I am honored to return as president of ACTION. I
was previously President of ACTION in 1988 and 1989. ACTION will
surely miss Gordon Gitlen and I will personally miss him as well.
He was a tenacious leader who was always working to protect your
Whenever there is a change in leadership for an organization
it is a time for reflection about where ACTION has been and where
it is going. When I first got involved with ACTION in 1984 I found
a young organization with members of great creativity, open hostility
for rent control and a desire to protect property rights. Over
the years we have had the opportunity to try many plans of attack
on Rent Control. Some of which have worked and many have failed.
These attacks have included two initiatives for vacancy decontrol,
one in the 80s and one in the 90s. In the 80s,
we were successful at getting a condominium conversion ordinance
passed called TORCA (Tenant Ownership Rights Charter Amendment).
We lost on the first attempt at the polls but we were close enough
that SMRR leadership decided to negotiate a deal rather than have
us pass TORCA on our own. Unfortunately, it had a sunset provision
which occurred during the Real Estate downturn of the mid 90s.
Therefore, it died for lack of interest.
We recently attempted a condo conversion ordinance but it failed
at the polls because a majority of the owners were more interested
in staying in business than selling their units as condos. This
is a testament to the success of the Costa-Hawkins vacancy decontrol
bill that passed through the California Legislature in 1995, just
10 years ago. The passage of the Costa-Hawkins bill has brought
a more amicable era with the Rent Control Board.
Our opponents too were young and dumb and made many mistakes
that we were able to exploit. However, they too have grown, matured,
calmed down and have set about the business of protecting their
political power base. They are willing to even eat their
own young when politics have required it. This occurred
in the early 90s when SMRR fired their City Attorney, Robert
Myers, when he would not tow the political line in trying to crack
down on the homeless problem which was by all accounts worse than
it is today. Yes, it is hard to believe, it was worse! But Robert
Myers would not prosecute even the most hardened criminal element
of the homeless. ACTION made an attempt to create an elected City
Attorney position. The measure failed. However, we were successful
at pinning a badge on Robert Myers as the promoter of the homeless.
When SMRR did a survey they discovered that most of the people
in Santa Monica equated the homeless problem with Robert Myers.
As such, SMRR majority fired their own to protect their voter
base at the polls.
Another example of how SMRR has grown up is in the 3304 regulations,
which allow owners to evict a tenant who is not using their unit
as their primary residence. The Rent Control Board was informed
that they could not protect against such a law on a state level
unless they passed one themselves. Thus, the Rent Control Board
passed the ordinance in order to control the process. Their process
of course makes it much more difficult for landlords to evict
tenants not in residency. However, units have been recovered using
Over the years we have used the court system many a time in an
attempt to protect property rights. We once won a unanimous appellate
decision in the Santa Monica Beach case which held Rent Control
unconstitutional. However, the California and the U.S. Supreme
Courts saw the property rights issue differently and reserved
the decision. To make matters worse we have had several recent
cases that have negatively impacted property rights. In Lingle
v. Chevron U.S. Supreme Court allowed the State of Hawaii to regulate
rents on gas stations. Then, in Kelo v. New London the Supreme
Court allowed the government to take property for public use provided
it paid just compensation. However, an elderly womans home
was being taken and then given to a private developer for their
corporate headquarters. The ink is hardly dry on the decision
and the City of Santa Monica has already announced that it wants
to seize an apartment building and demolish it for code violations.
ACTION recently won Balter v. SMRCB, which prevents the RCB from
forcing us to pay interest on Security deposits. Our attorney
Rosario Perry obtained an attorneys fee award of $175,000.
With the new court rulings we must concentrate on smaller cases
of general appeal. We should also focus on changing state laws
Please feel free to call me or the ACTION office with your own
short story of what the rent board is doing to you so that we
can help to protect your property rights. We are looking for cases
to file which would protect property rights in general and that
are not totally unique to your situation.
I look forward to serving as your new President of ACTION and
I look forward to hearing from you. I also encourage and ask you
to jump in and participate more with ACTION. We can become stronger
and more effective by having more involvement from our members.
I look forward to your participation.