Opinion: WeHo Tenants Need a Voice. The West Hollywood Renters Alliance Will Provide It

The perspective that renters aren’t as important as owners has gone on for far too long. The voice of the tenant is often seen as “less than” in some patriarchal order of rank that overlooks our contributions to the city. While I agree that renters may be less invested in terms of equity, we are more economically and emotionally invested in the city. That’s a stark naked fact that often is unrealized by many of my fellow renters.

Even I sometimes forget the strength of our renter population (the 78% of West Hollywood residents) and understand the fear that we face. I am well versed in the trials and tribulations faced by our month to month population when dealing with landlords and management companies. At times I still have mild panic attacks because of the trauma I see. A flood of worry sets in when someone can take away your home. Especially when we have upheld our end of the contract.

We have paid our rent and upheld our leases, but all too often it feels as if there is no one holding landlords accountable to maintain properties. Far too often they have failed to uphold their end of the deal as plainly stated in our municipal code. It then takes drastic legal action to see the enforcement of the plainly written code. I feel that this needs to change.

We all need to understand that renters are a major component of the economic engines that power our community. We go to our jobs to earn a salary that pays for both rent and our recreation in the city. You will not find our names on the deeds of the buildings where we live. However, the apartment where I reside is my home. Renters are the majority and it’s time we feel empowered. Time we feel our relevance, our importance. Our power.

Let’s face it, landlords offer a service. We pay them an agreed-upon fixed rate and we receive ownership of that domicile for the agreed upon term. No one forces them into contracts with tenants. They are not trapped by the market as rent control was implemented at a time when rental rates were soaring. Every transaction in real estate since then has been performed under working knowledge of rent control.

Not all landlords are built equally. West Hollywood has many kind and loving landlords. Yet there are some landlords who act as comptrollers of their tenant’s lives. They are like the people who move into an area near an airport and then join the local crusade to close the airport. We don’t blame them for this position and understand the incentive for it, but we stand united against it.

In the last few weeks, we have walked the streets of West Hollywood gathering signatures to help repeal Costa Hawkins. As we walked up to people, ballot in hand, I saw their expressions — “Oh lord, what do these people with a clipboard want?”

I said as quickly as possible “do you want to sign something to help protect rent control?” They stopped in their tracks and responded “Hell yes!”.

We acquired 60 signatures on a rainy, pretty desolate evening on Santa Monica Boulevard. Each person told a tale of woe. They told stories of units in disrepair, neglectful landlords, skyrocketing rents without changes in property quality or service.

There is so much happening in the world around us that impacts renters and people just don’t know. They don’t know the tools that are out there to be used — their rights, amazing organizations, city departments, legislation. Often people only find these things out when a problem has arisen and it’s too late. We need an engaged active renters base. We need to create better legislation that works for us, endorsing candidates that speak for us that are us.

We had a soft opening meeting for the West Hollywood Renters Alliance just to see if there was a need, a want within our community to get organized, to get informed, to become a unified voice for Renters in West Hollywood. The want is there, the need is there.

We have been actively attending City Council meetings, Planning Commission meetings, Rent Stabilization Commission meetings along with West Hollywood’s tenant educational meetings. We are working to repeal Costa Hawkins, learning the legislation backward and forwards, and the Ellis Act. We have been voracious for data, and we are ready to have you join us!

We are the West Hollywood Renters Alliance.

  1. Some people simply cannot afford to live where they want to. I don’t live in Santa Monica because I can’t afford it.(Oh an ocean view). Rent control as it is seems to be more than enough one sided against the Owners. Yet rents are high. How does adding More anti-owner regulations make sense. THE point of owning a building is to make money, not a crime as some would like it to be. You need a balance between rents and cost to maintain a building. Repealing Costa Hawkins would cause a shortage of funds and West Hollywood would end up looking like it did years ago. Interesting the author makes no mention of ever-increasing costs to the Owners or the fact that it takes a lot of money to buy a building! An inconvenient truth????

  2. The tougher the City makes it for Landlords to make money the more Apt. to Condos there will be. A no brainer. Be careful West Hollywood or you might find the city off limits to renters other than low income and that would not end well.

  3. There has always been a place, or rather, places, for tenant’s voices to be heard in The City, but there’s always room for more. If you’re concerned about the loss of any existing housing stock, or the status of any new housing stock that may or may not include affordable units, the place to speak out is at Planning Commission and City Council. If you have any concerns about housing built after 1979 or any of The City’s inclusionary housing or affordable housing units (none of which are covered by Rent Stabilization ordinances nor are the non-profits, their employees or managers who own affordable housing buildings within The City under the pervue of the Rent Stabilization Commission), the place to speak out is at City Council. If you have any issues about existing Rent Stabilization ordinances…or have an idea for a new one or a revision to an existing one, the place to speak out is the Rent Stabilization Commission (but please recognize that as with all City boards and commissions, to avoid any Brown Act violations, the board members and commissioners are unable to talk about what is brought up during public comment as it hasn’t been placed on the agenda in advance) or City Council. The Rent Stabilization Commission meets the second and fourth Thursdays of the month at 7:00 p.m. (but always a good idea to check The City calendar to confirm just in case of a cancellation or time change) at Council chambers. While I am a member of the Rent Stabilization Commission, I am not writing any of this as a member of The Commission, but merely to relay hopefully useful information to the public. That being said, I would hope that members of the public would respect each and every board and commission and the work they do, and not merely use public comment time to share their opinions during election time about how they feel about incumbent council-members, to talk up a candidate or to bring up topics that are clearly not within the pervue of the board or commission…it’s just a request for respect. I’m just a say’n….
    At the next commission meeting, we will be discussing a possible recommendation to City Council to implement routine inspections (much as the City of Los Angeles does for their rent controlled units) to ensure that our existing rent stabilized housing is being maintained in a safe manner with certain standards in place–think along the lines of functioning smoke detectors, no broken windows or torn/missing screens, functioning water, electrical and heat, etc.

  4. There is a general miss understanding of what it would mean to repeal Costa Hawkins. Simply we are short of housing. We need 500,000 new housing every year for the next 5 years to meet the housing needs. When Costa Hawkins is repealed construction will come to a halt. Landlords incentive for spending on building will go away. Single family homes can be rent controlled. How does this create more homes? We need to tear down old buildings and build more homes. There is no open space to build the homes we need. I’m frustrated as you. Solutions make it easy to buy your rental unit. Let landlord sell apartments that are not condos. Build enough housing till there is over supply. End of the day we need more homes and not less. You have the wrong solution. Make it easier to build and not a year to get permits and hundreds of thousands of dollars in permit fees.

    1. Speaking as a private citizen. Thank you for your interest in our group, Mr. Eric Jon Schmidt. To answer your question. Our membership is composed of people who have lived in the WeHo area for at least 8 years, though that is not a prerequisite for membership. For the past 3 years our members have attended counicl meetings and other commission meetings on a perpetual basis, not just when we think we can run for council office. We have hoofed the streets of West Hollywood and knocked on our neighbors doors to promote candidates who stand up for Renter’s Rights. Other members serve West Hollywood as commissioners, advisory board members and local organizers in the WeHo community. We do the hard work of rolling up our sleeves and pitching in to gain a greater understanding of our town, it’s history and the people who created our minisipality. Others work with local organizations to ensure tenants have the legal advice they need to empower themselves. That’s a smattering of our Resume.

      In short we have listened to our fellow neighbors who gave us the same advice they have given you time and time again as you post on every WeHoville article.

      Listen, I have been attempting to be a better person but the way you have treated many of our neighbors who we love and hold in great respect, really raises my ire. We have seen the way you reacted when members of our community like Micheal Dolan tried to give you helpful advice. It’s a poor showing on your part and it makes me wonder, what have you done, Sir?

      1. Again, I ask what has the alliance done for renters? Attending meetings is nice but what does it accomplish? I have been a renter in West Hollywood since 1997 except for a few years I moved to Hollywood. I have been attending Council meetings for many years . A renters alliance group should become a powerhouse and a Voting block to make sure that people are elected who will fight for them when they have issues with landlords and also to fight for lower rent or at least no increases. An alliance should conduct public protests and marches in the street. They should also have a database for people to report bad landlords and bad buildings which should be made public, updated and maintained daily. Since there are so many renters in Weho, they have a great deal of influence and power if they could just get it organized. I would be more than happy to be included in such a project. As you know I do not accept campaign donations so I will owe no favors to anyone. I am now available to help and as council member will work very hard for renters. I am one of them.

  5. I lived in West Hollywood for over 30 years. I moved there because 1) there were safe neighborhoods, 2) friendly people and mostly 3) reasonable rents. Unfortunately times change. 1 & 2 are still true, but as the social draw of weho became stronger, the rates went out of control for what you get. I had to leave 😪because I could no longer afford my apartment in a 40 year old building that had termites, bedbugs, mice, faulty wiring, leaky plumbing, disease ridden hot tub among other problems. I lived in the building for some time. My rent went from 1000 a month to 2700, when I was forced to move out. Reason given, well you live in Hollywood.

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