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Why rent control initiatives have failed to take hold in Pasadena, Glendale and other local municipalities

Rent control proponents from throughout Southern California gathered in downtown Los Angeles Thursday, April 12.
Rent control proponents from throughout Southern California gathered in downtown Los Angeles Thursday, April 12.
Photo by Jeff Collins, the Orange County Register/SCNG

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Some residents are facing a severe housing affordability crisis in California. In the midst of a housing shortage, activists in some Southern California cities are campaigning to impose rent control.

In Glendale, a tenant union group failed to gather enough signatures to get a rent control referendum on the 2020 ballot. The group gathered less than half the 10,529 signatures needed to qualify for the next election after this November’s voting. In Santa Ana, activists are still trying to gather enough signatures before their Oct. 15 deadline in a similar effort to make it on their 2020 ballot.

The two cities join Long Beach, Pasadena, Inglewood and Pomona, where rent control drives also struggled. Meanwhile, only a handful of cities in Los Angeles County have rent control, among them Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Opponents of rent-stabilized units argue that there are better solutions to solve a housing crisis like providing public funding for affordable housing construction, or mandating cities and developers to build low-income rental housing.

The issue is pressing statewide, where prop 10, a rent control initiative, is on the November ballot that wants to repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Act. So in the midst of a pressing housing crisis, what have been the obstacles for Southern California cities to expand rent control? And is rent control the answer to our housing problem. We debate.


Mike Van Gorder, founding member of the Glendale Tenants Union, a group sponsoring the Glendale rent control initiative

Mike Gatto, real estate attorney and founding partner at Actium LLP, a Los Angeles-based law firm; former member of the California State Assembly representing the 43rd district that includes Glendale; he tweets @mikegatto

Fernando Guerra, professor and director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University; he is a member of the Southern California Public Radio Board of Trustees