The Pasadena City Council will vote on an eviction moratorium next week that would ban no-cause evictions until January, when a law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom protecting tenants from large rent increases goes into effect.
Last week, Newsom signed the Tenant Protection Act, which caps rent increases at 5 percent annually and prevents landlords from evicting tenants without just cause.
But the legislation did not contain protection for tenants before the legislation becomes law. Activists claim landlords across California, including Pasadena, have been busy evicting tenants and raising rents before the law takes effect on New Year’s Day.
“Our circumstances are somewhat different from LA’s. We will have it on next week’s agenda,” said Mayor Terry, referring to s similar measure passed by the Los Angeles City Council. “We will have full discussion on it.”
Several members of the council announced to the crowd gathered for the council’s meeting Monday that they planned to support the moratorium.
According to the LA Times, housing attorney Dennis Block spoke to more than 200 landlords at an apartment owner conference at the Pasadena Convention Center on Oct. 2 and advised them to raise rents and evict tenants before the new law takes effect.
Members of the Pasadena Tenants Union (PTU) claim they have recently seen a spate of 60-day eviction notices given to local tenants.
“It is crucial that this moratorium be retroactive and cancel any 60-day notices that have already been served in the last few weeks,” said Jane Mariam Panangaden of the PTU.
According to Panangaden, since the bill passed mass evictions started at apartment units on California Boulevard and Wilson and Fair Oaks avenues. Those residents could get relief under a request by Councilman Gene Masuda, who asked for the moratorium to be retroactive to include tenants already facing no-cause evictions.
In South Pasadena, 10 tenants are facing eviction from their apartment building on Prospect Avenue after receiving 60-day termination notices from a new management company, according to the South Pasadena Review.
Several of those tenants said they think the move is coordinated to ensure larger profits before the new law goes into effect.
One tenant told the newspaper that a vacant one-bedroom unit identical to her $1,600-a-month apartment is now going for $2,300.
In Pasadena, the median rate for a one apartment is now at $2,800. Some one-bedroom units go for $3,000 a month.
The increase in rental prices has driven families east toward the Inland Empire where property is less expensive.
The exodus from Pasadena has decimated the Pasadena Unified School District, which has lost 1,170 students over the past five years. The district makes about $10,000 per student in average daily attendance funds from the state. The district has closed multiple schools in the past two years to close the budget gap caused by low enrollment.
“The state enacted AB1482 [the legislation signed by Newsom] because there was finally recognition that the housing affordability crisis is killing our cities and communities,” said Allison Henry, a member of the Pasadena Justice Coalition and the PTU. “Our schools in Pasadena have seen significant enrollment decline due to the lack of sustainable and affordable housing in Pasadena, resulting in school closures. The moratorium will keep people in their homes and communities, and signals to unscrupulous landlords that we will no longer tolerate end-runs around legal remedies.”
Although, rent control has not been officially discussed by the City Council, it could be an issue in the March election.
Last year, efforts to take rent control ordinances to the voters failed in Pasadena after organizers came up short on the necessary number of signatures. A similar measure in Glendale also failed to make the ballot after the city clerk deemed the petition “deficient and invalid.”
Only a handful of Southern California cities have rent control ordinances, including Los Angeles, Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills.
According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, a Californian making minimum wage would have to work 92 hours a week in order to afford the average one-bedroom apartment.
“Pasadena needs to take immediate action to protect tenants or face a spike in homelessness and displacement,” said Ryan Bell, a housing activist hoping to unseat District 6 City Councilman Steve Madison in the March 3 election.
Bell called on city officials to pass a measure that would tie rent control to the Consumer Price Index.
“Los Angeles recently passed a moratorium on no-fault evictions and rent increases to cover the gap between now and Jan. 1, when AB1482 takes effect, and Pasadena needs to do the same,” Bell said.
Last week the LA City Council unanimously passed an ordinance that bans no-cause evictions. Under that ordinance tenants can still be evicted for nonpayment of rent or use of a unit for criminal activity.
“The City Council should really consider a moratorium,” said District 2 council candidate Felicia Williams. “It was a big oversight in the legislation not to include protection before the law take effect.”
The high cost of housing has increased homelessness across the state. The LA Times reported earlier this year that 59,000 people are living on the streets of Los Angeles County. About 16,000 of those people are living in their cars.
Authorities say as baby boomers enter their senior years the risk of them facing homelessness increases.
“The rise in senior homelessness should frighten Pasadena elected officials as rents outstrip Social Security,” Bell said.
According to the most recent homeless count conducted in Pasadena, three out of every 10 homeless persons in Pasadena is 55 or older.
But Pasadena has taken some action — most of it designed to provide for tenants after they have been evicted — under the city’s Tenant Protection Ordinance.
In August, the City Council unanimously voted to raise the inclusionary housing requirement for developers to set aside affordable units on all new projects. Under the new requirement developers are required to allocate 20 percent of the total number of proposed housing units for moderate- to low-income residents or pay a fee. The previous set aside was 15 percent. The amendments are the first changes to the city’s inclusionary housing ordinance since it was adopted in 2001.
Developers not wanting to set aside units can still pay an in-lieu fee which goes into the city’s own housing fund. Builders can also donate land worth the value of the fee.
In 2017, Housing Director Bill Huang told the Pasadena Weekly that the city’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance has led to the construction of about 500 housing units for low- and moderate-income renters since 2001.
The changes are designed to increase the number of affordable units in the city.