Measure B, rent control go beyond partisan lines

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Judy Scott, one of the signees behind the official argument for Measure B and rebuttal to argument against Measure B, says she feels the measure is necessary for people to be heard on rent control. (Judy Scott)

For Culver City, there are two local measures that are both focused on real estate, but both have totally different origins. Measure RE has been brought forth by the council as a way to affect property taxes in the city, and may seem like a typical bill to some.

Measure B is a completely different beast, rooted in over a year of heated arguments between city council and many of its constituents. It was placed on the ballot by way of petition, and represents a rebellion by the people, attempting to overturn what they believe to be unjust policy rooted in political agenda and enacted without considering input from those they serve.

Measure B would require that any ordinance pertaining to rent control be subject to a vote, as opposed to simply being at the discretion of a city council vote. In addition, because the Measure would retroactively apply starting from Jan. 1, 2019, any rent control enacted by the council after that time — which would include the Interim Rent Control Ordinance (IRCO) and the current Rent Control Ordinance set to take effect on Oct. 30 — would be effectively repealed.

Judy Scott, a 43 year resident of Culver City and rental property owner who considers herself a progressive, is one of those supporting Measure B, and was one of the signees on both the argument in favor and rebuttal to argument against the measure officially submitted to the city. She says that she agrees with Ron Bassilian — head of the Protect Culver City PAC who championed this measure — on “very, very little, politically” besides Measure B and rent control.

For Scott and many of those aligned with Measure B, the message is the same: despite the forums and attempts at face value by the council to show that people were being considered, they felt as if their complaints were going in one ear and out of the other. As expressed at council meetings, Scott and other smaller scale landlords believe that the care they have given to their residents was being repaid with distrust in order to serve the individual political bases of the councilmembers. 

“It is tragic that people as progressive as me would have to come to the conclusion that while your positions are very different, your policies are the same as the Trump administration,” Scott lamented. “You only care about your base.” 

While plenty of requests from landlords went unanswered, several provisions were added to the permanent rent control ordinance in response to public comments, including a rent increase floor to go alongside the cap and pass through relief for “mom and pop” landlords, though the definition of two or fewer units that qualifies as a “mom and pop” is too strict for Scott, who owns six units.

Additionally, several councilmembers — particularly vice mayor Alex Fisch and councilman Thomas Small — have been sure to emphasize that they do not believe that rent control is something that will fix the housing crisis, instead referring to it as an “anti-displacement measure.”

However, Scott and others dispute the implication that the passage of Measure B would end up causing displacement, but neither side has provided statistics directly proving those facts. The only thing of that nature that has been provided is the statistics on the percentage of burdened renters in Culver City.

One of the other major concerns from Measure B supporters is the idea that many of the councilmembers in office did not run with rent control as their platform. While councilmember Daniel Lee rebuked this assumption regarding him personally, Scott says that Fisch had told her personally that he did not agree with rent control. 

“I talked to him prior to his election about rent control and what was damaging about it, particularly to us, and he looked me right in the eye and said ‘Judy, I do not believe rent control is an effective solution for the housing problem,’” Scott recalled. Scott was offended by the betrayal of trust, and doesn’t believe that the idea that he ‘changed his mind,’ due to new circumstances was not a sufficient excuse to violate the trust she had in him. 

Additionally, this decision was made in the wake of Assembly Bill 1482, which went into effect Jan. 1. Supporters of Measure B point to AB 1482, and the fact that it hasn’t been given time to see whether or not it works, as a reason to not pass local rent control.

Proponents of the rent control ordinance who are against Measure B say that the regulations outlined by AB 1482 do not reflect the needs of more expensive cost of living on the Westside.

The proponents believe that the money used to enforce the program — estimated to be around $1-1.5 million — could be spent differently. This is a point that mayor Goran Eriksson has championed, in particular pointing to the city’s Rental Assistance Program as a more productive way to spend that money.