With more than 2,000 displaced victims of the Oct. 1 earthquake still living in shelters and makeshift camps, the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday approved several measures aimed at assuring long-term housing for those jolted out of their homes.
The council's action came amid concerns that the short-term homeless problem created by the quake and its aftershocks could become long-term, further compounding the shortage of low-income housing.
In Los Angeles, about 900 apartment units were declared unsafe because of the quakes, while hundreds of other units have been vacated by fearful tenants, said Barbara Zeidman, director of the city's rent stabilization division. It is up to property owners to decide whether to repair or demolish their buildings, Zeidman said.
"We may face a long-term problem in placing the quake victims in low-rent buildings," said Peggy Brutsche, government liaison for the American Red Cross. The Red Cross is overseeing relief efforts.
Council's Actions Noted
On Tuesday, the council ordered:
--That the Department of Building and Safety and city attorney's office examine all codes and procedures to expedite building permits for the repair of quake-damaged structures.
--That an English and Spanish "hot line" be set up to link displaced tenants with landlords who have dwellings for rent, and that bilingual pamphlets on renters' rights be distributed. The city's rent stabilization division will work with the American Red Cross on the program.
--That $2,500 be appropriated, subject to the approval of Mayor Tom Bradley, to provide bus tokens for displaced persons seeking new homes. Again, the city would work with the Red Cross in administering the program.
"This is important because we need that housing," said Councilwoman Gloria Molina, who proposed several of the measures. She noted that the rent stabilization division could "weed out" exploitative slumlords who try to use the hot line.
As a result of the quake, renters' rights were expanded last Thursday when Bradley issued a sheaf of emergency orders designed to prevent exploitative landlords from taking advantage of persons who were displaced. The council confirmed those orders in Tuesday's meeting.
The emergency orders prohibit landlords from evicting tenants from buildings that were vacated as a precautionary measure, but later judged safe by city inspectors. In buildings that are safe to occupy, landlords are prohibited from evicting or locking out tenants who are willing to pay rent for October.
The mayor's emergency order also sought to protect renters who took in displaced family and friends by suspending rental contract provisions that limit the number of occupants in a dwelling.
Zeidman said those orders were prompted by "several" complaints that some landlords were using the quake to take advantage of tenants. Rent control officials, backed up by uniformed police officers, have visited several landlords to make certain they understand the law, Zeidman said.
Already, Zeidman said, her office has heard from several landlords who say they have rental units available. She asked that property owners who have vacancies notify her office at (213) 624-7891.