Ted Winterer

Editor:

In her letter to the editor February 7th (“Supporting our rights to hold government accountable”) Maria Loya repeats the assertion she has made elsewhere that “the current City Council has been responsible for the destruction of thousands of rent control units in the past ten years.”

A look at the most recent Annual Report by the Santa Monica Rent Control Board reveals a net loss of 1,948 rental units since 1986 due to the Ellis Act –hardly “thousands…in the past ten years.” 

The City Council has long sought the repeal or reform of the Ellis Act, a state law which allows owners of rent-controlled properties to evict tenants and to pursue other uses of their properties provided they don’t re-enter the rental market for at least five years. Every loss of controlled rental stock is painful to a Council which has made the affordability of housing for low and moderate income households a priority, but unfortunately state law preempts local authority

37% of those Ellised units were redeveloped for multifamily housing, either apartments or condos.The rest were converted to other uses such as single family homes, owner occupancy of the existing structure, or non-residential uses. 

Those rental units which were redeveloped as multifamily housing were generally reviewed and approved not by the Council but by the Planning Commission, which under state law cannot deny an application for zoning compliant housing. And the last time the City Council approved a condo project was a decade ago, when the Waverly and Seychelles buildings across from City Hall were entitled in a deal which yielded hundreds of rental units affordable to low income households and millions of dollars for affordable housing elsewhere in the city.

Furthermore, the Council’s land use policies direct new housing development to commercial zones downtown and on the boulevards rather than in our traditional residential neighborhoods to avoid displacement of those who are already housed. And to deter the redevelopment of rent controlled housing in residential neighborhoods the Council has taken many steps such as reducing the buildable envelope for new construction and increasing the relocation benefits to be paid to tenants evicted by use of the Ellis Act.

The Council continues to seek ways to stem the loss of rent-controlled housing given the limitations imposed on us by state law and the inexorable market pressures on our city. To claim we are responsible for the loss of “thousands” of these apartments in the last decade is at best a mischaracterization of the facts.

Councilman Ted Winterer

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2 Comments

  1. I’m sure the following will fall on deaf ears but I address this response to the Council, Rent Board Members, and Tenant-Right advocates. I personally made use of the Ellis Act in order to re-gain possession of a three-unit building. My children and family relatives now occupy the building rent-free. The underlying circumstances for invoking the Ellis Act revolved around a protected tenant that happened to be a multi-millionaire (she owned a 9 unit building free and clear). Imagine how you might feel subsidizing rent to a very wealthy tenant. Ethically and morally, I searched for any alternative to the Ellis Act first, as it turns out no other “just cause” eviction applied. To answer any Socialist inquiry as to the possibility of selling the property instead of invoking the Ellis Act, I respond, read the Bill of Rights! Kindly, interpret this form of protest akin to burning a Draft Card. If you want to push me hard enough with one-sided onus regulations, I say, “Don’t Tread on Me”.

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