Column: Tenant Support Could Tip the Political Scales in CD-11 Council Race

Darling pushes advocacy of renter’s rights over Park in tightly contested battle to succeed Mike Bonin!

By Nick Antonicello

In a city where the gross rent between 2016-20 was $1,534.00, Los Angeles zoning officials have approved some 24,000 building permits in 2021 that covered 3.3 million households.

For building and construction is big business in Los Angeles and those who rent may be able to flex their political muscle in this open CD-11 seat to succeed outgoing Council member Mike Bonin.  

There are over 2 million renters in the City of Los Angeles, representing over 60% of the population according to latest available statistics, and there are 884,176 residents who have a rental agreement. That number swells to 63% of all Angelenos while 518,346 are homeowners that occupy the premises which is the remaining 37% of the city’s populace.

Here in Venice, about 35% of the housing stock is owner-occupied in a neighborhood where the average rent is now $3868 according to www.rentalcafe.com, some 30% higher than the citywide rental average of $2734 per month.

So in a race where tenants and renters are often ignored and neglected, this critical voting bloc in all probability could select who wins and who will succeed retiring incumbent Mike Bonin.

For the rental community is no longer transient, undesirable or poor here in Venice, as to have the financial capability to rent an apartment these days one has to earn at least $125,000 annually to live comfortably.

For the “housing burden” on Venetians is particularly challenging, as one defines that shouldering an expense to exceed 30% of one’s income.

In fact, some 23% of tenants in CD-11 are “severely burdened” by that ever increasing rental cost!

According to www.apartments.com, there are some 1700 rentals available on the Westside with one of the most expensive being along Oceanfront Walk close to the Venice Fishing Pier at $11,995 per month for a four-bedroom, three-bath, 1,800 square-foot unit as advertised at www.zillow.com.

Districtwide, 43% of all CD-11 renters are considered “housing burdened.”

And 43% of all CD-11 residents own, while 57% are renters and tenants.

And the rentals as they get closer to the beach can be out of the reach of most.

For example a 750 square-foot one bedroom, one-bath on 24th Street is currently on the market for $5,000!

Candidate Erin Darling, who has a background in defending tenants from eviction proposed expanding renter protections to keep people in their homes to further quell the encampment crisis.

For Darling has prided himself and has touted his record of advocating for the most disadvantaged members of the community and has been endorsed by the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles County Democratic Party as well as locally elected representatives Senator Ben Allen, Assemblymembers Tina McKinnor, Richard Bloom and LA Supervisors Sheila Kuehl, Hilda Solis and Holly Mitchell.

For Darling sees a real connection between housing, homelessness and the issue of public safety all tied together.

Darling supports targeted assistance to rapidly rehouse the newly homeless while advocating for affordable and workforce units.  In the endorsement by the Los Angeles Times, they said Darling “would be one of the most informed advocates on the City Council for renters – who make up the majority of the city and half of Council District 11.”

Candidate Traci Park has also piled up some impressive support from the law enforcement community including cops, sheriff’s officers, city & county firefighters, the building trades, nurses, lifeguards and the endorsement of former two-term LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, California Treasurer Fiona Ma and LA City Controller Ron Galperin.

Park, an attorney as well who represents employers, has also laid out a Renter’s Rights fact sheet at www.tracipark.com that consists of the following:

You have the right to clean, habitable housing. Your landlord is responsible for ensuring nothing is broken, there are no leaks, no faulty plumbing, and no vermin present. housing.lacity.org/renters)

You have the right to live free of harassment by your landlord. It prohibits 13 types of landlord harassment, including things like entering your unit without proper notice, threatening you, or refusing required repairs.

You have the right to live free of discrimination by your landlord. In June 2019, the City added the Civil and Human Rights Law (“CHRL”) to the Municipal Code. It prohibits discrimination in a wide range of areas including housing, on a range of bases including race, color, ethnicity, creed, age, national origin, religion, citizenship status, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, partnership status, employment status, source of income, military status, veteran status, and primary language.

You have the right to protection from no-fault eviction. Another advantage of rent-controlled apartments in L.A. is protection against no-fault evictions – situations in which you, the tenant, didn’t do anything wrong.

And Park, like Darling has gone on the record supporting LA’s current rent control/stabilization guidelines, but she has accepted the financial support of the all powerful California Apartment Owner’s Lobby out of Sacramento who have historically opposed such government regulation of residential rental dwellings.

According to Knocked LA, Douglas Emmett Inc., a real estate investment trust (REIT) that owns and operates 4,500 apartments in the West Los Angeles area, has contributed over $300,000 to an independent expenditure fund operated by the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL) to support City Council District 11 candidate Traci Park. 

The corporation’s financial support of Park’s campaign could be viewed by some as an attempt to circumvent installing lifesaving fire safety measures at one of their Sawtelle apartment complexes, Barrington Plaza according to the article. 

Two fires have broken out at the complex within a nine-year span, leaving one resident dead and several others hospitalized. Barrington Plaza, built in 1962, does not have sprinklers due to a gap in Los Angeles’ fire safety codes that doesn’t require high-rises built between 1943 and 1974 to have sprinklers installed.

In response, Park stated “I will work closely with City officials, tenants, and the property owners to ensure that this problem is quickly, efficiently, and responsibly addressed.”

In addition to the $300,000 Douglas Emmett has contributed to the LAPPL’s independent expenditure fund supporting Park, employees of the company have also directly contributed nearly $10,500 in total to Park’s coffers. Douglas Emmett’s spending outpaces LAPPL itself, which has contributed $172,000 in their support of Park.

With less than two weeks to go most observers view the race a toss-up. But this time CD-11 & Venice tenants could have the final say on who prevails, Erin Darling or Traci Park.

Nick Antonicello is a longtime Venetian who is covering the race for LA City Council in District 11. Have a take or tip on the contest? E-mail Antonicello at nantoni@mindspring.com

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