Tenant activists, landlords argue for and against rent control before San Diego council committee

Although not on the agenda, arguments over rent control dominated the discussion Wednesday at a San Diego City Council committee meeting.

Signage brought to Wednesday’s meeting by tenant activists.

Scores of public speakers – both for and against rent control – appeared before the Smart Growth and Land Use Committee, which includes four City Council members.

The meeting was designed to focus on anti-displacement, Section 8 vouchers and issues surrounding the expiration of San Diego’s affordable housing stock.

That didn’t matter to San Diego Tenants United, a media-savvy but hastily organized tenant-advocacy group that took an aggressive stance in hijacking part of Wednesday’s discussion.

Its members were rude and demanding when addressing the committee and the property management representatives in the audience. This tone was not well-received by the public officials, who had to call for calm in the crowd more than once.

The tenant activists presented a petition calling for rent control, saying they had 11,000 signatures. They also requested that rent increases in the city be capped at 2 percent. Joining in their demands were members of community organizing groups such as Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans, and the labor union UNITE HERE.

Before the hearing started, San Diego Tenants United held a rally outside City Hall, calling for an emergency rent control ordinance. It was well-covered by local media, giving a false public impression that City Council members would consider such an ordinance Wednesday. The group also garnered media attention in the preceding days, spurring many local “mom and pop” rental housing owners to attend the meeting and speak about the negative consequences rent control would bring.

The meeting was so well-attended that staff opened two overflow rooms. The California Apartment Association and other business groups, including the San Diego Association of Realtors, were on-hand to monitor the hearing and provide information. CAA had also initiated conversations with council staff prior to the meeting to explain the adverse effects of rent control.

While no action was taken Wednesday, committee Chairwoman Georgette Gomez said she expects to have action items ready when the committee meets again May 21.

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Signature-gathering underway for rent control measure in National City

An effort to place rent control before National City voters this November has entered the signature-gathering phase.

The city attorney for National City recently gave petitioners the green light to begin circulating a petition for a measure titled the National City Rent Control and Community Stabilization Ordinance.

Tenant advocates filed the initiative with the city clerk in early March and have been working for some time to launch their signature-gathering campaign.

The California Apartment Association is organizing housing providers and industry partners to defeat any rent control measure that may appear before voters.

Price controls on the housing market have been proven failures wherever implemented. Like in other jurisdictions, rent control in National City, a medium-sized city between San Diego and Chula Vista, would cause far more harm than good.

National City joins several other Southern California cities where tenant activists are pursuing rent control via the ballot box. Just this week, tenant activists in Santa Ana filed preliminary paperwork to place rent control before city voters in November. Efforts to place rent control on the ballot are also underway in Glendale, Inglewood, Long Beach and Pasadena.

At the same time, tenant operatives are attempting to qualify a statewide ballot measure to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, landmark legislation that protects property owners and renters from radical, local rent control measures.

Rent control ballot initiative filed in Santa Ana

Tenant advocates in Santa Ana have filed preliminary paperwork to place a rent control measure on the November ballot.

The city attorney will have 15 business days to put together a title and summary for the measure. After a public notice is published by the city, the proponents will then have 180 days to gather roughly 12,000 valid signatures to place the initiative on the ballot.

The ballot measure, dubbed the “Community Preservation, Rent Stabilization and Renters’ Rights Act,” would use the rate of inflation to set caps on annual rent increases, with a hard limit at 5 percent. It also would impose “just cause” eviction policies in the city.

The filing of the initiative came just weeks after the Santa Ana City Council rejected rent control at a public study session.

The California Apartment Association, which opposes rent control in all forms, will lead a coalition to defeat the proposal.

“The tenant activists are looking to force a very bad housing policy on a good city,” Tommy Thompson, senior vice president of CAA in Southern California, told the Orange County Register. “Rent control would only make the housing crisis in Santa Ana worse.”

Santa Ana is the latest Southern California city where tenant activists are pursuing rent control via the ballot box.

Farther south, tenant activists in National City recently received approval to begin collecting signatures for a rent control measure targeted for November. Efforts to place rent control before voters also are underway in Glendale, Inglewood, Long Beach and Pasadena.

At the same time, tenant operatives are attempting to qualify a statewide ballot measure to repeal the  Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, landmark legislation that protects property owners and renters from radical, local rent control measures.