Several members of the public sounded off at the Culver City Council meeting on Monday night around an item that was pulled from the consent calendar. Consent Item 10, or C-10, called for the council to receive a progress report on the status of implementation of the rent control and tenant protection ordinances adopted by the city in recent years, as well as to renew contracts with several vendors that help implement the program, promote it, and provide legal services to tenants and landlords.

But in recent days, there has been murmuring that the item may be pulled out of consent to perhaps gut rent control and renter protections. That brought out several speakers during the public comment period.

“Any effort to weaken this program or its protections will put people on the street,” said resident Stephen Jones during public comment. Jones, a Culver City Planning Commissioner, has become a subject of controversy over an additional rental resource he personally put together outside of city sanction that affords the public a full list of available rentals and at what monthly costs. It is found here:

This is a separate resource from the city’s official Rental Registry used by landlords to register their rental units, which is found here:

“We know the price of rent is the biggest and only predictor of the city’s rate of homelessness,” said Bubba Fish, who was a member of the Culver City Housing & Homelessness Committee. He also made mention of the many who are rent-burdened, saying, “Almost half of Culver City residents rent their homes, and almost half of these renters pay more than half of their income in rent.” He concluded, “We should not tolerate any attempt to reduce tenant protections during this housing crisis.”

Resident Michelle Weiner spoke up for the Rental Registry, saying other cities like Salinas, California have found having landlord contact information valuable during local emergencies. Despite this, several speakers – some of whom may have been landlords – objected to their private information being made public.

But when it came to the agenda item itself, there seemed to only be support among the city council members. Mayor Albert Vera relayed a story of constituents coming to visit him at his place of business who were concerned he was against rent control and renter protections but insisted he supports both. “We want to keep people in housing for as long as possible. Forever if it was up to me,” he said. He also pleaded with the public – and even at least one colleague – not to make assumptions about his views and to come and discuss concerns with him personally.

Getting to the heart of the agenda item, Vice Mayor Yasmine-Imani McMorrin said, “We need to make sure our [Rental] Registry is funded, that we continue to have public communications, that we continue to fund Bet Tzedek and make sure our renters and community members are supported with the legal issues that they experience with their landlord.”

“I think we all up here have empathy for our residents in Culver City, regardless if they are renters or local landlords,” said Councilmember Göran Eriksson. “I have empathy for everyone.” Eriksson was in favor of renewing the contracts with those who help administer rent stabilization and protections, but – and apparently hearing the concerns of some speakers – he asked city staff to reconsider what information is collected for the Registry and how it is used, saying there are legitimate legal concerns. He also recommended extending the registration deadline for landlords by 90 days. He insisted these two items don’t in any way affect rent control or renter protections, which several public speakers feared were at stake in this agenda item.

Councilmember Dan O’Brien, who also indicated he would support the measure, also brought up the issue of collected information. “I do see there’s some value in showing the public what rents are available out there, but I don’t see the value in releasing landlord’s names,” he said. He then made a public appeal to Stephen Jones to consider removing landlord’s names and private information from the registry he designed. “Your public registry [then] still provides the information that gives current and potential renters access to that information without landlords being afraid of retribution.”

“There’s a difference between not liking something and what’s legally permissive,” countered Councilmember Freddy Puza. He requested clarification from Eriksson on the necessity of the 90-day extension, saying, “We’re going to collect that data. We’ve been doing it already.”

McMorrin then asked whether the public could find the names of landlords on the city’s Rental Registry, which she had open on her laptop. She was assured one could not. However, later in the meeting after this agenda item had passed, city staff returned to correct themselves and admit McMorrin was correct, and landlord information could be found on the official city site.

On Eriksson’s item, staff warned against the council getting into the weeds on a deadline extension that night, saying they just need to see three “nodding heads” to the idea of bringing back to council an agenda item that would consider a 90-day extension outside of what is passed Monday night as Consent Item 10. Vera and O’Brien added their nods to Eriksson’s suggestion on the deadline, so it will be brought back to the council at a later date.

Item C-10 passed unanimously with the other consent items.

Photo by albertc111

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