LA Council committee urges end to COVID-spurred eviction moratorium in February

By ERIC HE | City News Service

In a contentious meeting, the Los Angeles City Council’s Housing Committee voted Wednesday, Sept. 14, to recommend ending pandemic-era eviction protections in February — but did not approve recommendations made by the Los Angeles Housing Department.

The committee voted 3-1, with Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson dissenting, to suggest that the full council approve ending protections for tenants facing hardship due to the financial impact from COVID-19 on Feb. 1.

The LAHD report suggested ending the moratorium on Dec. 31, but Councilman Gil Cedillo proposed an amendment to extend it by a month. The committee also approved a second amendment by Cedillo ensuring evictions related to unauthorized pets cannot be enforced until 60 days after the moratorium expires.

The committee did not approve amendments offered by council members John Lee and Nithya Raman. Lee sought to remove eviction protections for tenants of commercial properties and to remove prohibitions on rent increases under the city’s rent stabilization ordinance.

Raman offered seven amendments, including extending eviction protections to the end of February and offering just cause eviction protections to all renters in Los Angeles. The committee deadlocked on Lee and Raman’s amendments.

“The Housing Committee failed to act today to protect renters, setting the stage for a huge wave of evictions that could significantly increase homelessness in LA,” Councilman Mike Bonin said on Twitter.

Bonin called for the full council to reverse the committee’s decision.

Eviction protections for non-payment of rent due to the economic impact of COVID-19 will be in effect through August 2023, or up to 12 months following the end of the declaration of the local emergency. At the June 24 council meeting, several council members said there needed to be adjustments to the moratorium.

Raman grew increasingly frustrated with Cedillo, who chairs the committee, as the meeting progressed. Cedillo did not call on housing department officials to make a verbal report ahead of the item, despite officials being at the meeting and slides prepared in the council file.

Cedillo moved the amendments up for votes quickly without discussion, and Raman had to interrupt several times to ask if the committee might be able to talk through the item in more detail.

“You can vote no,” Cedillo told Raman, when she asked to bifurcate Cedillo’s amendments because of the date conflict with her amendment.

Raman responded that she wanted to have a discussion on the amendments, noting that 70 people called in to give public comment during the meeting.

“It just feels like this is a pretty important issue,” Raman said. “It’s worthy of at least some discussion of one day versus another.”

Later, when Raman asked Cedillo to explain why he voted against her amendment, Cedillo said: “We’re in the middle of a roll call, Ms. Raman. That’s inappropriate.”

Raman responded: “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I was the one being inappropriate here.”

LAHD’s report also included recommendations to allow landlords to increase rent in 2024 for tenants living in rent-controlled apartments, which account for three-quarters of apartments in Los Angeles.

The report does suggest requiring relocation assistance payments for tenants who are displaced due to a 10% or greater rent increase in a one-year period, and for all tenants subjected to “no-fault” evictions. It also calls for regulating evictions on all non-rent-controlled multi-family rental units.

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Councilman Kevin de León, who chairs the council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee, disagreed with LAHD’s report. In a letter to his colleagues Wednesday, de León said he had “serious concerns that the recommendations in the report are hastily drafted, piecemeal and inadequate for the prevention of displacement and homelessness” in Los Angeles.

De León called for better data collection, including the creation of a Renters Relief Registry to track tenants with the greatest need, as well as a public database with information on tenants, landlords and reaction for evictions. He also called on the city to fully staff its Eviction Defense Program and expand just cause protections for all tenants.