On Monday, July 16 the tenants at 120 S. Roosevelt Ave. shared their stories at Pasadena City Hall due to receiving 60-day notices to vacate their units. The tenants were forced to move and did not receive moving cost assistance. The tenants included low-income Section 8 tenants, Armenian and Spanish speaking community members, refugees from Syria and Iraq and a community that had a network of support for multi-generational tenants. Until Pasadena has a rent control and just cause policy, the Pasadena Tenants Union said they will continue to witness the displacement of their community due to 60-day notices to vacate and outrageous rent increases.
On Monday night, City Council members came together, according to Mayor Terry Tornek, to discuss the current Tenant Protection Ordinance (TPO) of Pasadena. Tornek explained, “Our objective is not to amend or adopt a new TPO, but we are opening a conversation with Council Members and the public regarding this issue.”
Several community members stepped forward to express their concerns.
Aaron Markowitz, a tenant and a PTU member said, “While I am pleased to see the city considering measures designed to help tenants and build community in Pasadena, I feel the four options recommended come up short – they all rely on imposing a small cost on landlords to bandage over what is really a financial emergency for tenants and a devastating blow to our communities.
“The first option would require landlords to pay a relocation benefit for people who maintain tenancy for more than 10 years. Nothing stops landlords from raising rents in the 9th year, and this option would not have protected all of the tenants at 102 S. Roosevelt Ave. Moreover, now they have been kicked out of their homes it wouldn‘t protect them for another 10 years – like countless working-class families who have already been forced to move due to skyrocketing costs.
“Option 2 deals with the household income limits for receiving relocation benefits. These restrictions should be eliminated. Landlords already discriminate against poor tenants by extending housing only to wealthier tenants, and an income limit would effectively make wealthy tenants more attractive to landlords.
“Option 3 relies on landlords voluntarily reporting their intention to re-rent units at a higher cost. This leaves little protection for tenants, who in the event that a landlord chooses not to disclose their future plans for the unit would be forced to pursue costly legal proceedings to hold landlords accountable.
“Option 4 seeks to discourage large rent hikes. The Pasadena Tenants Union has outlined a set of rent control measures that would be a more effective means of keeping rents under control, but if option 4 is adopted the city council should keep in mind that Zillow research has found that a 5 percent rent increase is directly linked to homelessness – and that given the years-long growth in housing costs, the Pasadena Tenants Union is advocating for a rent freeze across Pasadena.
“In conclusion, I’d like to sincerely thank the members of the housing department for the work they do to prioritize the majority of Pasadena residents, tenants. I hope the city council will listen to the voices of tenants who ask that you [to] not only make the Tenant Protection Ordinance stronger, but go much further in implementing rent control and just cause as outlined on the Pasadena Tenants’ Union website (pasadenatenantsunion.com).
“We gathered over 10,200 signatures in support of our charter amendment for rent control and just cause in Pasadena last year, which proves that Pasadenans know exactly what kind of tenant protections we want. The housing crisis will only get worse in Pasadena until renters get the relief we need and deserve.”
Resident Francisco Vargas expressed:
“My name is Francisco Vargas, I have been a Pasadena resident all of my life and I’m currently residing at 2433 White St. I am here tonight because I would love to see if this council can help me and my children solve my current living situation.
“For almost six years now, my children and I have had to deal with living with rats, getting bit by all kinds of insects and be stung by bees. Besides living under these circumstances, I have to deal with the outrages rent increases every year. I went from paying $875 to now paying $1,300. My landlord holds no responsibility when it comes to fixing and maintaining housing livable for any of his tenants.
“My kids had to be taken to the hospital because of the insect bites, I have had to chase rats in the middle of the night to keep them from biting my children, [and] they have been stung by bees and all because of my landlord’s negligence to do something about it, even after being cited by the city inspector. I have had to fix plumbing problems because my landlord refused to pay a professional company to take care of it. My children and I had to clean mold around the walls of the apartment because he does not want to put new paint, which affects my daughter’s asthma conditions very much. I really would love to see if this council can please do something about all of this.”
Joe Bautista, a landlord and PTU member said, “If someone kicks you out of your building, being kicked out is like being tossed to the sea, and if you are provided with a relocation fee that will keep you safe only temporarily, like a life raft or life jacket. It’s by no means a substitute for what was taken away from you, namely housing. As a city we should strive to find ways in which people cannot be forced to move out of their homes either through eviction or being priced out. This is where affordable housing and rent control intersect. Housing can be designed or intended to be affordable, but that’s not enough; we need to keep it affordable – so that people don’t get ‘tossed to sea’. “
PTU supports a temporary Tenant Protection Ordinance Option, until Rent Control and Just Cause is established, to include the following:
- No evictions without cause, with the exception of California State Law No Fault Evictions.
- Relocation funds for all tenants, not based on income and length of residency.
- PTU advocates for a rent freeze.
City Council ended the discussion without a time line or a plan in place regarding tenant displacement.