A controversial rent control ordinance is headed for the November 3 General Election ballot in Burbank. Caught between a rock and a hard place, the Burbank City Council last Friday, August 7, voted unanimously to let the voters decide the future of rent control. The council members took this action grudgingly, while complaining of dire consequences if the measure passes.
City officials and the city council members have actively opposed rent control and plotted to try to stamp it out. They mounted two legal actions to try to keep the ordinance from reaching the ballot and lost in both cases.
This battle, simmering in town for a long time, began in earnest last fall. That’s when proponents of rent control and a just cause eviction circulated a petition to gain enough voter signatures to put the issues on the ballot. In April 2020, they submitted the petition to Burbank City Clerk, Zizette Mullins.
The Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk verified 7,749 of those voter signatures. That’s almost a thousand more than were needed to qualify the measure. However, Mullins, with the approval of City Attorney, Amy Albano, rejected the petition citing it lacked certain required language.
The Legal Challenges
At a court hearing on July 23, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge, Mary Strobel, rejected that argument and directed Mullins to certify the petition. Then, the city council stepped in and took its legal shot. The Burbank Council members claimed the measure would violate the city charter.
Last Friday, Judge Strobel ruled the council’s argument was not strong enough to justify blocking the ordinance. Therefore, leaving the council with two options according to the California Election Code; adopted the measure or put it on the ballot. The council selected the latter.
In an email over the weekend, the major proponent of the ordinance, The Burbank Tenants Rights Committee, accused council members of ignoring the concerns of certain voters: “Our council has no real grasp of, or care for, Burbank renters. They show no indication of understanding that our renter community is undertaking the most stress they have ever had to take on, with an extreme lack of safe, lucrative work and the looming threat of the (possible) eviction tsunami. “
Already, council and city officials are preparing a brutal campaign against the measure. Even if the voters approve it, most likely City Hall will attempt to block the implementation of the ordinance with more legal maneuvers. So the fight is far from over.
Text of the rent control ordinance, preceded by a summary from the Burbank City Attorney, can be found here.