With 15,101 valid signatures from Pasadena voters, the Pasadena Rent Control campaign’s initiative officially qualifies for the midterm election this fall. The LA County Registrar confirmed that the number of valid signatures collected exceeds the minimum threshold needed to secure a place on the ballot.
Citizens’ initiatives are rare in Pasadena, and rarer still are charter amendments, prohibitive due to the large number of signatures required. However, this charter amendment had enough community support to mobilize over 300 volunteers, collecting 20,564 signatures in total. A charter amendment requires 13,555 valid signatures – 15% of Pasadena’s registered voters – to make it on the ballot.
“The community response to this initiative was inspiring. So many donated their time to collect signatures. Many who signed the petition told us that we needed this measure years ago and that they couldn’t wait to vote for it in November,” says Liberty McCoy, a volunteer for the campaign.
Despite the pandemic, Pasadena rents have risen at inordinate rates, sometimes exceeding 10% per year. The number of apartments affordable to those earning less than the median income ($85,000) for Pasadena has consistently declined.
About half of Pasadena tenants are rent burdened, meaning they pay over 30% of their income in rent. A quarter of tenants are severely rent burdened, paying over 50% of their income. The risk of homelessness dramatically increases when rents surpass 30% of a household’s income, according to Zillow.
Burdensome rents also mean families struggle to afford other essentials like food, healthcare, education and childcare. In fact, the presence of a child in the home is a significant predictor of eviction. Also at risk are Pasadena’s senior citizen renters, who often live on fixed incomes and can be devastated by a rent increase or eviction.
“I met a lot of families who couldn’t sign the petition because they had just left Pasadena – it had gotten too expensive. Other families were barely hanging on, in run-down buildings their landlords refused to maintain,” says Luka Dowell, volunteer and longtime Pasadena resident. “When families leave, schools lose enrollment, small businesses shutter, and neighborhoods lose cohesion. If we’re talking about preserving the character of our community, we need to talk about rent control.”
The Rent Control and Just Case charter amendment will:
- Limit evictions to cases where a landlord can demonstrate good cause, such as non-payment of rent or another breach of contract.
- Provide relocation assistance if a landlord is reclaiming an apartment or removing a unit from the rental market.
- Close the “renoviction” loophole, allowing tenants to return to their home if a temporary relocation is necessary for health and safety-related repairs.
- Stabilize rents by limiting annual increases to 75% of inflation.
- Limit frequency of increases to once a year.
- Conform to California law requiring a Fair Rate of Return for landlords.
- Allow tenants to petition for rent decreases if repairs are not made or services are withheld.
- Announce the annual allowable rent increase.
- Establish rules and regulations regarding rental properties.
- Appoint hearing officers to mediate rent adjustment petitions.
- Charge a per-unit fee to landlords, ensuring the funding for its operations falls to large corporate landlords instead of Pasadena residents.
The measure will also establish an online Rental Registry, listing all rental properties in the city with relevant data including any violations of building codes or registry regulations.
Having secured their initiative’s place on the ballot, the campaign now looks ahead to the November election. A launch party will be held on May 21, from 2 p.m. through 5 p.m. at Jefferson Park, gearing up for the second phase of the campaign.
“With this news, we are ready to launch the second phase of our work and ensure our charter amendment wins this November,” says Jane Panangaden, an organizer with the campaign. “The launch party on May 21st will kick off our efforts to reach out to Pasadena voters over the next several months and explain the importance of voting yes on rent control and eviction protections.”