HomeCity NewsResidents Pack Burbank City Hall for Rent Control Talks

Residents Pack Burbank City Hall for Rent Control Talks

The Burbank City Council met before a full house of residents on Tuesday, with even more Burbankers queued outside of City Hall chambers and down the stairs into the lobby, eager to speak on the topic of rent control and tenant protections across the city.

More than 100 residents made statements during the meeting’s two public comment periods, with about half advocating for stricter tenant protections and the other half opposing them, according to Vice Mayor Nikki Perez’s count.

Representatives from the Burbank Tenants Union and the group’s pro bono legal team from Public Counsel were there to advocate for a 57-page draft of a rent stabilization and just cause ordinance that was presented to Council members Tuesday. It highlights a rent stabilization formula to cap rent increases and a process for landlords and tenants to appeal rent changes. It also introduces comprehensive eviction protections for tenants, among other policies.

“We’ve been working with BTU to put forward a comprehensive rent stabilization ordinance to protect tenants while guaranteeing landlords a strong rate of return,” said Faizah Malic, a managing attorney at Public Counsel, on Tuesday. “Burbank must move forward to protect its renters. It should take action tonight.”

Landlords and representatives from organizations like the Burbank Association of Realtors and the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles attended to oppose such measures, saying that capping rents would make their businesses unsustainable, and would cause mom-and-pop landlords to pull their homes from the rental market.

“The attempt to model Burbank’s rent regulations on cities like Bell Gardens, Beverly Hills and Pasadena is severely misguided,” said David Kaishchyan, government affairs coordinator for the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles. “These extreme policies can only exist in very small communities that are either extremely poor and no longer care about the quality of housing, or very rich desiring to gentrify their communities with wealthier renters.”

Though a cap on rent hikes was the trending topic of the evening, the Council ultimately said it wasn’t ready to approve such a policy.

“If we are going to ask a question about rent control, let’s be incredibly direct,” said Mayor Nick Schultz. “At least then you actually have an answer that you can either note and file, and not take any action on, or you can put it on the ballot. Right now, it’s sort of chicken or the egg. There is nothing we could go to the voters with.”

The panel voted 4-1 to ask city staff investigate such a measure further, potentially to arrive at a formula and cost analysis for implementing such a policy. Councilwoman Zizette Mullins dissented, saying that voters have already struck down rent control measures at the ballots in years past.

The Council also eyed other resources and protections for renters and landlords, including anti-retaliation mechanisms, and new legal resources and enforcement methods for both landlords and tenants, which City Attorney Joe McDougall said will be included as part of his budget proposal for the next fiscal year.

Under McDougall’s pilot program, tenants and landlords could make use of city space for mediated negotiations. Among other benefits, the program would be an arm of the city’s enforcement branch, allowing staff to review and initiate civil enforcement actions when landlords or tenants violate existing and new city policies.

The new city policy received criticism from both sides of the aisle. Following a year of tense clashes between tenants and landlords over mass evictions in 2023, the Council approved an ordinance in September, placing additional requirements on homeowners who intend to evict tenants to make substantial remodels to their units.

Also called “reno-victions,” this type of eviction has grown to prominence in the city as a way to freely evict a tenant and raise rent by making repairs to a housing unit.

“We’re seeing a glut of no-fault evictions under the auspices of ‘relative move-in’ or ‘substantial renovation,’ and then the landlords slap a coat of paint on the walls and put the units back on the market for more,” said Burbank tenant Steven Craig. “The relatives don’t move in, and the places aren’t really renovated. It’s just about money. Also, regular rent increases — often in the hundreds of dollars a month — or at the max, are allowed for no other reason than greed.”

A burst of such evictions was the catalyst for tenant involvement at City Hall over the past year, as dozens spoke out about being kicked out of their homes and being priced out of Burbank.

“I would like people to be given fair amounts of money to land on their feet for all of the other reasons for eviction, too” said Perez, citing Ellis Act evictions, wherein a landlord chooses to take their unit off the rental market.

Late into Tuesday night, it appeared like the Council agreed largely on legal protections, policy enforcement and anti-harassment measures. It was the rent cap discussion that created a rift on the dais that mirrored the varying opinions of the community.

Mullins pushed back against Councilman Konstantine Anthony’s rent cap proposal at the Tuesday meeting, citing a failed rent control measure from 2020 — Measure RC — and saying Burbankers don’t want rent control.

“I have worked hard to balance things out for housing providers and tenants,” Mullins said. “I am not going to take a stand on a rent control issue until I see what happens with these other items that the city attorney brought to us tonight.”

The remaining members on the dais responded, saying that the room was filled with people who were demanding a rent cap and saying there was clearly a demand for the Council to, at the very least, to further discuss such a measure.

As a result of the disagreement, Schultz split his motion into two. In one motion, he asked city staff to further the study and investigate the costs and formulas within a potential rent control measure, with no promise that Council would approve such an item. The motion passed 4-1 with Mullins dissenting.

In Schultz’s second motion, the Council unanimously approved staff to bring back and discuss the eviction protections and to investigate anti-retaliation and harassment measures and legal resources.

“Nothing has been decided, other than we want to continue talking about it, and that we want to do it in a very collaborative and open way,” Schultz said as he made his motion.

First published in the April 27 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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