WeHo Renters Speak Out Against Sharing Landlord’s Seismic Retrofit Costs

Six West Hollywood residents spoke out Thursday night against the idea of forcing renters to pay part of the cost of shoring up apartment buildings to protect them from earthquake damage.

The residents, all renters, spoke at a meeting of the city’s Rent Stabilization Commission, which is reviewing options for covering the cost of mandatory fixes to buildings that are determined to be at risk of earthquake damage.

A collapsed soft story apartment building after the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

One of those speakers, Ben McCormick, said he was a 14-year resident of West Hollywood who lives in a building covered by the city’s rent stabilization law. Otherwise, McCormick said, he couldn’t afford it if it were at the current market rent.

Like the other speakers, McCormick said a renter shouldn’t be required to help pay for the maintenance of his or her apartment building.

“If we are forced to cover part of this cost, I’d like to know do we get an ownership in our building?” McCormick asked, to the applause of others in the audience.

The City Council last year decided to require owners of buildings that are determined to be earthquake-vulnerable to undertake what is called seismic retrofitting. City Hall in

The city currently has in place a program that allows a building owner to seek an increase in rents in rent-stabilized apartments if he or she can prove that maintenance of the building is reducing profit below a level determined by a particular formula. The city also has been considering other options that would allow the owner of a building to pass along a portion of the cost of seismic retrofitting with certain limitations, which could include a set dollar amount and a limit to the number of years the pass-along would be allowed.

Commissioner Garrett Charity raised a major issue that City Hall and the City Council have been struggling with — the possibility that a building owner will decide to sell the property rather than pay to fix it. That likely would take the building off the rent-stabilized market.

The Rent Stabilization Commission will continue to consider seismic retrofit payment options at future meetings. On this Friday, April 13, City Hall is expected to release a list of the 820 buildings in West Hollywood that an engineering consultant has identified as being possibly at risk. Owners of those buildings will have to engage a seismic retrofit expert to determine if they actually are at risk and thus required to be retrofitted.

  1. In a “free” society, the landlord could raise the rents to cover the cost, as it should be.So with rent control the tenants should pay for it as well. The landlords should not be forced to run a charity organization even MORE than usual. Remember it’s curious that the cities with rent control have the highest rents!

  2. No, I don’t think that renters should have to pay to share the costs of retrofitting an owners building. But let’s look at things from an owners side for a minute, which very few residents seem to do. It has been almost 24 years since the Northridge quake, why are cities just now figuring out that these type of buildings need to be retrofitted? Couldn’t they figure that out 23 years ago when they documented that all of these “soft story buildings” where dangerous? Why now when it will cost so much more to repair than it was then? If they are so dangerous and tenants have been living in them all this time why didn’t someone say and do something then? Secondly, Most of them are rent control and it’s not like the landlords have been making a fortune on them, with that I feel the cities and the state should subsidize the building owners cost and possibly even get federal funding when our nation get’s back to normal. For once I would like to see business owners’s and in this case Landlords get some assistance rather than always being treated as the enemy.

  3. As an appointed member of the WeHo Rent Stabilization Commission, I again want to thank all of those who took the time to attend the meeting last night to ask your questions, share your concerns and offer your ideas for consideration as we prepare our recommendation to the City Council.

    Below is the link to the March 8, 2018 Rent Stabilization Commission meeting I referenced last night. At our March 8th meeting, the Commission received a presentation from City Staff regarding the current rent adjustment process currently available to landlords who choose to use it. The presentation also provides information about the option to allow a cost pass-through process that has been adopted by the City & County of San Francisco (capped at the greater of $30 or 10% of monthly rent) and the City of Los Angeles (capped at $38/month).

    The presentation begins 1 hour and 22 minutes (marker 1:22:28)

    I encourage people to attend upcoming public meetings to be part of the dialogue and/or send your comments in writing to the Rent Stabilization Commission at City Hall, 8300 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069

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