Reactions to our petition

We are approaching the final month of our six allotted months to get 2800 qualified signatures for our ballot initiative to require voter approval for rent control.  This past month was by far the most active.  We hired on a paid signature service to do the heavy lifting, while our volunteers were cancelling weekend plans so they could all pitch in. 

Our proposal has been simple: we want to put rent control, recently passed by council, up to a vote.  We don’t feel that current council has been up front about their plans for rent control.  Passing something this consequential should have a proper discussion among the voters of Culver City.  Our initiative, if passed, would treat rent control just like a tax increase.  If city council wants it, they need to get voter approval for it.  If it passes a popular vote, we can live with that.

When you talk to thousands of residents (and non-residents) about such a nuanced topic, you get a whole spectrum of responses.  We’d like to address some of these.

First, the very two words, “rent control.”  We’ve come to appreciate just how much mythology is built around the term.  Many people’s eyes light up, just when they hear those two words.  Like it’s some magical panacea that will preserve a time when rents were reasonable in this city.  Many favor it as well as opposing development, betraying a lack of concern for basic supply and demand, or how this city is changing. 

It doesn’t help that council, in pushing for rent control, has indulged such a fantastic outlook.  They’ve cited “rent burdened households” – people who pay more than a third of their income on rent.  As if rent control, or anything short of state funded housing, would actually change this.  Or that they present a cartoonish view of landlords sitting on infinite profits, and that whatever happens they can shoulder that burden.

We approach people with a simple phrase “require voter approval for rent control” and often people just hear two words: “rent control.”  We are then confronted with a whole array of misconceptions.  How many realized our city even passed rent control?  Are we for or against rent control?  The combination of this mythology, and lack of awareness of what city council is up to, alone justifies our mission.  We want a city that knows what it’s getting into – not one that gets led by the nose.

For the most part, our petition is hard to say no to. What's wrong with more democracy? What's wrong with having a vote and an actual conversation on it? Most people, even ones who are for rent control, don't have a problem signing it. That is the strength of our petition.

Of course, occasionally we “step on a bomb” – to use the Minesweeper terminology.  Generally it’s someone who is politically tied to council.  They ask baited questions, make ad hominems, and throw the occasional accusation that we are the ones being misleading.  We’ve heard accusations that our paid gatherers have used terms like “for rent control”, “protect renters’ rights”, “protect 3% rental cap”.

We took all these accusations seriously and followed up as much as we could.  Our experience is none of these accusations add up.  We know where all our people are out on the field at any time.  The accusations either mismatched the canvasser on the field, or the time they were in that area.  More so, they reflect people who made up a story.  The talking points above are also ones we would never use, even if we were interested in misleading people.  Those are the terms of rent control activists, and we reject that language entirely.  Or they’re second order hearsay, with no means of following up.

Of course, transparency and honesty are an artform in a campaign like this.  It’s always someone’s first day.  Even if they have the script, they are not familiar with people’s reaction to it.  In our early days, some of us used the phrase “put rent control on the ballot” – but we realized even that could be improved, considering the number of people who didn’t even realize it was enacted already.  So we quickly adjusted it. 

Now, when we tell people “require voter approval for rent control” – and we stress to use the word “require” in our opening phrase – it leads to a whole series of questions.  What happens if it gets on the ballot?  What happens to rent control if it passes?  Won’t this end rent control?  Our own mayor has misled people on the dais by saying exactly that – that it’s some subterfuge to get rid of rent control. 

It is true that if our ballot initiative passes, and council does nothing else, their rent control administration is rendered null and unenforceable.  But council can easily acknowledge our petition and launch a counter-initiative.  They can put their own rent control administration on the ballot.  They would only need to vote for it with a simple majority by August, and we’ll all get to vote on it in November alongside our own initiative.  If theirs passes, their rent control remains whether our initiative passes or not.  No need for 2800 signatures and a costly campaign.

For council to say that our initiative is a sneaky attempt to stop their rent control is an implied refusal to acknowledge us, those who signed our initiative, or the city at large.  It is an implicit acknowledgment that they refuse to hear our voices, that they refuse to let us decide the fate of our own city.  This is where our petition has force. If they refuse to listen to the voters of Culver City, and we're loud enough, they don't get to keep their rent control.

And this is where their only reasonable argument against our petition comes in.  Their supporters feel they got elected, this gives them unlimited power to do what they want without being questioned or curtailed.

That’s when we point out our petition is about so much more than rent control – it’s about curtailing a council that has gone rogue.  We see their hubris and contempt for residents on so many issues:  Allowing transients to set up permanent residence on our streets and in our parks.  Building a homeless shelter on park land right in the middle of town.  Allowing minors to vote or sit on boards and commissions.  Scrapping mayoral rotation and even entire commissions established by city charter.

They didn’t run on any of these things.

When we stop by in the next couple weeks, to ask you if you’d like you to sign our petition, keep this in mind.  This isn’t about rent control.  It’s taking back control of your own city before it’s too late to protect the city you grew to love. 

Homelessness committee meeting recap

On Tuesday, February 18th, 2020, a number of us went to the homelessness committee meeting at city hall. It was eye opening on a number of levels.

First, our members showed up - all from different perspectives. A couple came from Globe Ave., concerned about the vagrancy crisis at Venice/405. Another couple came from behind the AmVets building, concerned about turning it into a homeless shelter. And a couple multifamily landlords showed up.

We all got to see how our issues are tied by this new housing policy and the insanity of it. Tevis Barnes, Culver City's housing administrator, was committed to the idea that the vagrants spilling into our city are actually local residents driven out by rising rents. She insisted this was the case even at the Venice/405 camp.

This assertion is our biggest bone of contention, and doesn't match personal or professional experience. When we challenged her assertion, Tevis said this was according to LAHSA statistics. Which are disputable at best. Even our own law enforcement have said most people are on our streets, not because they can't afford our rent, but because they can't afford any rent.

We have to fight them at this root level, if any of us are to have any solution to the vagrancy issue in Culver City.

Mark Lipman argued for a "housing for everyone" approach - we have close to 300 homeless in Culver City by last count. A 2br apartment for each at the HUD rate of $1944/month comes out to $7 million/year. Other committee members dismissed Mr. Lipman, and have put forward a "feasible" plan of a homeless shelter for 20 people.

The problem is, they also say that unless we have a place to send them, we can't touch them. And that place has to be within city limits. So a shelter of that size would not even put a dent in the problem. This ironically makes Lipman's proposal, frightening as it sounds, the most consistent.

Of course we countered with our own argument - namely, that if he do have somewhere to send someone, but they don't want to leave that piece of sidewalk they're living on, do we have any compulsory power over them? Both Tevis and the attending police officer said no, we don't want to be in the business of wrestling with someone into a police car and shuttling them off to a shelter.

This is the second part of the problem, which we need to address. Even if we were to have housing for everyone on our streets, we have no power to get them off our sidewalks. Most people understand this is not a tenable policy. It leads to a patchwork of unannounced rules where only the politically well connected get to have vagrant-free streets.

So we need a clear policy of compulsion, one that applies equally to both Lafayette Pl. and Globe Ave. It needs to be clearly delineated by council, and consistently applied by both the city manager and the police department. Otherwise we could build all the free housing in the world, it won't stop our streets and parks from turning into tent cities.

We need to come to terms with the fact that we are a city of limited size and resources. We will do what we can to help those who want help. We will actively monitor anyone who has actually been driven out by rising rents. We can even abide by the basic Boise decision that someone has a right to sleep on the street at night. But at some point we need to say no, you don't get to build a permanent residence on public land. We need the legal authority to compel them to leave.

Most of all, we need a council that's ready to assert that legal authority in the face of any legal challengers.

NO on measure CC – our position

The problem seems simple, with a simple solution. Because of certain hiring practices during the 90s, we have unfunded pension liabilities that ran away with us. In order to meet them without going bankrupt, we need to extend a temporary sales tax increase, set to sunset in 2023, into 2033. If we don't do this, we're in trouble. Council saw fit to declare a fiscal emergency for this, and got this on the March ballot with a unanimous vote - the only way to get it outside a general election.

The problem is, we currently also have a council that certainly doesn't act like we have a budgetary crisis. A few hundred thousand for a coyote study, to tell us what we already know. A few hundred thousand for the first few months of their rent control board, a program nobody ran on. A million or two for Metro bike shares, when a private company is willing to pay us for the privilege. All in the last year.

And let's not talk about their plans of combatting homelessness - which sounds increasingly like building a home for everyone that stumbles into our city. A bottomless solution for a bottomless problem.

Meanwhile, they not only push for all this, they plan on pushing a business tax increase in November.

It's reminiscent of a drunk asking his dad for rent money, and then going and spending it on more booze. Worse, he goes and tells everyone at the bar what a big jerk his dad is, when he should be cleaning up and getting a job.

So in urging a NO vote on CC, we are really having a vote of no confidence in our current council and its profligate spending. It's time to tighten the purse strings.

Of course we'll expect to hear the usual scare tactics - outsourcing the police department, cutting vital and popular services. This council does it anyway, even without this budget issue. Budgets are priorities, and they reveal theirs with their threats.

The good news is, a future council is free to ask us to pass it again. Since the sunset isn't until 2023, we have a few years. A future council can put it on the 2022 general by majority vote. Or they can unanimously declare an emergency again, and hold a special election for this at any time.

We're told such a special election is a bit costly - about $100,000 to run. But we agree that some things are worth the cost.

Council to allow minors on commissions?

Monday night city council proposed allowing minors and non-registered voters on city commissions and boards.  We at Protect Culver City are vocally opposed to the idea.  We see it not as an extension of the franchise, but a disenfranchising of Culver City residents and voters by means of court-packing.  Indeed, it’s court packing of the worst kind - by using impressionable children as political pawns.   

Culver City Unified was already embroiled in scandal under Kelly Kent, when she used school district resources to organize a women’s march.  This is not the only case.  Mayor Meghan and others from her slate frequently use our schools as an organizing tool. 

We made our cases known by e-mail.  And our representative Anthony Rizzo gave our position on A-2 at the beginning of the meeting.  Council had the exact reaction we expected.  Even with all this, Alex Fisch claimed during the A-2 “I don’t see any opposition to this.”  When vice-mayor Eriksson raised the issue of verifying residence status, Mayor Meghan brushed it off.  

People should see this as par for the course for an agenda-driven council whose very inaugural meeting was a Brown Act violation.  Mayor Meghan regularly uses outside agitators to support her, when she wants something passed.  And the majority of council under her has, over and over again, callously shut out the will of residents.  Indeed her machinations to revamp our government dance around the illegal.

And Fisch’s comments, while frustrating, are unfortunately quite expected.  Indeed, this council sees no opposition to what they do, because they ignore opposition to what they do.  We’ve already said there is no conversation with this council – indeed we formed our PAC over this very premise.  Perhaps he won on this technicality, because we didn’t realize e-mail comments aren’t read aloud at meetings.  But we’re learning. 

Not that it matters. 

Rather, the lesson should be for the other groups who are still hoping against hope that this council will have a conversation with them and listen to reason.  We’re rooting for you, and if somehow you win a concession through conversation, we salute you.   

But we think it’s futile.  When people show you who they are, believe them.  This council has plainly demonstrated they have an agenda – one that flies in the face of the better interests of our residents.  And they will stop at nothing to get it.  We’re already planning for a scenario where our rent control ballot initiative passes, and council will still ignore it.  Because that’s who they are. 

The only way to push our interests as residents of Culver City on this council is by electoral force.  The only conversation we have is with our fellow residents.  That means talking with our neighbors, circulating our ballot initiative and PAC literature, and publicizing scandals like with CCUSD. 

We are confident that as we make our council’s actions more public, we will continue to grow and make our voices truly heard. 

Our opposition to minors on commissions



The following was submitted by Jennifer Alvarez regarding council's agenda item to allow minors and non-registered voters on commissions and boards:

Culver City Council Members,
We are writing in opposition to the agenda item A-2. This will expose our young impressionable children to one sided political pressure. Children should not be involved in politics. This ordinance is not child led, its adult led in an effort to gain an extra voice to advance the LEFT's political agenda in our city.  Children should not be sitting on Culver City Commissions or Committees making policy for the public.  CCUSD should not be working with City Council in an effort to push our children into political issues.  
CCUSD already struggles with its own politically one sided leadership that uses our children to help promote left leaning political groups and ideas inside our schools.  
Kelly Kent, CCUSD former Board President, abused her power by using the CCUSD logo without permission from the district office to advertise and push a political Women's March event at Robert Frost Auditorium on April 20, 2019. 
Through the California Public Records Act we were able to uncover the truth surrounding the planning of this highly political event.  We exposed the overreach and blatant disregard from the district office that the use of the logo for this event was NOT APPROPRIATE. Kelly Kent obtained the logo by other means and used it anyway. Please see the link below for video of my public statement and Kelly Kent's public apology for misusing the CCUSD logo at the September 24, 2019 school board meeting  (forward to 3:33).

Even after her public apology, Kelly Kent used social media to spread fake news and misrepresent my public statement.  Soon after Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells retweeted the fake news post.  
This is how these elected officials running our City and schools handle opposing views. By bullying opposers.  I'm afraid to think of how they will treat our children who are sitting on Commissions and Commiittees who don't agree with them.  
Stop using our children to advance your ONE sided politics in our community and our schools.  
- Jennifer and Danny Alvarez 

Kelly Kent rebuts Alvarez ... and later deletes this tweet.
Mayor Meghan retweets with her own commentary



Hammering out the vagrancy crisis

Thursday, Jan 9th 2020, we with Mayor Meghan, city manager John Nachbar, and police chief Bixby to discuss the Globe Ave. vagrant camp situation. We had the expected results - mostly an impasse, with some promise of progress. As you can imagine, these three city officials had very different responsibilities, and therefore different slants on we can do about these camps.

First we confronted the case that started the whole crisis - the Martin v. Boise ruling. This upheld the 2006 case declaring it "cruel and unusual punishment" to cite someone for sleeping on the sidewalk, if they have nowhere else to go. A number of us asserted that Boise case only allowed people to sleep anywhere - it didn't allow them to set up permanent residences. But city government stuck to the principle that if we force vagrants to do anything, we'll get sued.

Nachbar made the challenging assertion that, though the 2006 ruling doesn't technically apply to daylight hours, an activist plaintiff will claim that they need to sleep during the day, because they're afraid of sleeping at night. And they would most likely win that case. He may very well be right. But even if he's wrong, we would need a very assertive council to be ready to defend our laws against a lawsuit.

So while we had an impasse on that, this issue should definitely be on Culver City residents' radar for the 2020 election. If we want to keep our streets and parks clean, we need a council that's ready to assert our right to do so.

We also went back and forth on whether the mayor is disciplining police for "harassing the homeless." Meghan has denied any such policy change, but we've definitely heard from officers saying they got reprimanded from her for "harassing the homeless" - meaning checking for warrants and suspicious activity. We will follow up on this and get to the bottom of the issue.

Our final question, after much heated back and forth on "long term solutions" and their efficacy, was "what can we do about this now? Today?"

With that, we stuck to the crime element. While CCPD can't single-handedly patrol the area 24/7 for us, we can be proactive. That means setting up a Neighborhood Watch for the block, which alerts CCPD on any suspect or known activity. Based on our reliable testimony, they can have reasonable suspicion to talk to suspected dealers, pimps, people defecating on the streets, or any criminal activity.

Our policy will be simple - whatever rules exist in a shelter, exist on our streets. If you want to live on our streets, you follow our laws, or you find another street. Nobody will be able to deal drugs or women, or harass local residents, without our watchful eye catching it.

Hopefully, if we stay vigilant, at least the worst elements will be discouraged to ply their trade elsewhere. We will be contacting CCPD's liaison officer Yabko to set this up as soon as possible.

Is Property Racist?

by Anthony Rizzo

Our City is in the process of updating its General Plan. Part of the plan focuses on our zoning and housing development. 

In anticipation, some councilmembers and their supporters have been showcasing Culver City’s hstoric racism. 

Some are advocating that the council make a formal apology for its racism while others have gone so far as to suggest rezoning single family residential neighborhoods to allow for “affordable” housing as a form of reparations.

In my opinion, minorities of Culver City do not want an apology for the racism of the past nor do we want rezoning for “affordable” housing.

What we want is a commitment from our elected council to protect our rights to have the same quality of life that the past residents of this beautiful suburb enjoyed during its heyday. 

Culver City has overcome racism. And, the people in Culver are evidence of it. The diversity in our City reflects this.  As a minority, I was not prevented by laws or intimidation from purchasing a single-family home in Culver City. The couple that sold the house to me was white and they were excited for me to make this City my new home.  However, what I have observed is that the City has steadily reduced its commitment to protect residents’ rights to have the same quality of life as those who began this great city.

For example, I purchased a home in Sunkist Park - a single family residential neighborhood. It has beautiful, quiet, tree lined streets. At the center of this perfectly planned neighborhood is a small elementary school and park. However, over the past 10 years the City (school district and city) has stopped protecting our right to enjoy the same quiet, low density neighborhood for which it is zoned and was designed.

Every week after school and during the weekends, the streets around the school are flooded with cars coming in and out to use the school field.

The City, without notice, consent, or proper planning repurposed the field as a recreational park.  

Permits are sold to sports associations to use the field as a recreational park. The volume of traffic in the neighborhood has tripled, the level of pollution in the neighborhood has increased 10-fold, the streets are no longer quiet, and kids cannot safely ride and play in the streets.

Sunkist Park neighborhood is not a recreational park.  It was built for single family homes. It is designed for families to walk their kids to the small elementary school and for families and kids to walk or ride their bike/board to play at the neighborhood park.  

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only area the City has fallen short:

  • Traffic in Culver City in now a crisis. In neighborhoods and on the main streets. Encampments in our parks and streets and the sale and use of drugs is permitted.
  • Kids' safety is a major concern of parents - playing outside or traveling to school.
  • City regulations have increased exponentially i.e. requirements for building/remodeling your home, bans on plastic bags, straws and e-cigarettes, rent control (proposed rent control board), ban on certain utilities (proposed ban on gas appliances), etc.
  • Local taxes have been on a steady rise with the looming debt of pension liabilities.
  • Government growth is out of control for a small City like ours.  We are flooded with increased costs to implement the avalanche of state laws and special interest programs; i.e. the planners to hire for the planning department, costs for programs to come out of the revised general plan, homeless czar, etc.

Isn’t it ironic that the same City that prevented minorities from purchasing homes is now preventing minorities from having the same quality of life.  

As a matter of fact, it’s not just minorities that suffer, all residents are prevented from experiencing this same quality of life. 

Instead of an apology, I am suggesting our City go back to the drawing board and take care of the basics:

  • Enforce the laws on the books to remove encampments, and drug dealers from our streets.
  • Manage growth and traffic so we can enjoy the peaceful oasis of Culver City.
  • Reduce crime in our City so our streets are safe.
  • Stop the state and surrounding cities from forcing their agenda on us.
  • Solve our financial crises and get a handle on our pension liabilities.

The truth of the matter is that the minorities disenfranchised by the historic racism of Culver City’s housing policies are now living in Culver City neighborhoods, in single family homes.  Once the discriminatory laws were removed, we were able to purchase homes wherever we wanted.

The issue was never “affordability” it was “accessibility”. 

Therefore, save the apology and the progressive agenda to “up-zone away poverty”.

Please just protect the beautiful City we love and preserve the amazing quality of life it has to offer us all.

December 9th Council Meeting Recap

As promised, our final council meeting of the year delivered quite the goodybag of issues.  Residents spoke out on a number of issues, including some of us at Protect Culver City.  Let’s recap:

To start the meeting, a few of us spoke about our petition to agendize criminal vagrancy at a future council meeting.  Nupur Tustin, and Lisa and Frank Clark gave very impassioned speeches about the state of affairs at the Venice/405 camp and how it’s affecting their neighborhoods. 

I also spoke about the rising threat of criminal vagrancy, distinguishing it from homelessness, and offered PCC’s help to council in combating this problem.  My main point: “If somebody decides to sleep on our streets or in our parks, and we have somewhere to send them, can we move them?”

Council quickly made it obvious they wanted to be no part of the solution.  Mayor Sahli-Wells instead discussed the “crisis of homelessness”, saying “The way you address homelessness is by ensuring people have a home.”  This led to jeers and a verbal altercation between council and the audience.

Both councilman Eriksson and city manager John Nachbar welcomed residents to contact them about dealing with this issue.  PCC has reached out to Nachbar for help.  But make no mistake.  If council addresses this crime issue, which everyone in the area is experiencing in desparate proportions, as a “housing” issue?  This is a total failure of moral clarity about the problem.  It can only result in further freefall and disaster for our city.

I called them out on this issue at the C-13 item, regarding an assistant to the city manager on homelessness.  This is meant to streamline our operations in dealing with vagrancy, and as I mentioned in my earlier comment, we’d be willing to support this.  But, I continued: “I find the fact that we’re discussing as a housing issue is a lie!  …you can’t solve this problem if you call this a housing issue, no matter how many cops we have, no matter how many employees or lawyers we have.  We need the moral clarity to discuss this as a crime issue.”

Item A-1 – discussing the police drone program – was a surprising progress over earlier hearings.  We didn’t have our usual anti-police contingency smearing our PD as murdering cops.  The progress report was very positive, and council was supportive.  It was almost uneventful, except for FD battalion chief Kolhep saying the drone “helped us rule out all non-arson causes” (1:27:15 in the meeting video) regarding the July 22nd 99c store fire.  We’ll be following up on that. 

Item A-5 was our other major item: discussing the cost of the rent control program.  A few people spoke out saying the cost was too prohibitive, given we’re in a financial crisis as a city.  I don’t think that’s the best argument, which is why I didn’t speak about it.  Sure enough, Mayor Sahli-Wells said “budgets are value statements” implying that if the program yields a net benefit to the city, it’s worth the cost.

The problem with Wells’s arguments about the value of the program (4:09:00) is, we challenge the veracity of all of them. 

She claims “we got here because of a grassroots effort of residents in this city.”  It was such a grassroots effort that candidates Fisch and Lee avoided the issue of rent control entirely, and Fisch claimed outright he opposes rent control.  Indeed, nobody ran on the issue, and even debate moderators said it was off the table. 

She claims the movement was a combination of renters and sympathetic homeowners (i.e. herself and her friends).  It was such a widespread movement that despite months of underground organizing she only managed to get a few dozen signed cards supporting rent control for the June meeting.  Meanwhile, we at PCC are getting such a groundswell of support we’re straining our ability to deal with all the intake.  Unlike the alleged tenant’s fear of landlords, who can face all sorts of legal trouble for retaliation, residents live in very real fear of a retaliatory council and their supporters.

To add insult to injury, Mayor Wells continues to tie rent control to the “extreme moment of high homelessness.”  Even she contradicts herself in her own official homelessness video, when she says the homeless “come to Culver City because they feel safe.”

Such a conflation didn’t stop her from claiming “we need the data … based on facts on the ground, not scare tactics.”

This litany of baldfaced lies prompted Judy Scott, longtime LTMB member, to come up and give an impromptu rebuttal (4:25:00).  “For fourteen years, I’ve done exactly two mediations of over 50% increase, both done by sale of the property…. What you want me to believe is, hordes of people been priced out of their homes, not one of them filed for a mediation request…because in the past three years, the highest increase we’ve mediated was 15%.”

Mayor Wells’ only reply was “I know we have a lot of examples that don’t fall within what was just shared with us.”  And that’s all we ever hear from her.  Always anonymous anecdotes, never verifiable, because they don’t exist.  Her claims that “tenants are afraid” is easily refuted by the fact mediations are confidential.  Her own consultants, Bay Area Economics, pointed out that rents among multifamily units only rose about 3% annually in the past 5 years – contrasted with the 80% increase in home prices over the same period.

These should be our arguments with rent control – not the cost, or what it’ll do to landlords.  Despite throwing around the claim of “fair return”, Mayor Wells prides herself in making enemies among landlords, and said “rent controlled landlords are doing fine.” 

Rather, our contention is twofold.  One, it’s a lot of nonsense. 

But two - and this is the big one for renters - it kills the rental market.  Meghan continued to praise the one eviction they managed to save (from the effects of their own rent control program).  Meanwhile, we at PCC we’re already seeing the disastrous conclusions of just the interim freeze.  One testimonial after another of vacated units, properties going up for sale, renters scrambling for what rare unit is left, etc.

To their credit, we are seeing one high vacancy rate – these new luxury condos being built, way out of anybody’s price range at $3000-6000+ per unit.  It’s certainly a consensus of suspicion that the real goal of rent control is to force the older more affordable multifamily units off the market.  This forces people either into newer more expensive units or onto the new normal of street living.  

But going down that road gets us lost in webs of conspiracy. 

Rather, we should invoke what may be the one public comment that mattered: the very first one by Katherine Makinney (0:07:30): “The broader issue is that council is not going to listen.”  This total failure to face up to facts, to listen and dialogue with residents, this deliberate conflation of housing with crime – these are the red flags of a rogue council with an alien agenda. 

Letter to council regarding the rent freeze “urgency” clause

Hi there, Ron here. I wrote the following letter to council regarding the rent freeze, questioning the urgency of it. All five councilmemebers and the city attorney got some version of this letter. It references section 10 of the LA County's rent freeze.

"I’m concerned about the urgency clause about your rent freeze measure set for vote Monday the 12th.  You have not given any evidence of the rapidly rising rents or price gouging that you claim exists in Culver City.  Indeed Goran Eriksson called attention to this point.  At the June 24th meeting, he said he was asking for real data so he could understand “what is reality?” 

Instead, up until now, all we have to go by is the Los Angeles unincorporated county’s rent freeze proposal.  It’s the typical lawfare tactics we've become all too used to lately.  By enacting this in LA, they created a precedent where the stakeholders (i.e. multifamily owners) aren't significant enough to try contesting it.  Then you try to apply it somewhere like Culver City where the stakeholders are significant.  Knowing full well that to try to contest this claim would cost a prohibitive sum in the courts.  This tactic is unethical and sullies our legal system.

Furthermore, it leaves us wondering if we are actually having a conversation about rents, or whether we're getting railroaded with this, despite the protests of residents.  And it makes us wonder if we still have a good faith relationship with you and the city council.  

If we do not see any evidence of a conversation, if this does go through as our more cynical residents expect, then the only conversation left is what ballot measures we can work with to make our voices heard.

That being said, here are the issues I see with the LA Unincorporated rent freeze – namely with section 10, the call to urgency you’re referencing.  Letters reference the subsections:

A. County needs an additional ½ million homes to meet demand.  And yet the flood of new regulations has caused new apartment building applications to drop over 40%. Who wants to invest in housing with the threat of statewide rent control and other regulations?  Government cronies with bloated building contracts will be the only ones left.

B. May 2018 – how’s that compared to earlier?  2013?  2008?  How much of this is rising rents, how much is an unchanging metric, how much of this is a poorer demographic moving into the city?

C. Average apartment rents increased over 25% in 5 years – that’s only 5% per year.  Far slower than the 80% home price rise.  You're essentially calling urgency over a 1% difference in rent raises between what you want and what the market has borne.

D. 77% “rent burdened” – again, how much of this has changed over the past five years, and how much of it is a fact of life?  This is a statistic that is historically ignored in LA – to live here in the city, or in any high-rent city, is to be “rent burdened.”  People pay a premium to live in the city.

E. This is the big one, and is utterly disingenuous.  It makes no measure of how many of our new “homeless” population are addicts and petty criminals let loose on the streets due to props 47, 57, and AB109.  First responders agree that generally the “homeless” have serious drug and mental health issues.  Dr Drew has also been pressing this point.  Indeed the very term “homeless” is a disingenuous term to describe such people.  With no regular means of livelihood, they are more appropriately described as vagrants.

F.  The city of Los Angeles has a demonstrated history of packing its committees and public meetings with its own advocates.  We must acknowledge this.M.  Repeating E - the bigger threat to public welfare is the state backing out of the public safety business.  Law enforcement is left powerless to deal with drug addicts and petty criminals.