3% rent increase cap would provide security, if not relief, for some tenants in unincorporated areas

By Gary Walker

The new Neptune Marina Apartments is replacing 136 aging townhomes, once among the area’s most affordable, with more than 500 new units
Press photo via LargoConcrete.com
Press photo via LargoConcrete.com

Apartment hunters in Marina del Rey would be hard-pressed to find even a tiny studio apartment for less than $2,000 a month, and ApartmentList.com pegs the current median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the marina at $3,593 — up more than 17% from the summer of 2014. Renters who want to live by the harbor continue to face relentless demand for Westside real estate and new construction favoring higher-end units.

In the context of soaring rents throughout the region and housing affordability becoming an increasingly hot-button political issue, some local leaders are looking to limit the financial burden on renters in unincorporated areas, including Marina
del Rey.

At their July 31 meeting, the L.A. County Board of Super-visors will consider an interim rent control ordinance that would cap rent increases for existing tenants at 3% a year through January 2019, with an option to extend those protections for another six months.

“In Marina del Rey it would impact apartments that were constructed prior to 1995, which is most of the ones that we have here in the marina,” said Michael Tripp, the county planner for Marina del Rey.

In 1995 state lawmakers adopted the Costa-Hawkins Act, an increasingly controversial law that restricts local government agencies from expanding rent control to newer buildings.

That means newer developments such as Shores, AMLI, Esprit, Admiralty Apartments and Neptune Marina Apartments wouldn’t be affected by the rent control proposal, Tripp said, but Mariners Village, Dolphin Marina Apartments and others built prior to 1995 would likely be rent-control eligible.

Efforts to repeal Costa-Hawkins led by state Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D – Santa Monica) have been unsuccessful, but California voters will get the chance to weigh in this fall. The political action group Californians for Community Empowerment gathered more than 560,000 signatures — they only needed 365,800 — to put Proposition 10 on the November ballot.

More than a year ago, county supervisors directed interim county Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai to create a tenant protection working group, which is expected to report back in August with policy recommendations that could impact the implementation of a longer-term rent-control ordinance.

“The group has been meeting every two weeks since January, and their next meeting will be July 25,” said Douglas Baron, who oversees the county’s master planning division.

Supervisor Shelia Kuehl, whose district includes Venice and Santa Monica, is cosponsoring the rent-control proposal with Supervisor Hilda Solis, but she declined to comment for this story, relaying that it was premature to discuss the proposal before a final draft goes public.

Supervisor Janice Hahn, whose district includes Marina del Rey, also declined to comment for this story, but she’s previously voiced support for the creation of new affordable housing units in Marina del Rey.

Kuehl and Hahn worked together last year to pass rent controls for mobile home parks.

The California Apartment Association contends that the supervisors are rushing a rent control policy through without consulting apartment owners, and the trade group is encouraging its members to oppose it.

“Rent control is not an affordable mechanism, as it is not
based on income or a person’s ability to pay,” said Beverly Kenworthy, vice president of public affairs for CAA Los Angeles. “The studies are clear: Price controls will make the housing crisis worse.”

Bloom is applauding Kuehl
and Solis for making an effort to stabilize local rent burdens.

“The state is suffering from a housing crisis,” Bloom said.
“We have a shortfall of over a million and a half affordable units in the state. The question for us is what form of assistance can we provide to these tenants who could become homeless
with the next rent increase.”

The city of Los Angeles currently applies a 3% rent increase cap to rental units built before 1978. Unincorporated areas briefly enacted rent stabili-
zation in the mid-1980s, but supervisors allowed that provision to sunset before the end of that decade, said Michael Wilson, a spokesman for the county’s chief executive office.