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HomeCity NewsSouth Pasadena Renter Protection Initiative Hits Snag as Registry Fails

South Pasadena Renter Protection Initiative Hits Snag as Registry Fails

By Eric Licas
The Review

The creation of a rental registry that would have been the foundation for renters’ protection programs in South Pasadena failed to win approval from the City Council amid concern expressed by public commenters who described themselves as “housing providers” at the March 6 meeting.
City staff had explored creating a registry to compile information about the location, condition and number of units at every rental property across the city. In the short-term, that information could have been used to help code enforcement officials plan inspections or contact landlords to address critical maintenance issues.
Long-term, the data collected by the registry could have formed the basis for rent stabilization and other measures intended to support tenants, Deputy Community Development Director Alison Becker said. It was supposed to be the starting point for plans to enhance and protect the rights of renters in South Pasadena, which was laid out in the city’s recently passed housing element.
“There are four programs associated with that goal,” Becker said. “The rental registry, again, is the very first step to just getting a handle on the universe of what our rental market is.”
Currently, South Pasadena’s Community Development Department uses third party programs that track rental listings in order to get information about properties or their owners, Becker said. It would have cost the city about $14,190 to set up the apps associated with their own in-house registry.
Councilmembers were keen to note that additional funding would likely be needed to collect the information and operate the program. Though City Council acknowledged it had committed to the creation of the registry when it approved the city’s housing element, that was before fully understanding the dire budget prospects. Since then, and amid projections of a $3.7 million budget deficit by the end of fiscal year 2024, Councilmembers have come to question its necessity.
Council declined to call a vote on the matter last Wednesday, effectively halting the creation of the registry.
“To create another level of bureaucracy that has been handed to us … by the state, once again, and which will create some additional costs for us, I just don’t see how that helps the tenants. I think the cost-benefit analysis weighs in favor of not creating this registry,” said Councilwoman Janet Braun.
About seven people who described themselves as “housing providers” or “mom-and-pop property owners,” addressed the Council. They said the registry would become a burdensome regulatory measure on landlords, and raised concerns about how much it would cost the city to run over time. Many also described complications they encountered while dealing with an existing rental registry in Los Angeles County, and suggested that it might compromise the privacy of their tenants.
Matthew Buck, vice president of public affairs for the California Apartment Association, said the city can get information about a property “without invading the privacy of your tenants.”
“It’s the wrong approach for addressing housing issues,” he said. “And a note too, [is that] you have code enforcement issues and there are complaints. You can handle that in a different way. A registry isn’t going to solve your problems. Local jurisdictions are better served deploying resources to focus on building housing and enforcing existing tenant protections.”
Becker, meanwhile, clarified that South Pasadena’s registry would not collect information on tenants.
Another owner of rental property in Los Angeles who spoke during public comment, Josh Albrektson, said he has not had to submit sensitive information about his tenants to the Los Angeles County rental registry. He came out in support of implementing a similar program in South Pasadena as an essential step in rent stabilization and a means to ensure accountability from landlords.
“The fact that all the landlords came out against this kind of should tell you what side this is, landlords vs. tenants,” Albrektson said.

NOTE: We are having technical problems getting photos online and apologize for them not being posted immediately.

First published in the March 15 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

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