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Long Beach approves more protections for tenants, aligning with state law

By Christina Merino, Press-Telegram

Long Beach has updated a local ordinance that protects tenants who may experience remodel-based evictions to align with new state legislation — which will increase those safeguards.

The City Council approved the amendment to the ordinance to include the state’s updates to the Tenant Protection Act of 2019 and to reiterate the additional protections the city previously adopted also remain in effect.

The first of two required votes happened last week, while the final OK came on Tuesday, May 21. Because the council voted on it as an urgency ordinance, the new protections went into effect immediately after Tuesday’s vote.

Many residents said during last week’s council meeting that they favored the ordinance. But they also said they wanted the City Council to have stronger protections for renters that address current housing issues in the city.

For the last few years, Long Beach has been adding tenant protections to try to slow the pace of displacement in communities, especially because of remodel-based evictions, Mayor Rex Richardson during last week’s council meeting.

“We know our region has been experiencing a housing crisis and one big strategy is keeping people in their homes,” Richardson said, “and when we add tenant protections, you slow the pace on homelessness.”

In 2019, according to a staff report, the California State Legislature adopted the Tenant Protection Act, which provided certain tenants with just cause eviction protections, and allowed cities to adopt their own tenant protection ordinances – which Long Beach did.

In 2020, the council passed its Just Cause Ordinance, prohibiting landlords from evicting renters because of remodeling until they have filed permits for the work.

And in 2021, the City Council updated the ordinance to establish a fine on landlords who violate that rule. It required property owners to notify the city when they undertake a remodel that would displace tenants, so officials can track data on this type of displacement and assist tenants.

This year, the state amended its act, which gives tenants increased protections, such as defining what constitutes a legitimate just cause eviction when an owner wants to move back into their property or unit. The update went into effect on April 1, said Deputy City Attorney Richard Anthony.

To ensure Long Beach could continue enforcing its Just Cause Ordinance, the council had to amend it to include the same changes, according to the staff report.

Other rules the city previously adopted, such as a higher relocation payment under certain circumstances and the mandatory reporting by landlords of tenant dislocations, remain as well.

During public comment, more than 30 people spoke in support, with no one coming out against the ordinance. Residents also asked council members to continue the discussion and to create even stronger protections — such as those preventing landlords from intimidating tenants or implementing unreasonable rent increases.

“Stronger Just Cause Ordinances are crucial because they embody empathy towards tenants who may already be facing various challenges,” said Kimberly Lim, a community organizer with Long Beach Forward. “It’s about recognizing the human aspect of housing insecurity and taking steps to protect the most vulnerable members of our communities.”

Amending the ordinance, Richardson said, was the council “taking one step” in improving protections for tenants. There will be future opportunities to explore additional protections in the coming months, he added.

Councilmember Mary Zendejas, meanwhile, said that as a renter herself, she takes renting issues seriously. Zendejas said she does not think spending 50% to 80% of income on rent is sustainable.

“What we are voting on today makes this Just Cause Ordinance so much stronger than what we already have,” she said during the May 14 council meeting. “It is to align with the state, and I think that not only were we important drivers to get us where the state is now, I think that it is something that we as a city should be proud of. And yes, there is still a lot more work to be done in this realm, but I think we should be very proud of that.”

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