This article was posted on Saturday, Jul 01, 2017

The below letter was sent to the Hon. Adam Gray, the Hon. Jim Cooper, the Hon. Rudy Salas and the Hon. Patrick O’Donnell. 

Dear Friends:  There are probably several hundred thousand small family apartment owners in California.  Most of the older, affordable rental units are under rent control.  In cities like West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Culver City, Long Beach, Berkeley, Oakland, Richmond and San Francisco, these apartment owners probably do not live within the jurisdiction.  They are systematically harassed by alleged “ultra-liberal/progressive” political enemies who want to force these owners to provide housing; however, they do not want the owners to enjoy any benefit or profit from their efforts.

They want to expand rent control.  They want to repeal the protections for small apartment owners as outlined in the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Fair Housing Act, the Ellis Act, the Petris Act and of course, eliminate the protections of Proposition 13.  They want split roll.

So, can you imagine any builder or developer wanting to come to California if they were aware that split roll property taxes protocol was forthcoming and that rent control would be extended to “new construction”? [Why do you think that the President of the Apartment Owners Association of California (AOA) is building units out-of-state right now?  He will be receiving much better treatment in Idaho than he could ever expect in California!]

There is a housing crisis.  Rent control contributes to destroying housing and good jobs.  [Rent control unfairly requires housing providers to also provide 100% of the cost for this destructive form of tenant welfare!]

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So, moderate Democrats who are fiscally conservative and understand individual property rights need to oppose and contest some of the bills being sponsored by our good friend Richard Bloom (Santa Monica), Mr. Bota (Oakland) and Mr. Chiu (San Francisco).  I’m certain they’re fine gentlemen, but their interest is to destroy affordable housing by extending rent control.

As your staff is aware, when rent control was adopted in Los Angeles, approximately 38 years ago, there were 1,300,000 rental units.  Today, there are less than 600,000.  At the outset, in Santa Monica there were close to 38,000 rental units and today – less than 27,000.  There are 10,000 units in Santa Monica that are simply boarded up because the rental owners will not subject themselves to the harassment of the Santa Monica Rent Control authority.  San Francisco has 18,000 rental units boarded up as owners will not comply with oppressive and restrictive laws.

Vacancy Decontrol

When a rental unit becomes vacant, under our current law the apartment owner may offer the rental unit to a new tenant candidate at market rates.  Our super-liberal friends want to repeal that provision so that they can roll back and freeze the rents to 1960 prices, or less.

Our friends complain that the rental rates are now 60% of the adjusted income of the tenants.  They want us to use a “means testing” formula where rent is never greater than one third of the income?  Well, operating expenses have gone up 500%.

For example – in Santa Monica, the cost of water has gone up 9% per year, sewage 15% and trash retrieval 30% or more.  Yet the annual rental adjustment or increase is approximately 1% or less.  In West Hollywood – even less!

Please, reach out and fight to make certain that the Assembly Judiciary and Housing Committees have not only a fair complement of Republicans, but also moderate Democrats.

My email is [email protected].  Thank you for challenging and opposing AB 1506 which was suspended this year; however, it will be renewed in 2018.  I believe you should have an open meeting with our good friend, Richard Bloom and explain that extending rent control to small cities will not provide additional housing.  Thank you for your consideration, Michael Millman.

More Bad Laws

Everyone knows that West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Berkeley and San Francisco told the voters that if you agree to a Rent Stabilization or Rent Control protocol, we will always “exempt” single family homes, condos, granny flats, triplexes and new construction.  People voted for rent control based upon that representation.

To eliminate those protections in the year 2017 would be a betrayal of those promises.  Former Senator Tom Hayden and his wife, Jane Fonda, made those representations in forming “Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights”.

When it was determined that highly paid physicians, motion picture executives, actresses, engineers and others were using apartments as a designated second home, Senate President John Burton helped enact the  1995 Costa-Hawkins Fair Housing Act.

When a unit became vacant, the owner, at his or her discretion, could offer the vacant unit for market rates.  Simple.

The great rent wars ceased.  The Rent Board in Santa Monica reduced its staff by over 200%.  The Hearing Offices were closed.  The animosity, hatred, hostility and battles ended.  Today, probably 75% to 80% of the rental units in Santa Monica are being offered voluntarily to tenants at market rates.

Now, the landlord has a problem determining a qualified rental candidate because the State Legislature, over the last five years, has enacted adverse and terrible new laws.  My good friend, L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer, enacted the Shriver Act, which guarantees the tenants they can have an eviction attorney free of charge.  These eviction lawyers have now created a coalition where they’ve agreed to never negotiate unless the tenant can remain rent-free for six months.  In order to remove the tenant, you need to pay the lawyers $10,000.  Your only choice is to have an expensive jury trial.   [AOA encourages those who can afford it to have the jury trial.  Be sure to get an estimate of the cost from your attorney.]  Others have called this whole thing extortion!

Sealing of Eviction Records

Last year, the State Legislature decided to “seal” all eviction records.  Now, there is talk that maybe we should promote and encourage pedophiles and felony convicts and others with a substantial criminal record to occupy rental units without an inquiry.

Based upon the foregoing, housing providers or landlords generally do a credit evaluation.  If the FICO score is in the mid 700s or great, then that particular “tenant candidate” gets the rental unit.  A marginal tenant candidate can’t be taken?  First, you can’t run the risk of a possible eviction under circumstances.  Second, you don’t know whether or not this tenant has a history of evictions?  In some areas, a marginal tenant moves in and then within a short period of time, a prominent gang member also moves into the building.

Section 8

Everyone agrees that we need to build more housing.  Everyone agrees we need a formula or protocol to protect “rent burdened” tenants.  However, the State of California should enact a voucher program.  Our friends in Washington, D.C. should completely revise the Section 8 program to include:

  • a waiver of inspections
  • rents to be set at market
  • the agreement can be opted out of after the first year without penalty
  • no rental abatement if there’s a problem at the unit
  • rent to be paid in a timely fashion
  • insurance
  • no vicious animals as pets and
  • no unauthorized roommates

[A voucher program is certainly anti-free enterprise, however, so is any form of tenant welfare (rent control).  So… to replace tenant welfare (also known as rent control) paid 100% by housing providers with a voucher program paid for by ALL taxpayers is the most equitable form of this type of welfare!]  This is a conversation to be had.

AB 1506

So, Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights told my good friend and neighbor, Richard Bloom, to destroy “protection” for small apartment owners with AB 1506. There are no amendments, revisions or modifications.  None.  After this bill is killed and eliminated, then responsible partners such as the Western Center on Law and Poverty, the Legal Aid Foundation and many others should sit down and try to address the housing shortage.

In 35 years, everyone agrees that Steve Carlson and probably my good friend, Deborah Carlton are fair, appropriate and reasonable spokespersons on behalf of housing providers  Incredibly decent, compassionate, thoughtful, intelligent and terrific.  Kill AB 1506.  Again, start having serious “dialogues” and conversations with responsible housing “stakeholders”.

You will remember that Senate President Richard Burton from San Francisco brokered and negotiated Costa-Hawkins.  He was fair to the tenants and he was fair to small apartment owners.  I certainly don’t want to see new housing development in Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.  No one wants to see the same result as the Tesla automobile deal.  An owner stated he will never build or develop in California because there are simply too many regulations.  He knew that some persons would be promoting “split roll” Proposition 13 measures soon.

Thank you again for allowing me to meet with so many terrific persons in Sacramento. Housing providers only want to be fair, appropriate, equitable and compassionate to their ultimate customers – tenants.


Michael Millman is an Attorney and a Mar Vista activist and can be reached at (310) 477-1201.