Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Betsy Butler Endorsement By Rent Control Opponents Raises Red Flags For Tenant's Rights Groups

Prominent tenant advocacy and affordable housing groups in the 50th Assembly District say Betsy Butler' endorsement by rent control opponents raises serious concerns about her commitment to protecting tenant rights.

On April 25, Butler's campaign issued a press release touting an endorsement by the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA), a landlord and apartment owners lobbying group.

“In her first term in the state Legislature, Assemblymember Butler has demonstrated a genuine understanding of the challenges facing the owners and managers of rental housing in California and has always taken a balanced approach to dealing with legislation affecting the industry,” said the association’s Executive Director, James Clarke.

On its own website, AAGLA characterizes rent control as "socialized housing" and laments it was unable to stop this "disease" from spreading throughout the state in the 1970's.  But it also celebrates a few notable victories - including the passage of Proposition 13, and its efforts to push through a vacancy decontrol law removing the ability of local communities in California to regulate rents.

In the mid 70s, when Howard Jarvis was our Executive Director and vaunted Tax Reform Campaigner, we passed Proposition 13. In the mid 90s, our Sacramento Lobbyist, Steve Carlson helped draft and pass the Costa-Hawkins Law that protects our members (allowing rent increases upon vacancies) and saving the businesses of countless owners in Santa Monica and West Hollywood and apartment owners across the state from the worst most unreasonable unfair rent control laws.

Rent control advocacy groups - including Santa Monicans For Renter's Rights (SMRR) and the Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) - say AAGLA's endorsement ought to raise red flags for renters in the 50th Assembly District.

"AAGLA endorsements are based on the candidates they believe would be more supportive of landlord issues and will vote on bills of concern to them," said Larry Gross, executive director of CES.  "They clearly believe that Betsy is a better candidate for landlords than (her opponents). This is a very important factor that tenants should keep in mind when they cast their ballots on election day in the 50th district Assembly race."

SMRR co-chair Patricia Hoffman is particularly concerned with a statement in Butler's press release that she “will work to ensure people throughout the 50th District have as many affordable housing options as possible and I look forward to assisting AAGLA in making sure this promise becomes a reality.”

"To say AAGLA creates affordable housing is a real misuse of the term, " said Hoffman. "AAGLA has never provided affordable housing for low income renters unless forced to by inclusionary housing laws."

SMRR has endorsed Butler's opponent Torie Osborn in the AD50 race.

Renters make up the majority in the 50th Assembly District. In Santa Monica, renters make up 70% of residents, in West Hollywood it's 78%, and in Hollywood, the percentage of renters soars to 92%.

Interestingly, in Betsy Butler's current Southbay district, (with the exception of Marina del Rey and Venice) the opposite is largely true. In Redondo Beach half the residents are renters, in Torrance, only 44% or residents are renters, and in Manhattan Beach, only 35% rent.

"When it comes to rent control, she's acting as if she's running in her old district." observed one campaign professional not affiliated with the race. (Though not affiliated with any of the candidates, he asked his name not be used for professional considerations.)

Former West Hollywood City Councilman Steve Martin raised similar concerns in an op-ed he wrote for 

Butler’s touting of the Apartment Association endorsement reflects a tin ear to our local concerns that is probably a result of the fact that Butler is a South Bay politico", wrote Martin.

"For Betsy Butler, rent control may seem to be something of an esoteric or philosophical issue. But to many Westside tenants, rent control is a question of protecting our homes."

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