CES Backs Mayor Garcetti’s Choice of Rushmore Cervantes as Housing & Community Investment Department General Manager
On August 13, the Los Angeles City Council Housing Committee considered Mayor Eric Garcetti’s nomination for General Manager of the Housing and Community Investment Department (HCIDLA), Rushmore Cervantes.
Cervantes has been serving as the Interim General Manager for HCIDLA and previously was the executive officer at the Department. The Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) has had an extremely good working relationship with Cervantes since he’s been at HCIDLA.
At the hearing, Housing Committee Chair, LA City Council Member Gil Cedillo, asked the question: “What’s the most vexing problem for housing?”
Cervantes responded by saying: “There is not enough housing in the City of Los Angeles for all the residents of the City. Whether it is for the low income or the working middle income.” Cervantes said that all the housing being built in the downtown area may look good, but will not be accessible to middle or low-income residents.
Cervantes added: “The solution is that we need to come up with a goal. Both for housing as a whole and for affordable housing and then agree upon the 3 or 4 tools that can achieve that. That means preserving existing affordable housing. That means looking at the Rent Stabilization Ordinance and strengthening it to make it more difficult for property owners to remove it (units) from the marketplace.”
Cedillo followed up by asking: “So how do we get out of the way of developers? I hear a lot of them say that it is impossible to do business with the City.” Cervantes answered: “We need to have Housing, Planning, and Building and Safety (Departments) try to work on a process in which we can expedite, to the greatest extent that we can, the approval process for housing, while ensuring that we, obviously, protect what’s valuable to the City, relative to the environment and affordable housing.”
Probably the most interesting aspect of the hearing was in regards to the public comments. The heads of two organizations that have been long-time adversaries were demonstrating common ground and unity in support of Cervantes’ nomination.
The two people testifying that day were Coalition for Economic Survival Executive Director Larry Gross, representing renters, and Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles Executive Director Jim Clark, representing landlords.
In his testimony CES’ Gross praised Mayor Garcetti for providing an extremely qualified choice for General Manager stating: “With this City facing a severe housing crisis, particularly when it comes to the lack of affordable housing, you need a special person to lead us. Thus, this position requires someone with a very unique skill-set who is committed to and has the ability to effectively take on these challenges. I believe Rushmore Cervantes is that person and, I know he is up to these incredible challenges. Rushmore is well-respected and has the trust of the key stakeholders that are working to address our housing needs.”
On August 19, the full LA City Council unanimously, on a 14 to 0 vote, confirmed Rushmore Cervantes as the new permanent HCIDLA General Manager.
Listen to CES Executive Director Larry Gross Testify in Support of Rushmore Cervantes’ Nomination
In December 2013, The Rockefeller Foundation announced the selection of the City of Los Angeles to participate in the Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge. The 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge seeks to support 100 cities that are ready to build resilience to the social, economic, and physical challenges that cities are increasingly facing in the 21st century.
On June 30, 2014, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti invited community stakeholders, City officials, service providers, businesses, and the non-profit sector to a kick off event workshops to discuss Los Angeles’ resilience priorities and begin to develop a shared resilience agenda. CES was one of the invited guests.
Los Angeles was selected to join the first cohort of 100 Resilient Cities from more than 400 applicants around the globe to develop ways to minimize damage and recover economically from disasters.
As a member of 100 Resilient Cities, Los Angeles has a distinct and important opportunity to strengthen its commitment to resilience via:
1. Funding to hire a Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) who will lead the development and implementation of the City’s resilience strategy; 2. Technical support in the development of the City’s resilience strategy; 3. Membership in the global 100 Resilient Cities network, and 4. Access to a platform of resilience-building tools.
Mayor Garcetti emphasized that though earthquakes top the list of risks in L.A., keeping the city functional in the long run goes beyond getting ready for the “Big One.” Problems such as an unprotected water system can pose huge risks if a gas line ruptures and fires break out in the aftermath of an earthquake, he said.
“I’m making sure that Los Angeles, threatened by 13 of the 16 federally designated natural disasters, gets serious about resilience and sustainability,” Garcetti said. “When disaster strikes, we must be prepared now to keep our water, communications and other key infrastructure operational.”
Dr. Lucy Jones, of the US Geological Services and recently appointed by the Mayor as LA’s Senior Adviser on Seismic Safety, was a speaker. She said that the San Andreas Fault has a major earthquake every 150 years. She pointed out that the last major earthquake on that fault occurred 300 years ago. Dr. Jones warned that a major San Andreas quake would cut off all 3 water aqueducts providing water to Los Angeles, cut off the food supply routes to LA and result in major fires throughout the region.
In the break-out sessions, Coalition for Economic Survival Executive Director Larry Gross, noted that while supporting the need to make buildings safe, the burden of paying for the cost of building earthquake retrofitting must not be placed on renters who can least afford to pay increased rents. Potentially 29,000 soft-story apartment buildings that are mostly rent-controlled housing for low and moderate income and working class families could lose their affordability if they are required to be retrofitted.
Gross also pointed out that given LA’s diverse population, it was imperative that information and access to it be provided in the numerous languages spoken in LA.
Mayor Eric Garcetti Nominates CES Executive Director Larry Gross to the LA Board of Animal Services Commission
On January 21, 2014, the Los Angeles City Council’s Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee, consisting of Council Members Paul Koretz (Chair), Mitch O’Farrell and Felipe Fuentes, unanimously approved the confirmation of Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) Executive Director Larry Gross to the City of LA Board of Animal Services Commission and sent the nomination to the full City Council for final confirmation.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the Commission nominations of Gross along with Jennifer Brent executive director at the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation, an animal-welfare group started by actress Katherine Heigl and Roger Wolfson, a television writer and former aide/speechwriter to several US Senators on January 6. They would join Attorney David Zaft and LA Manager of the Humane Society’s Pets for Life Alana Yañez on the Commission. The Board of Animal Services Commissioners oversees and sets policy for the LA Department of Animal Services, which administers the city’s animal shelter system, permits and animal control with a $21.7 million annual budget.
Gross, in addressing the Council committee stated the need to fulfill the pledge for Los Angeles to become a “No-Kill” city by ensuring that dogs and cats, both adopted and homeless, are spayed and neutered, as well as the need to make it easier for people to adopt and care for their dogs and cats.
“This being a City of renters, with 62% of our residents’ tenants, we must facilitate the adoptions in rental units. That means seeking cooperation and understanding between tenants and landlords.”
In testimony supporting Gross’ appointment, James Johnson, Chief Political Coordinator for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 721, which represents the workers at the animal shelters, said “We find it beautifully ironic that one of our city’s most diligent advocates for the poor would also step up and to take up a position on the Animal Services Commission to protect those that can’t speak for themselves. I think it’s beautiful.”
Johnson further stated, “He (Gross) is somebody that, not only I, but many of our members and the leadership of our organization respect highly and we look forward to working with him and the other commissioners.”
Gross stressed that, “The task is huge, given the number of homeless, stray and feral cats and dogs. Our chance of success lies in a collaborative partnership that’s inclusive of all the stakeholders. This means the Department of Animal Services must work together with Council Offices, other city departments, animal rescue and rights organizations, shelter staff and their unions (SEIU, AFSCME & the Laborers Union), shelter volunteers, and, clearly, tenants, landlords, and homeowners.”
The full City Council is scheduled to give final approval of the appointments on February 11, 2014.
LISTEN TO THE CITY COUNCIL COMMITTEE CONFIRMATION HEARING:
Gov Jerry Brown Delivers a Blow to Affordable Housing Efforts That Will Leave Low Income Renters Out in the Cold
With the power of his pen the Governor essentially undermined the hard work of activists to get this key affordable housing bill passed by the state legislature and, thus, jeopardized the ability of local governments to provided affordable housing through inclusionary housing laws.
Inclusionary zoning is a land use practice through which local governments promote affordable housing. These policies have been in use for over 40 years, but were challenged in the case of Palmer/Sixth Street Properties L.P. v. City of Los Angeles.
In Palmer, the court held that the provision of the state Costa-Hawkins Act, which gives developers, and not government, the right to establish initial rental rates applies to privately financed rental housing projects and voids many inclusionary housing policies.
The California Association of Realtors and landlord groups sponsored the Costa-Hawkins law in 1995. It prohibits new construction of rental units from being subject to local rent control ordinances and really doesn’t have anything to do with inclusionary housing laws.
By introducing AB 1229, which would have allowed locally elected officials to decide whether to require, as a condition of approval, new market-rate rental housing developments in their communities to include a small percentage of units with rents affordable to low- and moderate-income tenants or pay an in lieu fee, Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) hoped the bill would have superseded the 2009 California Appellant court Palmer ruling that cities requiring developers to include housing priced below market rates were in violation of the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act.
A broad coalition of tenant groups, affordable housing advocates and non-profit community housing developers, supported the bill, as did most major newspapers around the state. As could be expected, big developers, mega-landlords and realtors went all out to fight the bill and leaned heavily on Governor Brown to veto it.
People can express their outrage by letting Governor Brown know how disappointed you are by his veto of this extremely important housing bill.
The statewide renters organization, Tenants’ Together, has provided an easy way to let the Governor know how you feel about his action. Just click here to send him a message.
CES on the Radio: Case of the Heartless Landlord Evicting a 73 Year Old Woman in Order to Jack Up the Rent
When the lady finally spoke to management, they gave her 3 days to send in the payment, and she promptly mailed a money order for the amount that was due.
The owner has reportedly admitted that he is driven by a desire to get more money for the apartment, since the woman has lived there for 40 years, and only has to pay $259 a month.
David Cruz spoke with Larry Gross, Executive Director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, about the woman’s rights as a tenant in a rent-controlled area.
June 18th Public Hearing Regarding LifeLine Reduced Rates for California Low-Income Mobile Phone Customers
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is holding a hearing on June 18th in Los Angeles to gather public input regarding whether there should be low cost LifeLine rates for wireless service for low income customers. Other hearings have been going on throughout the state since May 14th and will continue until August 13th.
The program will supplement existing Federal LifeLine programs, which provide phone services to low income individuals. But, there have been many barriers for very low-income people to access the discounted service. For instance, cell phone providers do not recognize Single Resident Occupancy (SRO) hotels as permanent residences. As a result, phone companies are denying Lifeline rates to SRO residents who are some of the most in need of affordable phone service. Others have had difficulty receiving their cell-phones because many different providers and third parties must rubber-stamp their application.
Even when consumers finally receive their cellphones, they report having little or no service in their rooms and have had to go outside to use their cell phones. Although Federal wireless LifeLine service providers have often advertised their service as free, customers have been particularly unsatisfied by the amount of monthly minutes.
The issue of allowable minutes and the cost of the plan are the crucial issues to ensure a meaningful cell phone LifeLine program for California’s low-income residents.
It is crucial that people attend this hearing to urge the CPUC to keep all customers connected by updating California’s LifeLine program to include mobile phones. The CPUC should adopt an effective LifeLine program that holds phone companies accountable for the subsidies they receive, and provides eligible consumers with phone service that will last all month, include unlimited texting and direct 911 access and provide family plans
LifeLine can help the homeless find homes, the jobless find jobs, the ill find medical care, the elderly get help in emergencies, parents stay in touch with children sand families to stay connected.
H E A R I N G I N F O R M A T I O N
California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Hearings on Establishing a LifeLine Rate Program for Mobile Phone Service
TUESDAY, JUNE 18
4 pm to 7 pm
Caltrans District 7 Headquarters
100 South Main Street
(at 1st Street Across from LA City Hall)
Downtown Los Angeles
CES and LAFLA Join Together to Win Major Tenants’ Rights Legal Victory Against Sexual Harassment & Discrimination of Tenants Perpetrated by Building Managers
Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) attorneys assisted low-income tenants in successfully fighting back against sexual harassment and discrimination perpetrated by building managers, securing a settlement late in March which delivers monetary compensation for the plaintiffs while ensuring protections for future tenants at the Lafayette Hotel, a rent-controlled residential building offering low rents in the Rampart area of Los Angeles. For nearly two years, senior attorney Fernando Gaytan (photo left), along with co-counsel Christopher Brancart, litigated a hard fought battle to end the harassment of female tenants at the Lafayette.
“Reports of landlords demanding ’sex for rent’ may seem shocking and uncommon to most people,” stated Gaytan, “but for poor and low income tenants, encounters with predatory landlords who take advantage of the economic and social barriers these tenants face is tragically much more common than reported.”
LAFLA’s housing unit launched an extensive investigation after several women from the building stepped forward and described the same pattern of repeated sexual harassment at the hands of management, employees and the owner of the residential hotel. Accounts of harassment included repeated taunting, groping, and quid pro quo in which the women were told their rent would be waived if they acquiesced to demands for sexual favors.
In response to the investigation, several former and current residents stepped forward as witnesses and described similar experiences. For the plaintiffs and several of the witnesses, the Lafayette was their first home after being emancipated from the foster care system or after a period of homelessness.
“Cases involving sexual harassment of tenants highlight how a severe lack of resources can leave tenants vulnerable to multiple forms of abuse by an unscrupulous landlord,” continued Gaytan. “Many low income tenants, especially those who recently left homelessness, are often prime targets of this type of unlawful conduct by landlords, managers and those with power to decide the fate of their homes.”
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of three women and the tenants’ rights group Coalition for Economic Survival, included claims based on violations of federal and state fair housing laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender. The parties reached a settlement just before a jury trial was to commence. As result, the court has entered a consent decree order which calls for monetary compensation, prevents one set of defendants from ever having any involvement with the Lafayette Hotel and requires owner Balubahai Patel to meet certain training and reporting requirements designed to enforce fair housing obligations.
Mr. Patel, who owns scores of residential properties throughout California, will be required to undergo sexual harassment training and obtain certification in fair housing obligations. He will also be required to demand such training of his employees involved in the operation of each residential property and institute a new written anti-harassment policy at his properties. Tenants of Mr. Patel’s properties must be given a copy of HUD-issued know-your-rights fliers concerning harassment and management must exhibit an informational poster on laws against harassment. Mr. Patel, whose business plan includes leasing his residential buildings to individuals who then act as landlord to the residents, must now also include in future leases a requirement that operators and their employees undergo fair housing training.
The court will retain jurisdiction to enforce the terms of the consent decree and defendants will be required to submit certificates of compliance to the court, a key provision, according to Gaytan. “The consent decree entered in this case is a tremendous benefit to the tenants of this building and will have a much broader impact. At each of the over thirty properties owned by the defendant, managers will be asked to provide tenants with informational fliers concerning sexual harassment and fair housing laws and will be required to complete sexual harassment training. This requirement imposed on the owner of multiple properties statewide will cause much needed ’know your rights’ information to reach hundreds of tenants who would otherwise remain isolated.”
Reprinted from “LAFLA Matters,” the newsletter of the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles