Rent control for Long Beach might appear on the November 2018 ballot if the initiative’s backers can collect enough signatures from local residents. A minimum of 27,000 verified signatures of Long Beach voters is needed for the proposal to make it onto the ballot, according to City Attorney Charles Parkin. That figure accounts for 10% of all registered voters in the city.
Housing Long Beach, a local nonprofit dedicated to supporting affordable housing, is the main organization behind the push. Accompanied by other local activists and supporters, Executive Director Josh Butler delivered a notice of intent to circulate a petition for a rent control ballot initiative to City Clerk Monique DeLaGarza on November 8.
But once the notice was forwarded to the city attorney, it became apparent that the submitted paperwork was incomplete, as it did not include the proposed language of the rent control initiative. Parkin told the Business Journal that this is required under the city elections code. DeLaGarza sent Butler a letter explaining this the following day, and her office also called him, Parkin said.
Once the correct paperwork is filed with the city clerk’s office, it will be passed off to Parkin. “Then we write the ballot title and summary. And then we return it,” Parkin said. Housing Long Beach would then submit the petition to be used for collecting signatures, and the city clerk would certify the document if it meets certain requirements under the municipal code, he explained.
After that, “the clock starts” – the group has 180 days to collect signatures following certification of the petition. “The only thing would be [that] if they wait too long they may not have enough time to collect [signatures] to meet the November ballot. But right now, that’s not an issue,” Parkin said.
As of November 17, Butler had not resubmitted the notice to circulate a petition with the attached ordinance language, according to Parkin.
Butler told the Business Journal that his organization is working with the Long Beach Gray Panthers, an education and advocacy group for seniors that advocates for affordable housing, and two groups from California State University, Long Beach: the Black Student Union and Students for Quality Education.
“We’ll be doing a lot of grassroots fundraising. We’re going to try to do our best to raise money to support the effort,” Butler said, adding that the initiative will also rely on volunteers.
Asked if the rent control initiative had any city or city council support, Butler said, “I don’t know. That’s a good question.” Mayor Robert Garcia was unavailable for comment on the matter.
“Over 60% of Long Beach rents, and our renter population here in Long Beach deserves stability,” Butler said. “Families deserve stability and our seniors deserve stability as well. It’s long overdue for Long Beach. We are the largest population of renters on the West Coast, from San Diego to Seattle, without any basic renter protections.”
Joani Weir, president of Better Housing for Long Beach, a grassroots organization of property owners and community members, argued that rent control actually causes rental rates to increase. She explained that locking in rental rates makes it difficult for owners to keep up with the costs associated with their properties, and can either drive them out of business or cause them to raise rents “as high as possible” when a tenant moves out.
“Housing Long Beach is actually increasing rents in Long Beach right now by putting this fear in property owners,” Weir said. “Myself, I haven’t raised rents in years. But now the fear of it [rent control] has caused me to start increasing my rents because you don’t want to get caught, if rent control does go through, in rent [rates] where you can’t stay in business.”
Weir said that property owners did not create the housing crisis, and that, as providers of housing, they should not be penalized for a crisis they did not create. She said she has been expecting Butler to come forward with a rent control initiative for some time.