" tenant eviction or rent control. [LBREPORT.com coverage here.] However in presenting the "Task Force" recommendations, former Councilwoman/Assemblymember (subsequently Mayor Garcia-chosen Harbor Commissioner) Bonnie Lowenthal explicitly said tenant protections are valid subjects for another time.
At the Council meeting, Mayor Garcia ducked the issue (saying he was awaiting further "data") but City Clerk-filed paperwork for his "officeholder account" shows Garcia gave $1,000 to "Housing Long Beach" (marked CVC for "civic donation") during the period Jan 1-June 30, 2017. In additon, the "Housing Long Beach" website also lists Mayor Garcia as among its "major funders" (webpage screen save below.)
[Ed. note: During the previous six month period, the "Apartment Association of CA Southern Cities" gave Garcia's "officeholder account" $1,000.]
Other Councilmembers also remained publicly mum on the issue at the May 2 Council meeting.
"Housing Long Beach" recently announced on its open Facebook page what it described as a November 1 "Long Beach Rent Control Emergency Community Meeting." LBREPORT.com arrived to cover the community event. As we entered to take a seat in the basement meeting room of an 8th/Linden church, "Housing Long Beach" Executive Director Josh Butler interrupted the meeting to tell us the event was closed to the press and declined to explain why. This caught us by surprise, since announcements for the "community meeting" on "Housing Long Beach's" open Facebook page didn't indicate it was closed to the press or to anyone else.
When we asked those present (about two dozen people seated in the room) if they wanted the press present to cover the event, we received blank stares and no one raised their hands. LBREPORT.com exited the meeting. Mr. Butler then followed us outside, appeared to video record us as we drove off the church parking lot, and later webposted a Facebook message telling recipients "Just asked [LBREPORT.com publisher] Bill Pearl to leave our meeting. It is not open to the press."
[Ed. note: The next day, we emailed Housing Long Beach Exec. Dir. Butler asking that he cite exactly where and when "Housing Long Beach" had represented, prior to the start of its Nov. 1 Emergency Community Meeting on Rent Control that this event wasn't open to the community generally or to the press specifically. He didn't cite a single example and instead replied: "We send out official press releases and media advisories to events at which the press are welcome."]
LBREPORT.com regrets that we were prevented from reporting to our readers what took place in "Housing Long Beach's" self-described "Rent Control Emergency Community Meeting"...but as the event was publicly labeled an "emergency," it invites the inference that something may be coming fairly soon.
Meanwhile, LB Councilmembers, with support from Mayor Garcia, have encouraged developers to create high rise residential density downtown (much of it rental, not ownership). They've approved a 2016 "Mid-City" land use plan that incentivizes mixed-use rental units. And Councilmembers will soon decide on a controversial city staff proposed Land Use Element revision that proposes mixed-use residential density in varying intensities in various areas citywide. The collective effect of creating an even larger constituency of LB voting renters (as opposed to home owners) carries political implications that would solidify a permanent voter base for rent control and likely tilt LB's political direction permanently in similar policy directions. .
On its website, "Housing Long Beach" lists what it calls its "major funders" as "The California Endowment," "California Community Foundation," "Liberty Hill Foundation," "Jerome S. and Grace H. Murray Foundation," "Ben And Jerry's Foundation," "Mayor Robert Garcia" (includes graphic) and the "Long Beach Affordable Housing Coalition."
Developing. Further as newsworthy.
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