In an effort to head off mass evictions and rent gouging prior to a new state law taking effect on New Year’s Day, the Pasadena City Council this week voted to adopt the name and language of the state Tenant Protection Act, which makes evictions without cause illegal and caps rent increases at 5 percent a year.
Due to regulations in the Pasadena City Charter which prohibit ordinances from being adopted on the same date they are introduced, the council met twice within six hours on Monday and Tuesday to pass the emergency ordinance that bans no-cause evictions and rent increases before a state law takes effect on Jan. 1.
At 12:01 a.m. Tuesday the council convened a special meeting for the second reading of an ordinance adopting the state’s Tenant Protection Act (TPA) of 2019. The council voted unanimously after both readings to pass the Tenant Protection Act Temporary Adoption Ordinance.
The Ordinance is due to become effective upon its publication by the City Clerk, which is expected to occur on or about Nov. 7.
Had the emergency meeting not been held, the council would not have been able to conduct the second reading of the ordinance until Nov. 18. The council’s Nov. 11 meeting is scheduled to be canceled due to the Veteran’s Day holiday.
The move came following its Oct. 28 meeting during which the council was besieged by renters and housing advocates complaining about local landlords who were throwing people out of their units and jacking up rents for new tenants, in some cases charging double their usual rates, all in anticipation of the state law taking effect on Jan. 1.
Under the city’s Tenant Protection Act Temporary Adoption Ordinance, rent increases will be capped at 5 percent, and tenants who faced rent increases after March 19 will see a rollback in their rents. Landlords are also prohibited from evicting tenants without a just cause, such as failure to pay the rent or using an apartment unit for illegal purposes.
Pasadena’s ordinance also rolls back evictions ordered by landlords after Oct. 8, the date Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1482 into law.
“The city was made aware of a surge of eviction notices without a stated reason in an attempt to evict tenants and implement rent increases for new tenants that would not be possible after January 1, 2020,” according to a staff report signed by Pasadena Housing Director Bill Huang and City Manager Steve Mermell.
Newsom signed the state TPA on Oct. 8, but included no provisions protecting tenants before the law goes into effect on Jan. 1
According to Jane Mariam Panangaden, a member of the Pasadena Tenant’s Union (PTU), the ordinance is weakened because it only protects tenants facing eviction after Newsom signed the bill.
“It seems the recommendation is to cancel any notices rolled back to Oct. 8th,” Panangaden said. “What I would like to see is any notice to quit or unlawful detainer where the tenant is still in possession of the unit, that did not have just cause, be invalidated. Landlords were very aware that AB 1482 would become law before it was signed by Gov. Newsom.”
Activists called on the City Council to pass an emergency moratorium last week after several residents claimed that no-cause evictions were surging in Pasadena. Landlords reportedly want tenants out so they can raise the rent to market value ahead of Jan.1 when the TPA takes effect. According to the Los Angeles Times, a prominent housing attorney called on property owners and landlords to do just that last month during a meeting at the Pasadena Convention Center.
One local realtor said he was not aware of an increase in evictions since Newsom signed the bill. “In the trenches I have not heard a thing about it,” Bill Podley of Deasy, Penner and Podley said Monday. “We just had a big sales meeting and the subject never came up. My personal opinion is I don’t think there’s a big surge going on.”
However, local residents give different accounts.
“Last week I received 60-day notice to quit informing me that I needed to vacate my apartment without any reason being offered,” one local tenant wrote in a letter to the Pasadena Weekly. “I have been a tenant in good standing here for 5½ years. I never missed a rent payment. I never had a complaint,” the renter said.
According to the PTU, which has called for rent control, mass evictions have started at apartment units on California Boulevard and on Wilson and Fair Oaks avenues.
“In Pasadena, as in other high housing cost cities in California, rapidly escalating market rents provide an incentive to landlords to evict long-term, lower-income tenants, without cause, in order to raise rents and attract higher income tenants, before AB 1482 becomes effective,” states a city report. “The city is experiencing a housing affordability crisis which contributes to homelessness and displacement of residents to an unprecedented scale.”
According to “Pasadena’s Tale of Two Cities II,” by Occidental College political science professor Peter Dreier and Glendale Community College economics professor Mark Maier, “Pasadena is becoming more and more expensive to live in. City policies are fueling gentrification, making it harder for low-income and middle-class families to live here,” the report states.
In July, the Pasadena Weekly reported on the Washington 16, local residents evicted from a 20-unit building on East Washington Boulevard after the building was sold.
Locally, skyrocketing rents have long been an issue with some one-bedroom apartments costing $3,000 to rent. The PTU and the Glendale Tenants Union unsuccessfully pushed for rent control last year. The Pasadena efforts were supported by the Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education which has been forced to close schools, cut programs and layoff teaches due to declining enrollment as parents move east where housing is more affordable.
The PUSD 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.
“A second midnight council meeting illustrates the urgency, even if arrived at a late hour,” said Allison Henry of the PTU.
The PTU met with South Pasadena residents late last week and crafted an emergency ordinance that will be heard by the South Pasadena City Council on Wednesday. Residents there say they are also facing mass evictions. Residents living in ana apartment building on Pasadena and Prospect avenues say numerous residents in those units have received 60-day notices.