Where’s the problem with rent control?
Re: “The real problem is rent control,” (Argonaut letters, Aug. 15).
The letter writer usually represents apartment owners’ interests very professionally. I was therefore surprised to see some fundamental misstatements in his recent letter. I realize The Argonaut can’t fact check every letter to the editor, but at least one mistake in this one was too serious to ignore.
That was the claim that “most housing providers and apartment owners and developers will not come into Los Angeles because of the oppressive rent control protocols.”
Hello? New construction isn’t even covered by rent control. The Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) applies only to units that existed in 1978 when the law was passed. All new units are exempt from RSO. The only new housing with any mandatory rent restriction is a small number of units the Mello Act requires to be registered as affordable housing units. The Mello Act is a statewide statute that has nothing to do with city policies or the RSO.
The city did make one attempt to impose an inclusionary requirement in the Central City West Specific Plan, but it was thrown out by the California Court of Appeal in Palmer/Sixth Street Properties L.P. v. City of Los Angeles.
Owners of units built post-1978 can charge what the market will bear, and no, the city doesn’t stop them from passing through any expenses they deem appropriate, such as electric or trash rate hikes.
Aside from those Mello Act units, the only rent-restricted units post-1978 are those built voluntarily as registered “affordable” low and moderate income units. No one forces developers to build these. They do it because providing affordable units buys them density bonuses and loosens other zoning restrictions as well, such as heights, setbacks, and floor area ratio. It also brings tax advantages and often gives developers access to special government subsidies. Should taxpayers get nothing in return?
The letter writer is right that the city, state and federal governments need to do a much better job of helping provide affordable housing to those in desperate need. I would love to hear his specific suggestions for a “creative/innovative/special Section 8 voucher program which would be acceptable to L.A. city housing providers.” It would help if they were acceptable to neighbors, as well.
But the letter writer stands reality on its head when he suggests that the government is victimizing apartment owners and protests that a “housing provider… should not subsidize this problem.” It’s the housing providers whom the government subsidizes under the present system, which often seems designed more for developers’ benefit than for those in need of homes.
David Ewing

Moving beyond vitriol on wetland restoration
Re: “Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission decides to leave watershed task force,” (Argonaut, Aug. 15).
The Friends of Ballona Wetlands are but one interest group that will not miss the vitriol spewed by self-appointed eco-crusaders at the Ballona Watershed Task Force meetings.
We applaud the Bay Restoration Commission leadership for leading our exodus to the promised land. This spring’s dedication of the Malibu Lagoon Restoration Project was symbolic of wise public policy leading good governance, and of statewide and national leadership herding provincial local politics and individual self-serving campaigns of blatant misinformation. Most importantly, it bodes well for a comprehensive Ballona Wetlands restoration, the next pseudo-eco battle on the L.A. coast.
Despite scores of successful publicly funded wetlands restoration projects since the California Coastal Act was voted into existence in the 1970s, local gadflies continue to oppose this noble cause. Motives unclear, a small, cohesive band of well-meaning but technically challenged souls have campaigned up and down our golden coast to oppose wetland restoration. The rebel yells are consistent: “it’s not natural; don’t use bulldozers, biota will be harmed; it’s a waste of tax dollars.” Driven by a belief system akin to creationism and lacking any scientific merit, all are baseless fabrications.
As with many preceding successes, Malibu Lagoon is already returning to a thriving natural ecosystem, and in a few years, rapidly multiplying biota abundance and diversity will eclipse the former degraded habitat. Even litigation costs were a good investment, since defense of each frivolous case renders the next more contrived, straining the sympathy of our judiciary.
Second only to Griffith Park, a restored Ballona Wetlands will be the largest publicly accessible open space natural habitat, protected from development, in the city of Los Angeles. With well-regulated public trails and interpretive facilities, a restored Ballona Wetlands will provide our open space-constrained metropolis with a massive, scenic and ecologically rich habitat for recreational and educational opportunities long dreamed of by pioneers of environmental policy.
The Malibu Lagoon operetta renewed our faith in lawmakers and agency professionals to dig deep, brace for the long haul, and execute the visions of our predecessors to deliberately and inexorably restore the 95 percent of California tidal wetlands infilled by ignorant but well-meaning policies of the last millennium.
The Ballona Wetlands is our next and largest challenge in this odyssey. Let us join arms and move forward against the junk scientists and their flocks to reclaim that magnificent resource for our children. They are depending on us.
David W. Kay
President, board of directors,
Friends of Ballona Wetlands

A stand for rent control
Re: “The real problem is rent control,” (Argonaut letters, Aug. 15).
It’s easy to blame rent control when a person is ignorant about the law. For example, the letter writer misinformed the public when he wrote: “most housing providers and apartment owners and developers will not come into Los Angeles because of the oppressive rent control protocols.” As a retired attorney who represented tenants living in rent-controlled units, I have the following basic information to share.
First, the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance (LAMC 151.00, et al) only applies to residential rental units with certificates of occupancy issued before Oct. 1, 1978. This means that all residential rental units built over the past 35 years are not subject to rent control. Second, while the L.A. Housing Department does regulate the percentage (up to 5 percent) that a landlord can increase the annual rent, a landlord can raise the rent to market each time a tenant vacates the rent controlled unit.
Third, if the landlord makes capital improvements to the rental unit, the L.A. Housing Department allows the landlord to make an additional increase in the annual rent in order to recoup the cost of those improvements. And finally, the landlord generally has lower turnover costs because rent-controlled units are older and attract a certain kind of renter who statistically will live in the unit more than 10 years.
As for the “oppressive protocols,” the writer did not provide support for this statement. However, he should know that the L.A. Housing Department regularly provides workshops to assist landlords and developers, and thereby encouraging investment in rent-controlled buildings. Information, http://lahd.lacity.org/lahdinternet/.
Jan Book
Marina del Rey

The ethics debate
Re: “Members of land use committee not in compliance with ethics training,” (Argonaut, Aug. 8).
This was a good article, well written, but not the whole story. Restricting membership on a neighborhood council committee via a standing rule is not playing the game fairly. If there is to be restriction of participation in anything it must be placed in the bylaws by the whole community in a proper election.
Moreover, any working person who volunteers service in Los Angeles would think twice about serving in a neighborhood council after reading the city Code of Ethics. It was written in 1959 and amended in 1979. Its precepts are not in sync with today – 54 and 34 years later.
How many of us neighborhood council board or committee members, under that Code of Ethics, could live up to the order to not have any interest, direct or indirect, in any business or transaction… in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of their official duties? Come on! Substantial conflict? How about just a little? Who knows whether or not they have a conflict?
My retirement allotment is a minuscule amount from the billions in a county fund containing more stuff than I can add up. I have no idea what in heck they are investing in. Working people today who contribute to their retirement via mutual funds are in the same boat. The language of that old Code of Ethics can be interpreted to eliminate most of us from civic duties. But why should it even be required for the land use and planning committee in Venice since ownership of plots or projects are discoverable in the applications to the committee?
Like many political expressions of power and authority, regulation is one of those things that easily gets out of hand. It looks and sounds good to ask people to know something about ethics. And I am all for that. Study of the situation ethics of combining bicycles, scooters, skateboards and pedestrians with motorized vehicles is becoming more important every day here in Venice. But the current requirement of the Venice Neighborhood Council, a strictly advisory group, for committee members to jump through the hoops of an ethics program based on precepts of yesterday is, in my opinion, just regulation for the purpose of feeling the power of holding office.
It frightens people who might otherwise serve and it does nothing to deter those who lie. We have a new mayor who, I believe, wants to bring some sense to management at City Hall. In the meanwhile, the repairing of potholes is being well received. Thank you Argonaut for bringing this to the attention of stakeholders in Venice.
DeDe Audet

Shining a light on ethics requirements
Re: “Members of land use committee not in compliance with ethics training,” (Argonaut, Aug. 8).
Although the article, in my opinion and others, made it appear as if an ethics breach by the Land Use and Planning Committee occurred, rest assured that everyone who voted at the Aug. 7 meeting had taken the training. I stand by my decision to honor the spirit of the board motion to require ethics training by Aug. 1 and you can be sure that no one on the Venice Neighborhood Council board, LUPC or Budget Committee has or will vote on any financial or land use matters without having taken (or renewed) the training.
Thank you for continuing to shine a light on neighborhood councils and keeping us on our toes. I appreciate the emphasis you place on the importance of ethics by neighborhood council leaders who are accountable for taxpayers’ dollars given to them by the city.
As your articles have often pointed out, the Venice Neighborhood Council leads the city by requiring ethics training for its board members and has set the bar even higher now by requiring our Land Use and Planning and Budget committee members to take the training prior to voting on any financial or land use matters.
I challenge other neighborhood councils to impose that requirement on their committee members as well.
Linda Lucks
Venice Neighborhood Council