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Burbank exploring temporary rent control ordinance

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Tenants say they want the city to make it permanent—because the new state law isn’t strong enough

The Burbank Tenants Rights’ Committee holds a rally in front of City Hall on Tuesday evening.
Jessica Flores

The eviction letter was addressed to Giselle Martinez—and her nine-year-old son—with orders to leave by December.

“It’s a punch to the gut,” says Martinez, who has lived in Burbank for 27 years. “It’s dehumanizing because when you hear eviction you think you did something wrong, but you did nothing wrong.”

Martinez pays $1,470 for a one-bedroom apartment, and as a one-income household, she says she can’t afford to pay more. On Tuesday evening, she rallied in front of Burbank city hall to put pressure on city leaders to intervene.

She joined a group of about 20 tenants and community organizers calling on the Burbank City Council to place a temporary freeze on evictions and a 3 percent cap on rent increases. They’re also urging the council to enact protections for tenants from “no-fault” evictions.

After the rally, the City Council voted to direct city staffers to prepare a “first step” report exploring a temporary interim tenant protection ordinance. It will be presented to the council on October 29, according to city spokesperson Simone McFarland.

The rally was organized by the Burbank Tenants Rights’ Committee, which is seeking to have protections in place until January, when California’s new rent control will go into effect.

Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the statewide rent control legislation Assembly Bill 1482 into law. In cities such as Burbank that do not have local rent control laws, it will go into effect January 1, limiting rent increase to 5 percent, plus the local rate of inflation, which averages about 2.5 percent in Los Angeles County.

Konstantine Anthony, who chairs the tenants rights’ committee, says that state cap isn’t strong enough to be considered control.

“It’s anti-gouging,” he says, meaning it’s designed to protect against the steepest of rent hikes.

Many Burbank residents, Anthony says, can not afford even a 5 percent rent increase.

The Burbank Rights Tenants’ Committee was formed by residents in 2018 after multiple failed attempts to urge the City Council to pass a rent stabilization ordinance, says committee treasurer Margo Rowder.

The committee is gathering signatures in an effort to place a permanent rent control measure on Burbank’s November 2020 ballot.

“We took it upon ourselves to create a nonprofit that would be pushing our own ordinance,” says Rowder.

The committee also hosts monthly “Know Your Rights” clinics with the state-wide coalition Tenants Together to offer one-on-one tenant counseling and attorney referrals.

Jorge Rivera, an organizer with Tenants Together, says until AB 1482 goes into effect, tenants, like Martinez, are likely to continue receiving rent increases or eviction notices.

“It’s up to local jurisdictions like Burbank to pass interim rent freezes,” says Rivera.

Burbank would follow a growing list of LA jurisdictions enacting rent control or tenant assistance programs, including unincorporated Los Angeles County, Inglewood, Culver City, and Long Beach. On Tuesday morning, the Los Angeles City Council moved to bar rent hikes and no fault evictions at properties not already covered by the city’s rent stabilization ordinance.