By John W. Davis
INGLEWOOD — A few moments before the City Council meeting began Jan. 8, a growing crowd outside of City Hall chanted: “What do we want? Rent control. When do we want it? Now.”
That was the rallying cry as more than 30 people participated in a brief march organized by the Uplift Inglewood Coalition before the City Council meeting.
“I have two beautiful girls that go to school here,” Inglewood resident Derek Steele said. “I want to make sure they have to ability to come back and stay here, too.”
The demonstration was set in motion by a proposed 150 percent rent increase by a property investment company on East 99th Street in Inglewood that went viral on social media in late December, catching the eye of Mayor James T. Butts Jr.
“We’re not going to be pushed into somebody’s idea of what a solution is but what we’re going to do is make sure that people aren’t pushed in mass out of apartment buildings,” said Butts, who advocated on behalf of those specific tenants for a six-month moratorium on any rent increases until July 1.
After that, instead of a 150 percent increase, renters will see a 28 percent increase from $1,150 to $1,475 a month, which Butts said is still way under the market rate of $1,800 in Inglewood.
“Here’s the problem,” Butts said. “When people come and buy property at today’s values, they can’t pay the mortgage or the property taxes and make a profit at what someone who has owned the property 40 years could do.”
The scene was somewhat tense inside the council chambers on the top floor of Inglewood City Hall as residents spoke in support of rent control.
After the room was deemed to be at full capacity, many of the people who attended the meeting to discuss rent control were asked to stand in the hallway by Mayor Butts.
Nearly 20 people ended up speaking and many others stood with them in solidarity.
“Invest in real people,” one man said.
Meanwhile, young people shared that teenagers are afraid they will not be able to afford to live in Inglewood when it’s time for them to live on their own.
“We hope that it is the beginning of a real dialogue with the community,” said Rev. Francisco J. Garcia Jr., who serves as the rector at Holy Faith Episcopal Church in Inglewood. “We believe that 28 percent [rent increase] is still too high. We propose a comprehensive tenant protection solution ordinance.”
“I’m really glad that our home value is almost double in the last eight years but I think that it is more important that we protect the people who have lived here their whole lives than to worry about my home value,” homeowner April Cooper added.
“2019 has been fortunate for us, what happened over the (winter) break is the stories of people’s rent increases came out and went viral. Celebrities were talking about it,” Steele explained before renewing the call for rent stabilization and just cause eviction for the Inglewood community. “We’ve been talking about this for the past couple of years.”
“This isn’t a unique Inglewood issue, it’s an issue in the state of California,” City Councilman Alex Padilla said.
“Whether or not it’s a situation that dictates a long-term solution we don’t know, these are things that we’re constantly talking about, constantly thinking about,” City Councilman Eloy Morales Jr. added. “I want everybody to see this as an example of the attention we actually are placing on it. … I know that this conversation will continue.”
“[Mayor Butts] created a situation that made a deal for that building but what are you going to do for everybody else in this community? We have to have a solution,” Steele said.
Before the end of the meeting, Mayor Butts shared a few specific ideas to protect renters like relocation allowances, total refunds on security deposits and no move-in costs to other properties under the same management as their previous apartment.
“We’re looking at the issue on a global fashion but we’re not using the word ‘rent control,’ we’re not using the word ‘rent stabilization,’ we’re looking more at tenant equity and tenant protection,” Butts said.
This article originally appeared in Wave Newspapers.