Pasadena Residents Step Up Fight for Rent Control

Dozens of Anglo, Latino and African American families participated in a 7.5 mile walk in the city of Pasadena, in defense of the rights of tenants to raise awareness about the need for rent control and new laws that prevent unfair evictions.

The citizens of that city and immigrants have developed a campaign to collect signatures of at least 14,000 to enact amendments through the so-called “Pasadena Fair and Equitable Housing Amendments Charter.”

Among numerous sections, it is mentioned that the amendment is intended to promote neighborhood and community stability.

A large number of the protesters were women. (Jorge Luis Macias)

If it qualifies first, and succeeds later on the November 8 ballot, the amendment would help Pasadena families gain access to affordable housing and renter affordability, all by regulating excessive rent increases and arbitrary eviction to the maximum extent permitted by California law.

At the same time, it would guarantee homeowners a fair return on their investment, while also supporting fair protections for renters, landlords, and businesses.

Participating in the campaign are numerous volunteers from the Pasadena Tenant Justice Coalition (PTJC), who as of March 3 had collected 7,694 valid signatures out of a total goal of 8,400.

“I think we already have the 13,666 signatures necessary for the petition to be placed on the ballot,” said Anita Mackey, a member of the PTJC.

“Three years ago, in one fell swoop they gave me an increase of $400 a month,” said Adela Torres, a resident of Pasadena. (Jorge Luis Macias)

With less than three weeks to deliver the signatures on March 25, they will continue working with the aim of reaching 15,500 signatures.

“We are going to achieve it,” said Michele White, also a member of the organization. “We would just hope that the voters will support us at the polls.”

The petition is not found on the internet. Since it is a statutory relief petition, this means that proponents need to obtain a physical signature that would be compared to voter rolls by the county clerk’s office.

To sign such a petition, the citizen must be registered to vote at a mailing address in the City of Pasadena. Altadena, South Pasadena. The unincorporated areas of East Pasadena do not count.

The walk in Pasadena

In cold weather, members of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), joined the peaceful march by members of Pasadenans Organizing for Progress (POP), the Pasadena Tenants Union and representatives of Black Lives Matter Pasadena .

Protesters marched from the Pasadena Community Work Center on Lake Street, up Orange Grove Boulevard and all the way to Villa Parke, shouting at the top of their lungs: What do we want? Rent control. When? Now!” and unfurled banners with messages of “affordable housing” or “protection from evictions.”

rents skyrocketed

“We’ve been working for months to get the petition on the ballot,” said Ed Washatka, a member of Pasadenans Organizing for Progress (POP). “The rents here are ridiculous.”

According to the protesters, in the last two or three years, the rent in Pasadena has skyrocketed between 40% and 50%.

Washatka reported that in Pasadena, a small two-bedroom apartment now rents for $2,200 to $2,500.

“There are up to two or three families living in the same apartment or house because they don’t have enough money to pay the rent,” he added.

One of the people suffering from the high cost of rent is Adela Torres, a single mother from Oaxaca with two daughters, who pays $1,000 for a small room.

“Three years ago, in one fell swoop they gave me an increase of $400 a month,” said the woman who cleans houses.

“With the inflation we are experiencing, imagine now how difficult it has become to be able to pay.”

Leticia Ortiz, 60, a native of Guadalajara, Jalisco, stressed that she works recycling bottles and also takes care of a young man with special needs, although now her priorities are different.

“The first thing I think about is paying the rent and I leave the food for later,” he told La Opinion. “My husband hardly works anymore and that’s why we need them to stop raising our rent.”

Pasadena Councilwoman Jess Rivas said that as an advocate for working families and a young mother, she knows how the lack of affordable rent is affecting families of color.

“The higher the rent, the more families are pushed out of our neighborhoods and even homeless. I am grateful for the PTJC’s efforts to highlight this fight and bring a possible solution to voters in November.”

“It is a humanitarian crisis”

For Pablo Alvarado, co-executive director of the National Day Laborers Network (NDLON), the housing shortage in Pasadena “is very hard for our people.”

Alvarado told La Opinion that 68 percent of Latinos who live in this city rent, but many have also gone to other cities like Azusa or Monrovia where the rent could be cheaper, but they return to Pasadena because that is where they have their jobs.

She added that, during the coronavirus pandemic, she learned of the cases of three single immigrant mothers who lost their apartments because they could not pay the monthly rent.

However, he stressed that, since before the health crisis, there was already a significant exodus of residents from Pasadena.

“Many ended up living in the living rooms of the houses of friends or relatives,” he explained. “These are true and very harsh testimonies.”

The leader and activist stated that the petition campaign and collection of citizen signatures will intensify in the coming months.

They must first gather more than 13,000 signatures, deliver them to Tameka Cook, the new city clerk at the Pasadena Department of Administrative Services, and herself to county officials for review and validation, before it qualifies for the U.S. ballot. general elections on November 8.

Regarding the expectations that they have in NDLON and the other non-profit organizations that work to obtain rent control and prevent unjustified evictions, he said that the city “has always declared itself progressive and the objective can be achieved.”

“You have to see if the owners have empathy with the people who rent them,” he said.

To do this, they will try to convince property owners of the need to show solidarity with those who helped them during the pandemic to carry out their activities by phone or from the comfort of their homes.

Alvarado pointed out that in the city of Los Angeles and in the county there is a homeless crisis that has been exacerbated by the stratospheric prices of housing rentals.

“This situation that is being experienced transcends common and current politics; it is already a humanitarian crisis where people can no longer pay rent, ”he stressed. “It is a terrible thing that is happening.”

Main components of the Amendment

  • To the extent permitted by state law, rent increases would be limited to 75% of inflation each year after a lease is established.
  • 75% inflation typically equates to around 2% to 3% each year. This means that the amount of time it would take for rent to double is about 35 years.
  • This would not set rents for new leases.
  • If a landlord can show that their operating expenses have increased, they can request a special one-time rent increase.
  • If a tenant can prove that the services provided or the quality of their unit has decreased, they can request a special one-time rent reduction.