HAWTHORNE — After gathering signatures for weeks, rent-control advocates have handed in a petition with about 3,000 names that, if certified by election officials, will force a Nov. 4 election on a rent-control ordinance.
The action came after the City Council rebuffed pleas this year that rent control was needed because landlords were raising rents higher than tenants could pay.
"You either keep up or you live on the street. Those are your choices," said Eleanor Carlson, co-chairwoman of the Hawthorne Renters and Homeowners Assn.
Carlson, a Moneta Gardens activist, said "unjust" rent increases have far exceeded the inflation rate. "Our wages do not go up $100 a month like these rents. . . . People can't come up with the money to move, so you are stuck."
She said her rent at 13622 1/2 Chadron Ave. has gone to $695 from $475 in the last two years, an increase of more than 40%. "Some of the tenants here, their rent doubled," she said.
The petition drive gathered steam in the last three weeks, she said.
"We sat outside grocery stores. We knocked on doors. We went to the fair. We had our hot little petitions in our hands everywhere we went."
Election officials must certify that more than 10% of the registered voters of Hawthorne--2,084--signed the petition.
If the petition survives that scrutiny, it goes to the council, which must either approve it without change as an ordinance or put it on the ballot.
Carlson said Councilman Steve Andersen and Councilwoman Ginny Lambert have a conflict of interest that would prevent them from voting on the measure if it goes before the council.
Andersen, she said, is a real estate lawyer who acquired Caravan Trailer Lodge in the 13000 block of Yukon Avenue several weeks ago. She criticized him for imposing rent increases topping 40% in some cases. Andersen said the increases were justified.
Andersen, who said he opposes rent control "in general," said his acquisition and the rent increases do not create a conflict, adding, however, that he will ask City Atty. Michael Adamson for an opinion.
Carlson said Lambert would have a conflict because her husband, Olin, works for Batta Vujicic, one of the city's largest developers.
Lambert, who said she opposes rent control, denied a conflict.
The ordinance would limit annual rent increases to 5%, except for special cases, and establish a board to oversee implementation.
Landlords would be permitted to hike rent as much as they like on vacant apartments.