Daily 49er

Local activists begin journey to get rent control on ballots

Rent control advocates took to the streets with petitions to get rent control implemented in Long Beach.

Long+Beach+residents+line+up+to+sign+a+petition+by+%23RentControlNow+at+MacArthur+Park+on+Sunday.+The+petition+is+aimed+at+getting+rent+control+to+be+added+to+the+election+ballots+this+upcoming+November.
Long Beach residents line up to sign a petition by #RentControlNow at MacArthur Park on Sunday. The petition is aimed at getting rent control to be added to the election ballots this upcoming November.

Long Beach residents line up to sign a petition by #RentControlNow at MacArthur Park on Sunday. The petition is aimed at getting rent control to be added to the election ballots this upcoming November.

Carlos Villacana

Carlos Villacana

Long Beach residents line up to sign a petition by #RentControlNow at MacArthur Park on Sunday. The petition is aimed at getting rent control to be added to the election ballots this upcoming November.

Carlos Villacana, Special Projects Editor

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Huddling together under the shade of trees at MacArthur Park, about 80 Long Beach residents gathered Sunday to launch a campaign to bring rent control to the city.

The #RentControlNow Coalition, which consists of groups such as Housing Long Beach and the Long Beach Gray Panthers, hosted the event and submitted an intent to circulate a petition to get rent control on the election ballots in November 2018.

The ordinance would enact a limit on rent increases for units in Long Beach, except “those exempt under the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act and certain small second dwelling units,” according to the initiative. It would also include the formation of a mayor-appointed board the city council would have to approve, which would preside over rent adjustments and enforce “just cause for eviction” requirements.

Josh Butler, executive director of Housing Long Beach, said the petition needs to be signed by 10 percent of registered voters in Long Beach in order to end up on the ballot. That would be about 27,000 voters, though Butler said they’re looking to get 28,000 signatures to definitively surpass the requirement. The coalition has 180 days to meet that goal.

“[The city council] has made comments that don’t seem like they support the idea of rent control,” Butler said. “That’s a big reason why we’re going to the voters directly.”

Those gathered at the park consisted of people volunteering to collect signatures for the petition, as well people signing the document and others opposing the ordinance. One of the 80 people who arrived was resident and renter Victor Pearson, who signed the petition in the hope of getting rent control implemented in Long Beach.

“Last year my rent was $900 a month,” Pearson said. “Then I get a letter saying it’s going up to $1,200. I have 30 days to come up with the extra $300 per month. Then, on top of that, if I couldn’t pay the rent I had to give the landlord a 60-day notice which was also difficult to do.”

Pearson explained that providing that notice would have been difficult because he would have been required to pay $1,200 in rent for those 60 days.

“Low-income people should have some type of right to prevent them from being inadvertently or abusively kicked out of their residence with the inability to find adequate housing,” Pearson declared during the event.

Opposers to rent control present at the event included Better Housing for Long Beach, broker Robert Fox and Long Beach resident Robert Peete. Better Housing members placed anti-rent control fliers on vehicle windows, while Peete voiced his feelings via megaphone. Fox stood silently at a distance from the rent control advocates.

The fliers circulated by Better Housing for Long Beach said that rent control “puts small mom and pop property owners out of business,” “kills jobs,” “increases rents,” “displaces tenants” and “creates homelessness.” Both Fox and Peete expressed similar feelings, with Fox adding a concern that property owners would sell their buildings to developers due to fear of losing potential profits from rent.

“Those are my own opinions [about rent control] but if someone comes up with a better method, I’ll listen to them,” Fox said.

The Daily 49er reached out to Josh Butler about how many signatures were obtained as of Sunday, but he was not able to reply. If the petition meets its signature requirement, the ordinance will be placed on ballots in November, where voters will decide if it will be implemented across the city.

The ordinance can be read in full online by searching for the “Long Beach Fair Rent, Just Cause for Eviction and Homeowner Protection Ordinance.”

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