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Suit Seeks to Force Gardena to Put Rent Issue on Ballot

March 20, 1986|TIM WATERS | Times Staff Writer

A Gardena resident who wants to put a rent control ordinance before the city's voters in next month's general election has taken his battle to Los Angeles Superior Court.

Mark Hessman, a 33-year-old free-lance writer, filed papers in court on Tuesday to force the city to put the initiative on the ballot. Hessman, acting as his own attorney, says that the City Council acted illegally last December when it refused to put the matter on the April ballot after the city attorney ruled the measure unconstitutional.

A judge is scheduled to rule on Hessman's request April 2.

Hessman and his supporters collected 2,206 valid signatures from registered voters in support of the measure. To qualify an initiative for the Gardena ballot under state law, 1,907 signatures are needed--10% of the city's registered voters.

However, council members voted unanimously not to place the initiative on the ballot after City Atty. Michael Karger told them the measure was unconstitutional because it failed to set standards on how rent increases sought by landlords would be processed in a timely and efficient manner. Under the initiative, landlords would have to get approval from a five-member rent control board before they could impose any increase.

Hessman, who has lived in Gardena for two years, collected the signatures after the owners of the mobile home park where he lives informed residents that their rents would be increased to $200 from $135. The ordinance would limit annual rent increases to 7% or the Consumer Price Index, whichever is less.

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