Council continues to discuss approach to coronavirus pandemic

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As Los Angeles County begins its reopening process, Culver City’s city council discussed several important aspects in their approach towards the coronavirus pandemic. At the forefront of the conversation was the tumultuous rent situation, as rental owners worry about sustaining themselves and their properties without rental payments with the existing rent moratorium in place, while renters fear the inability to pay the back rent owed after so many months either out of a job entirely or with dramatically reduced hours.

The first action item on the agenda was the confirmation of the eighth and ninth supplement to the COVID-19 public order. While the ninth supplement was an minor extension of the Safe at Home order, the eighth supplement, which was introduced on April 27, extends the grace period for repaying rent from six months to twelve months.

This grace period is also only meant for residential properties, which council quickly seperated from commerical properties. 

To that end, several ideas were discussed, mainly based around differentiating businesses based on size and other factors to determine their grace period. The measure was passed, but continued discussion on the particulars of the approach towards commercial properties will occur at the council meeting on May 18, at which time the city council is hoping that Los Angeles County will have made a decision on the matter to use as a framework.

The next major topic was the potential introduction of a repayment plan policy. Vice Mayor Alex Fisch worked with city staff to identify 12 potential plans from cities around California.

There were two ideas in particular that came from this search. One came from Emoryville, where tenants cannot be given an eviction notice unless the landlord can provide proof that a reasonable repayment plan was offered before the notice was given.

Another aspect that caught Fisch’s eye was the idea that the repayment plans are voluntary on both ends, and the city remains largely uninvolved.

“We want to try and make sure that the relationship between tenant and landlord isn’t adversarial,” councilmember Daniel Lee said.

“We need to encourage communication betweem the two parties,” Mayor Eriksson said. 

Just as with the considerations of the public order, this repayment plan policy only applies to residential properties, and decisions on commercial properties would be held off until Los Angeles County released their own plan.

The city is also looking towards helping the businesses in Culver City get back on their feet by allowing them to set up outdoor areas to serve. This would assist with the ease of service for restaurants, as well as increased exposure with the displays outside stores and restaurants. These set ups would not be allowed to impede with pedestrian or vehicle traffic, and will follow ADA guidelines. While this is currently focused on restaurants in downtown, there is optimism that similar policies can be applied to other businesses in Culver City. More information can be found on the agenda item on the Culver City Meeting Calendar.

Additionally, the nighttime park program that has helped the city’s homeless population was given the approval to continue, with hopes that a more permanent solution will be discussed soon. An economic recovery task force was also officially created to help advise as to how the city will recover.

Another major development was the acceptance of a ballot initiative to put the pre-COVID-19 rent control ordinance and other similar rent control policies up to city vote. A petition circulated by PAC Protect Culver City recieved enough signatures under Los Angeles County law, and the city council moved to place the initiative on the upcoming ballot.