Protesters in Glendale at the City Council hearing (photo: Raul Roa./Los Angeles Times)

Glendale Passes New ‘Right-to-Lease’ Ordinance, Attempting to Curb Rising Rental Prices

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By Monique Svazlian

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

GLENDALE, Calif. – After a months-long debate on the future of rent stabilization in the city of Glendale, City Council members passed a “right-to-lease” ordinance in a 3-0 vote during the February 12 City Council meeting. The chambers were filled with landlords and tenants who for months have been pleading their case. A clear divide could be heard with landlords arguing that a rent control measure would be an attack on their livelihoods and tenants, represented by predominately Armenian and immigrant community members, saying they are being forcefully relocated out of the community.

Protesters in Glendale at the City Council hearing (photo: Raul Roa./Los Angeles Times)

In a surprise last minute twist, Mayor Zareh Sinanyan, a lone voice of support for rent control on the City Council, was forced to recuse himself upon the recommendation of City Attorney Mike Garcia, who determined that comments he had made on Armenian television a few weeks prior were “biased” and constituted grounds for recusal.

The only remaining council members who voted in favor of “right-to-lease” were Paula Devine, Vrej Agajanian and Vartan Gharpetian. Ara Najarian was also forced to recuse himself because of prior interest in rental properties owned in Glendale.

Although “right-to-lease”has been sold by council members as rent control, this measure is in fact not rent control and does nothing to address curbing runaway rent increases that are forcing long-time residents out of the city of Glendale. It calls for a mandatory one-year lease offered to tenants during which period rents cannot be raised, as well as relocation fees if the tenant refuses any increases above 7 percent, based on the length of time the tenant has resided in the unit.

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But Armenians in the community are outraged, both at the Armenian City Council members who did not live up to promises of protecting their rights, as well as the fact that they are having to make tough decisions on whether to leave their beloved community or be forced to pay exorbitant rents.

“I’ve lived in the same building in Glendale for 24 years with my sister and my 90-year-old mother. My rent has increased from $1,500 to $2,050 in the last year and a half. The building was built in 1960 and is not in good condition. Landlords are always changing hands and now they’ve sold the building to a property management company who doesn’t take good care of the building. The majority of Armenians who lived in this building have left as they can no longer afford these rising rents. Unfortunately, I can’t leave as I am the sole care-taker of my mother,” says Sofia Azarian, who helped collect over 500 signatures during a unsuccessful attempt last year by local tenants to gather 11,500 signatures to put rent control on the city ballot.

Members of the Armenian community and other minority groups have been activated in joining the push for rent control through the Glendale Tenants Union (http://www.GlendaleTenants.org or www.facebook.com/GlendaleTenants), a grassroots community-led organization whose efforts have resulted in rent control becoming the number one issue for the city. They have been holding rallies in front of City Hall since July and encouraging community members to make their voices heard.

“Right-to-Lease does nothing but offer a conciliatory pat on the head for tenants forced out of their homes and communities, and we therefore condemn both the futility of “Right-to-Lease” and the mockery our council made of democracy in order to force it through. If council thinks this will somehow silence the tenants movement in our city, they are sorely mistaken,” said Glendale Tenants Union member, Mike Van Gorder.

Topics: Glendale, housing
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