There's A New Attempt To Get Rent Control On The Ballot In Pasadena

A for rent sign is posted on an apartment building on February 1, 2017 in Los Angeles (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

For a second time, tenant rights organizers are trying to get a rent control measure on the ballot in Pasadena.

They tried and failed to get enough signatures for a similar measure last year. This time around, they believe that a deepening housing affordability crisis will drive up support in a city where 56 percent of residents are renters.

"More and more people are either facing the crisis head on, or they know neighbors who are facing this crisis," said organizer Vasilije Dobrosavljevic with the Pasadena Tenants Union.

"Awareness and really deep concern about affordable housing is constantly increasing," he said.

The Pasadena Tenants Union is one of several groups — they're calling themselves the Pasadena Tenant Justice Coalition — that together launched a campaign this week to put a citywide rent control and eviction protection measure before voters in November 2020.

The details of the ballot measure aren't set in stone yet, but Dobrosavljevic said they hope to cap annual rent increases at the rate of inflation and bar landlords from evicting tenants without a "just cause," such as failure to pay rent or damaging the property.

Organizers are going straight to the voters because they say city officials aren't supportive.

Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek said the city council did recently vote to expand tenant protections, requiring landlords to provide relocation assistance under certain circumstances. But he said rent control would hinder the creation of new housing in the city.

"People are frustrated and looking for solutions," Tornek said. "There's obvious interest in the issue and everybody's got an idea. I just think this is a bad one."

At first, the organizers are focusing on building support through canvassing, holding tenant rights workshops and reaching out to local community groups. They plan to start collecting signatures in the fall.

Proposition 10, a statewide ballot measure that would have allowed local governments to expand rent control, failed by a wide margin last November. But in Pasadena, organizers note that nearly 55 percent of voters in the city supported it.

"So just from that, we already see that Pasadena is a city committed to housing justice," Dobrosavljevic said.

Despite recent setbacks, the organizers hope to build on momentum that has brought new rent caps to unincorporated Los Angeles County and the city of Inglewood. Anti-rent gouging legislation has also been introduced by lawmakers in Sacramento.

Of course, the campaign will face opposition from local property owners.

"This proposed ballot measure is an all-out frontal attack on capitalism and property rights in Pasadena," Dan Yukelson of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles wrote in an email to LAist.

"Retreaded housing policies like rent control do not work to solve housing shortages or homelessness for San Francisco, Los Angeles or other cities," Yukelson said. "So why try them in Pasadena?"

Due to state law, any rent control passed by voters in Pasadena would only apply to apartments built before 1995. Renters in single family homes and condos would be excluded from the measure.