Santa Monica City Hall (File photo)

 

The Rent Control Board has postponed a decision on revisions to construction based rent reduction rules and will now pick up the discussion at their August meeting.

The Board made the decision this week citing a lack of time to study the proposed revisions and a desire to have all boardmembers present for the discussion.

Staff released their report in the afternoon of July 11 in advance of a July 13 meeting. The 20 page report recommended language simplification throughout the ordinance and a set of “substantive” changes.

Substantive revisions included rules requiring a tenant to have suffered some adverse effect before applying for a construction-related rent decrease, clarification of concepts for ease of citation, specifying state any rent decrease will cover the entire duration of construction impacts – not merely those occurring after the date on which the Board sends notice to the landlord that a rent decrease is possible, coordinating requests from multiple units within a single complex, clarifying the confidentially of mediation including notice that the agreements are not confidential themselves and allowing lawyers to participate, requiring tenants to provide a basis for the rent decrease, removing language made moot by past legal cases and equalizing rent decreases based on similar cases.

While the law does not require a rent decrease for all construction in a rent controlled unit, it does provide for a rent decrease in most cases.

“In order to qualify for this exception an interruption of services must result from work that is necessary, not optional,” said the staff report. “It must be in the nature of ‘repair, maintenance, and paint.’ It must not make the unit entirely uninhabitable. And it must result only in housing-service interruptions that are ‘unavoidable.’”

Several Commissioners said they’re comfortable with the staff proposal but also said it takes more than a day to process all the proposed changes and even the minor revisions required time to read thoroughly.

“You have to deal with it and you have to kind of think about it in a very careful way,” said Commissioner Nicole Phyllis.

Commissioner Anastasia Foster said the public should be given more time to review the document.

“This staff report was only made available publicly and to us Tuesday, so there has not been a large amount of time for even us who are present tonight to sit with this information,” she said.

Commissioner supported tabling the discussion.

“I have not had enough time to my satisfaction to go line by line to think about some of the implications of the new wording,” she said.

Commissioner Todd Flora acknowledged the desire of the Board to postpone the decision but said he didn’t want a long-delay that resulted in an overly detailed “legalese” issue.

“There are enough substantive changes in here and when you consider what a real issue this is becoming in the city, I really hope August will be the definitive time we make a final decision,” he said. “People are waiting for some of these changes to take place and they’re going to help some people, they’re going to help some tenants.”

Foster encouraged citizens to take the additional time to review the document and come back in August.

“We do welcome everyone in the city’s opportunity to take the next 30 days to look into this more carefully,” she said. “We thank the staff for what must have been a very big undertaking and we look forward to tweaking it and fine tuning it along with you and the public next month and we do hope people will spread the word and watch the meeting and come to the meeting and write letters in advance of the meeting. Whatever you think is appropriate.”

Board Chair Steve Duron was absent from the July 11 meeting.

Editor@www.smdp.com