LOS ANGELES - A day after a bid to keep Los Angeles' COVID-19 state of emergency in place until permanent tenant protections are implemented failed by one vote, some council members are pressing their colleagues to move quickly to enact protections for renters who could face eviction after the end of the month.
Temporary tenant protections are set to expire on Jan. 31, with the end of the emergency. The council has voted twice to end the state of emergency at the end of the month, with two amendments seeking to extend it failing.
Four council members joined tenant groups outside City Hall for a rally on Wednesday morning, laying out three protections they would like to see implemented before the emergency expires: Universal just cause to require a reason for evictions, relocation fees for rent increases of more than 10% and a one-month grace period for rent before evictions.
"These are not radical changes to our system right now," Councilwoman Nithya Raman said. "This is common sense tenant protection. This is common sense eviction protection."
The council voted in December to set an end date for the emergency after extending it indefinitely every month since March 2020. It must vote on continuing the emergency each month.
Council members Eunisses Hernandez and Hugo Soto-Martinez again filed an amending motion on Tuesday to scrap the end date, which fell one vote short of the eight required. A similar motion fell two votes short in December.
"Are we going to tell the council members who did not vote for this that when you vote against these protections, you are actually increasing homelessness?" Soto-Martinez said. "We know we have at least seven supporters on the City Council. We just need one more."
Council President Paul Krekorian backed the end date, seeking to separate tenant protections from the COVID-19 state of emergency. Krekorian also pledged to place items on the agenda pertaining to tenant protections once they are passed out of committees.
Potential protections would first be discussed in the Housing and Homelessness Committee, chaired by Raman. If the committee cannot come to consensus, Krekorian could move to bring the matter directly to council. There is an appetite among the council to enact permanent protections before the emergency expires, according to Hugh Esten, spokesman for Krekorian.
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"We have 20 days to push those three policies forward so we don't see thousands of evictions in the city of L.A," Hernandez said. "Because thousands right now are on the brink of that if we don't act immediately."
Last October, the council voted 12-0 to approve a package of recommendations from a council committee to sunset the renter protections.
Under the council action, landlords will be able to resume increasing rent on rent-controlled apartments, which account for three-quarters of the units in Los Angeles, beginning in February 2024.
Tenants who have missed payments since March 2020 will have to meet two repayment deadlines. Under state law, they have until Aug. 1, 2023, to pay back missed rent between March 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021. Under the city's moratorium, tenants will have until Feb. 1, 2024, to repay rent accumulated from Oct. 1, 2021 to Feb. 1, 2023.
Councilwoman Heather Hutt said at the rally that she would "beg our colleagues" to pass the protections.
"I'm not too proud to beg, because this is important," Hutt said. "I'm going to go further. Because this is important. We demanded yesterday and they said no. So now we're going to go even to the next level."