By ERIC HE
LOS ANGELES – Two ordinances providing permanent tenant protections in Los Angeles are expected to be heard by the City Council on Friday after a council committee forwarded both items without a recommendation Tuesday, muddling whether a full package of protections the council discussed last week will be implemented prior to the end of the local COVID-19 state of emergency.
The council’s decision to expire the state of emergency at the end of the month also sunsets the temporary tenant protections that have been in place since the start of the pandemic.
Last week, the council adopted an ordinance implementing universal just cause to require a reason for evictions, and requested draft ordinances of two more protections. Those protections would add relocation assistance if a tenant cannot pay rent increases of a certain amount and a grace period of one month before evictions due to nonpayment of rent.
The two protections would only be able to take effect prior to the deadline if the council passes the ordinances unanimously on Friday. If not, the items would be held over a week to Feb. 3 for a second vote, which would then require eight votes for adoption. Mayor Karen Bass would then have to sign off on the ordinances.
One council member, John Lee, already voted against recommending the ordinances to the council at Tuesday’s committee meeting.
The council last Friday held a lengthy meeting, which included an impassioned discussion on tenant protections, several amendments and a delay while it waited for the city attorney’s office to draft the just cause ordinance to adopt immediately. But a source described “confusion” over what had been completed on Friday and what still remained on the table, adding that “some issues are getting reopened.”
Consideration of the two ordinances at Tuesday’s special housing committee meeting, called a day prior by Councilwoman Nithya Raman, had been expected to be a formality. Raman, chair of the committee, said at the meeting that she had hoped to waive the ordinances out of committee and send them straight to council for consideration on Wednesday. But Council President Paul Krekorian asked that they first be heard in committee, according to Raman.
Two committee members, Lee and Monica Rodriguez, voiced concerns over the ordinances and what they described as a rushed process. Lee sought an amendment addressing how long rent due can remain unpaid under the proposed ordinance providing a one-month grace period prior to evictions, given that the cap for nonpayment is based on fair market rent in the Los Angeles metro area — which could vary annually.
“So we’re going to pass something on Friday that we may not be comfortable with?” Lee said. “We’re just taking that leap of faith on Friday.”
Rodriguez called for a deeper discussion on the proposed policies, asking for the city attorney to be present at Friday’s meeting to answer her questions.
“We’re kicking that can down the road,” Rodriguez said of lingering concerns.
Raman said the reason why the process appeared rushed was because she only recently became chair of the committee, and that the council had already voted to end the COVID-19 state of emergency. The council has twice struck down proposals to extend the state of emergency until permanent tenant protections are in place.
“We are doing the best we can under these circumstances, when people are insistent that we remove the eviction moratorium at the end of this month,” Raman said. “So we are up against a very real wall. That is a very real fear that tenants are facing right now.”
Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, another committee member, blamed former chair Gil Cedillo for “routinely” canceling meetings or cutting them short. Cedillo had chaired the committee until he was stripped of his committee assignments last October for taking part in a 2021 racist conversation that was recorded and leaked online.
“That’s why we got to the point where many of us are saying, `Well, let’s just continue the COVID protections until there’s time,”‘ Harris-Dawson said. “Council rejected that idea. Council said, `No, we’ve got to end the COVID protections right away.’ So we’re left with this situation where we have to figure out tough policy without adequate time.”