RANCHO PALOS VERDES — In response to rent increases of as much as $325 a month at one apartment complex, the City Council formed a committee last week to meet with a representative of the complex.
"It's their right to raise rents," said Councilman Robert Ryan, a landlord himself. "But this is urban removal."
Rent increases effective Nov. 1 at the four-building Porto Verde Apartments have ranged from $75 to $325 per month, said Christopher Louis, president of the Louis Corp., which manages the complex on the south side of the Palos Verdes Peninsula near Marineland. Notices have been mailed to residents of 52 of the 216 units, and other residents can expect similar increases within the year, he said.
"An independent marketing company determined that the rents were low based on similar-type buildings in the Palos Verdes market," said Louis, who manages two complexes in the Los Angeles area owned by Chemical Bank. "The market would support a higher rent than what we're raising these people to."
The increases, plus other disputes with the landlord, prompted Porto Verde residents to form a tenants association last month. Last week association member Virginia Larson asked the City Council to impose a 45- to 60-day moratorium on rent increases until the council can determine the fair market value of rents on the Peninsula.
Larson also asked the council to investigate the possibility of requiring Porto Verde management to give tenants a 90-day notice for rent increases instead of the customary 30-day notice, and allowing increases of only 10% to 14% per year.
The council panel, which includes Ryan and Mayor John McTaggart, has tentatively scheduled a meeting this week with Kent Mouton, an attorney for Chemical Bank.
Councilman Doug Hinchliffe voiced opposition to the establishment of the committee. "Rent control is not in the long-term best interest of the public," he said.
Opposed to Rent Control
In a subsequent interview, Ryan said he, too, is "philosophically opposed to rent control, but that doesn't mean that when there's a problem out there I'm not going to do anything about it."
Ryan said the council has limited the number of apartment complexes in Rancho Palos Verdes because of residents' desire for low density. In doing so, he said, the city has created a tight market for rental housing that could give apartment owners an unfair advantage. The city of 44,000 residents has 1,358 apartment units.
Louis said his company plans to improve the complex with money derived from increased rents. Landscaping will be enhanced, the exterior of the complex will be painted, new washers and dryers will be installed and a new game room is being built, he said.
Won't Be There
But at least one family won't be there to enjoy the improvements.
Marvin Stone's company transferred him from Houston to California last November, and he and his wife Joyce and their two sons moved into Porto Verde. Next month, the rent for their three-bedroom apartment goes from $990 to $1,200.
"I just think 21% is a little bit exorbitant," Joyce Stone said. "I'm still paying for a house in Houston."
She said their children will probably have to go to another school as a result of their impending move.