A City Council request for answers about how rent control could impact Long Beach and its government brought both sides of the issue out to state their cases Tuesday night.
Fourth District Councilman Daryl Supernaw brought the matter to the council, saying the city needs answers before a petition drive puts rent control on the ballot.
The move was in response to a petition drive organized by Housing Long Beach. The proposition, which is in the signature-gathering stage, would impose rent control citywide.
“I want to point out that this is not a request to make a policy decision,” Supernaw said. “This is simply a request for information, for a report before the issue is on the ballot.”
Josh Butler, Housing Long Beach director, has said the group is aiming for a vote on the November general election ballot. He testified Tuesday night that he supports this early request for answers regarding impacts, because it would speed the certification process “when the issue is approved.”
Supernaw asked that public comment on the item be limited to 90 seconds, and Vice Mayor Rex Richardson, who presided over the item, agreed.
It still took an hour and 40 minutes to complete public comment. Rental property owners turned out in force, as did housing advocates, and nearly every speaker was applauded.
“We want to thank the council tonight, since you are all on the record saying no to rent control,” Mike Murchison, who said he was representing rental property owners, said. “We need these answers so we can explain to the voters why rent control is a bad idea.”
Many speakers used the opportunity to say that rent control is the best way to keep people in homes. Others said that they were being displaced by landlords looking to increase rents, even after the city attorney clarified that the item Tuesday was only a request for information, not a vote for or against rent control.
“I have lived here for 26 years,” Christina Moran said. “I live in the First District. I and 25 of my neighbors are being evicted… We cannot afford to pay the higher rent. This is our city, and we need your help.”
Mayor Robert Garcia said before the vote on the request for information that the city already has about 6,500 rent-stabilized units and is building more.
“The idea that rent-stabilized units do not exist in Long Beach is just not true,” Garcia said. “We have about 6,500 units that are rent stabilized… They are for people who have disabilities, people who are seniors, for housing like we have out at Carmelitos.”
Garcia argued that the only way to truly resolve housing issues is production of all levels of housing, including low-income and rent stabilized units. He asked City Manager Pat West to include information about what housing stock exists now in the city.
Supernaw asked that a report come back by April 17, even if not all the questions had been answered. The motion passed unanimously.
As he left the chambers, one man could be heard saying, “See you all in November.”