Author: Joe Brizzolara / August 5th, 2018
The Glendale Tenants Union held yet another rally outside of Tuesday’s City Council meeting this past week.
After signature gathering and speeches (translated into both Armenian and Spanish), the red-shirt donning group of rent control advocates entered the chambers. Union members delivered fiery speeches, calling out councilmembers during public comment as those on the dais responded with sober silence.
“We look forward to working with you one day when you decide to invest your time and care into the residents of Glendale and not the shape of its skyline,” said Mike Van Gorder, a founding member of the G.T.U. “It’s not that this council lacks political courage, [because] they don’t. But this council’s political courage is tied exclusively to the enrichment of mega developers like Rick Caruso.”
Rick Caruso is one of the wealthiest developers in the Greater Los Angeles area. His company, Caruso, is privately held and its portfolio includes the Americana at Brand, a mixed residential-commercial property with 242 apartments and 100 condos in Downtown Glendale. Rent for currently listed units at the Americana begins at $3,050 per month for a one bedroom.
A review of campaign finance records shows that Councilmembers Paula Devine, Ara Najarian and Mayor Sinanyan have all received contributions from the powerful California Association of Realtors Political Action Committee. The California Real Estate PAC contributed around $4.2 million in local and state races in the first six months of this year alone. They strongly oppose rent control.
Councilmember Vartan Gharpetian has received significant campaign contributions from real estate interests, comprising close to 12 percent of total contributions from January 1st, 2017 thru June 30, 2018. Gharpetian is also CEO of Glendale Commercial Inc., a real estate agency.
Hayk Makhmuryan is a member of the G.T.U. and he directed much of his comments to Glendale’s large Armenian community, of which he is a member. He spoke in both Armenian and English and made reference to a resolution involving the Armenian American Museum in Glendale which was discussed that evening. The hat he was wearing was also bilingual. In Armenian it read: ‘with courage’, a popular rally cry during the Armenian Velvet Revolution this past year. In English: ‘Rent Control Now’.
“We talk about cultural preservation and we allow half of our cultural core, the folks that actually make up the diasporic gem that [is] the Armenian community in Glendale [to] be pushed out [by increased rents],” said Makhmuryan.
After delivering comments, the group exited the chambers and continued rallying outside City Hall.
An Aug. 6th deadline approaches and if the G.T.U. is able to submit 10,000 verifiable signatures to the city clerk than their rent control initiative will make it to the November ballot.
“We’re hustling, we’re doing as much as we can,” said Van Gorder about signature gathering. “We’re trying to not look at it in terms of ‘this is it’… this is a really long campaign.”
If passed, the new ordinance will cap rent increases at 4.5 percent annually and will establish a rent board. Read a detailed summary of the ordinance here.
The G.T.U. believes this is much needed for a community that is 61.9 percent renters, according to the 2010 census, and is facing dramatic rent increases fueled by real estate speculation and high-end development.
Karim Sidi, a 20-year resident of Glendale, got involved with the G.T.U. in response to dramatic rent increases, of which he has been personally affected. Last year his rent went up $200 a month. This past month, he claims it’s increased another $200 a month.
“Plus the building got sold, so that means that most likely the rents are going to be increased by the new landlords because that’s what’s going on around Glendale,” said Sidi.
The G.T.U. has had some setbacks. Last year, they were they involved with another rent control initiative which fell short of verifiable signatures. This initiative was led by community members with minimal political organizing experience, not the G.T.U. which formed 3 months after signature gathering had already begun.
They say they learned a lot from this first attempt though, and have sought legal aid this time around. State election law mandates that if the signature threshold is not met, organizers have to start from scratch if they want to submit new signatures.
Similar rent control initiatives launched in Long Beach, Inglewood, and neighboring Pasadena were unsuccessful in making it to the ballot.
“A lot of people [have said] ‘Ah I already signed this. Why didn’t it work?’ and they get frustrated with the whole process. But this is a multiple-campaign type [process] and it has to be,” said Van Gorder. “We don’t know how we’re going to win. We just know that eventually we will”