Santa Monica’s Rent Control Board took a stance on several proposed laws last week backing measures that would allow tenants to relocate, expand rent control to newly constructed buildings and facilitate payments to landlords who are making their buildings earthquake safe.

During the most recent Rent Control Board meeting, all members expressed their support for the consideration of resolution AB 1620, which would require landlords statewide to permit permanently disabled tenants who live upstairs to move downstairs for simplicity’s sake. It would in fact be the first change to the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act in 28 years, something Chair Anatasia Foster noted would be “historic.”

“It would help seniors, it would help disabled veterans and citizens and residents of all ilk to benefit and to have their disabilities recognized and it would transfer their exact MAR [Maximum Allowable Rent] from one unit to another, which typically under Costa-Hawkins is not allowed or required so it will go with them,” Foster said.

Commissioner Kurt Gonska raised the valid concern of what if there wasn’t a comparable unit available on the first floor? “Is there any sort of provision that would still help them?”

If an accessible floor unit becomes open, this is a first right of refusal to the disabled person on an upper floor, Foster said. “They do not have to take it, they do not have to take the first one. They could wait and take one in five years, but it’s very malleable.”

“More specifically,” she added, “It’d be the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms or smaller. It would not be a larger unit on the bottom floor. A landlord would not be forced to exchange, say, an owner’s unit with three bedrooms or four bedrooms in the front of the building for a one bedroom upstairs.”

A motion was made to adopt the resolution AB 1620 by Vice-Chair Ericka Lesley and seconded by Commissioner Lonnie Gunn before being passed unanimously.

Resolution of support for SB 466

Senate Bill 466 was introduced by Sen. Aisha Wahab in February of this year and would alter the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act that stipulates how rent control rules are applied in local jurisdictions. While elements of the bill have momentum, experts said a wholesale revision to the rules will be difficult given entrenched interests.

“This is a wholesale modification to the Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act,” said Foster. “We brought this one forward for resolution of support because it’s in keeping with the mission of our charter to preserve the affordability and the existence of our rent control housing stock.”

As it stands today, Santa Monica’s rent control rules apply only to multi-unit housing and to units built prior to the adoption of rent control in 1979. The revisions proposed by SB 466 would have originally extended rent control to single-family-homes and condos while changing the threshold from a fixed point in time (locally, pre-1979) to a rolling date that brings all construction into rent control after 15 years. However, RCB staff said the proposal was modified to keep the exemption for single-family homes meaning and now just targets the date at which rent control is implemented.

“Under Costa-Hawkins, single family homes and condos that are used as rentals are exempt from rent control,” Foster told the Daily Press. “Because so many houses were scooped up and used as rentals during the financial crisis, this bill sought to return them to the housing stock that is rent controlled. For reasons unknown, the bill’s author has agreed to remove this provision, meaning single family homes that are used as rentals will not be subject to rent control if her bill passes.”

The Board’s General Counsel, Alison Regan, clarified that the Board will be “voting to adopt the resolution as amended to strike that portion of the resolution that refers to pricing.”

“The ability to bring apartment buildings under rent control is preserved and Wahab [SB 466] at this time and still, to my mind, is an achievement that furthers the mission of our charter,” Foster said before the vote was cast.

Commissioner Danny Ivanov moved to adopt resolution number 23 dash 002 as amended and Gonska seconded. It was passed unanimously.

The RCB also voted to support a bill that would allow payments from the State to landlords who need help paying for seismic upgrades to their property (AB1505) and

The Board voted to oppose a bill that would have “unbundled” parking spaces from housing units (AB1317). The Board said the bill would violate rent control charters and could allow landlords to charge separate fees for parking spaces that would amount to an illegal rent increase outside the established caps on rent increases.

Scott fell in love with Santa Monica when he was much younger and now, after living and working in five different countries, he has returned. He's written for the likes of the FT, NBC, the BBC and CNN.