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Beverly Hills Tenants to Seek Expansion of Controls

July 03, 1986|MATHIS CHAZANOV | Times Staff Writer

At talks between landlords and tenants starting next week, renters will ask that rent controls be extended to all apartments in Beverly hills, a tenant representative said Wednesday.

Rent control in Beverly Hills now applies only to units that rent for $600 a month or less. But Sheldon Sacks, a member of a tenants' negotiating team, said that merely raising the $600-a-month cutoff point will not provide a long-term solution to the problem of large increases imposed by the city's biggest landlord.

"If you raise that (cutoff) figure to $1,500 or some other figure somewhere down the line, this issue will have to be addressed again," Sacks said.

Sacks made his comments after the City Council formed a committee of tenant and landlord representatives, headed by a neutral chairman, in response to rent increases of up to 30% imposed earlier this year by Donald T. Sterling, the city's biggest landlord and owner of the L. A. Clippers basketball team.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday July 6, 1986 Home Edition Westside Part 9 Page 2 Column 2 Zones Desk 2 inches; 51 words Type of Material: Correction
The definition of apartments that fall under the Beverly Hills rent control ordinance was misstated in an article Thursday. Rent control applies to those apartments that cost $600 a month or less on May 31, 1978, and that are still occupied by the tenants who were renting them in 1978. Apartments that have come on the market for $600 or less since 1978 are also covered.

Band-Aid Approach

"Somebody is going to come in and do what Donald Sterling has done, and Donald Sterling may do it again," Sacks said. "All that (new limit) would be doing is putting a Band-Aid on a wound that needs major surgery."

Speaking for the landlords, apartment owner Sam Schermer said he hoped the committee would focus on excessive rent increases and leave the rest of the rent control ordinance alone.

"We're going to address the problem that's been created and act reasonably to resolve it," he said. "If other problems occur, we'll resolve them."

He noted that the voters of Beverly Hills voted down city-wide rent control in a 1982 initiative election.

Because of the current $600-a-month limit, virtually all of those affected by Sterling's increases did not come under the protection of the rent control law, which links rent increases allowable to the cost of living index, currently under 5%.

The City Council on June 5 blocked many of Sterling's raises by imposing a 90-day rent freeze. Tuesday, the council said the committee should give top priority to the question of how to stop excessive rent hikes and report back by Aug. 22.

Vacancy Decontrol

The committee was also instructed to look into whether the $600 ceiling should be raised and whether to continue to allow landlords to raise the rent on vacated apartments.

"It (the committee) shall be mindful of the city's desire to protect the occupants of apartment units from unreasonable rent increases, while at the same time recognizing the landlord's need to have the rent be sufficient to cover maintenance and the costs of operation of the building, and encouraging capital improvements," the committee's instructions said.

Sacks, who said he is not a renter, was named to the committee as an adviser to Concern for Tenants Rights. The other renter representatives are Jack Vizzard, a veteran of the previous rent control negotiations in 1978, and Manny Borookhin, a resident of a Sterling-owned building.

Jerry Factor, another apartment owner, said that Sterling was interested in the results of the talks but had expressed no desire to take part.

'Good Deal of Commotion'

"I talked to him personally, not about becoming active, but to understand his position, because there has been a good deal of commotion in reaction to his acts," Factor said.

"My feeling was that he would abide by whatever is decided, but I didn't sense he wanted to be active in this whole process," Factor said. Sterling's spokesman did not return a telephone call.

Factor said the landlords will not go into the talks with any specific goals.

"The renters are the motivated people," he said. "They're asking for action. The first thing we should do is listen and proceed from there."

Real estate attorney Michael Fasman, who is neither a lender nor a tenant, was named to serve as chairman of the committee, which was given a Nov. 22 deadline to submit its final report.

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