City Council Candidate Question #2 – Subject: Housing in Burbank

By On September 23, 2020

Editor’s Note: myBurbank sent eight questions out to the eight different candidates running for Burbank City Council. myBurbank will run a different question each day for eight days (except for weekends). We have in no way edited any of the responses that we have received and have come directly from the candidates. We gave them no limits to the amount of space they wanted to use for their answers and have rotated the order of the candidates each day so no one has an advantage. After reading these questions and answers, myBurbank hopes that the voters of Burbank will have an informed opinion before casting their votes. Remember, you can vote for two candidates and every vote is valuable!

Question 2 of 8:

How do you feel about the ballot Measure RC concerning housing and rent controls in Burbank? Also, how do you feel about future growth in Burbank and how the housing demands are being met?

 

Candidate Responses:

Tim Murphy:

Measure RC is a poorly written mess and something we don’t need because we already have rent control for all of Burbank and the state through AB 1482 which became law 1/1/20. Take a look at it with the same exact title only simpler and well thought out. We haven’t had the time to see if we need to even make any changes in AB1482 yet.  Measure RC will rob the general fund of $24 million that may never be recouped, closing important programs for seniors and our youth population.  It violates many parts of our city charter, so it is not even legal.  Apparently little research was done on the basic fact that Burbank is a charter city.  In order to change our charter you have to clearly state you are going to do that and inform the signers in advance that your petition seeks charter amendments.  They did not do that and to amend the charter 9,300 signatures are required and not the 6,000+ that were obtained. If someone wants to make changes to the charter you have to follow the rules.  It’s like a house was built without a foundation! It is and will be a disaster for Burbank and keep investors out for many years. The small landlords have been crushed by the pandemic and now they will have to sell at a loss because of Measure RC. Corporate landlords will buy their property and tear it down and make the new properties market rate (because new properties are not subject to rent control) which will reduce the available affordable housing and thus hurt our tenants.  The drafters of the measure try to mislead the voters saying rents had gone up 50% in a certain nine year time period. I researched that statement with a well respected independent statistical firm called Col-Star which showed rents in Burbank for those years had only risen 26% – only about half.  The Col-Star report also showed our rents were less than Pasadena and Glendale and homelessness was much less in Burbank as well. Comparing Burbank to the cities where this poor system (like RC) is used both our rents and homelessness were way below their rates as well. Poorly written, not needed, and based on false arguments. Bad for Burbank, crushes small landlords, and bad for tenants over the long haul.  Why are outside interests pouring outside money into this measure telling Burbank what they think we need?  Voters need to read the independent 9212 report on Burbank’s website which lays out the huge costs that our taxpayers will incur if they vote for this measure.

Burbank has filed a plan which has been approved by the state to build 12,000 new units over the next 15 years. We have finally been able to fully staff our planning department and we are ready to continue a controlled, planned growth. We have just filed a Golden State Specific Plan that clearly outlines where we think new housing can be located. We are looking to place new units near transportation hubs and to build in tenant amenities in mixed use projects to reduce traffic and allow workers to work at home. We are also doing this downtown. I feel that these are reasonable and realistic plans which fit into our complete streets plan discussed in answer #1 above.

Linda Bessin:

We currently have rent control in Burbank and I support rent control. If this measure was only focused on creating more stringent rent control in Burbank, we could have a fact-based discussion on whether that is needed. But this is not a measure about rent control. Its objective is to create a new structure of power in our City government. It aims to give five unelected individuals unchecked control over our local economy, our housing supply and ultimately the future of Burbank.

There is a tremendous need for more affordable housing in Burbank. This measure does not create that. We have severe economic challenges now and will continue to have those challenges in the years ahead. This measure adds avoidable burdens on top of those challenges.

We live with the consequences of the severe affordable housing shortage in Burbank. Traffic, housing costs, evictions, and the cost of living overall are impacted significantly and the problem gets worse each year.

The lack of housing in Burbank was clear years ago and our elected officials failed to act. There are those who declare that there should be “local control of housing.” Sacramento stepped in and dictated a solution because Burbank City Council preferred to ignore the problem. Had direct, decisive action been taken earlier, our situation would not be so dire today. It is foolish to think that we can ignore the state laws that mandate affordable housing.

We need to empower Burbank residents to create new housing and push aside the complicated and inconsistent guidelines set forth by the City Permit Department. Building Accessory Dwelling Units is one alternative that would allow rent paid by Burbank residents to go to Burbank residents rather than outside developers. Let’s keep that money in the Burbank economy so that it benefits our entire city.

Burbank will have to keep our city modern and vibrant in order to survive the current economic upheaval. We can grow as a city to bring jobs and economic opportunity to help us through these difficult times. Investment in Burbank must continue. Our city’s economy depends on responsible and thoughtful progress for both our businesses and our residents.

Konstantine Anthony:

I am a renter here in Burbank, and I am also a co-author on Measure RC. I previously worked as a property manager for five and a half years, and my parents have owned single-family home rental properties for most of my life. I grew up knowing the value of mom-and-pop landlords, and I made sure to include that knowledge in the text of Measure RC. While crafting this ordinance, we spent a lot of time speaking with Burbank residents through outreach and public town halls. For its inclusion on the ballot, I personally collected over 3,000 voters’ signatures and my campaign manager Margo Rowder collected 2,000. These signers spoke with us, some in great length, about the importance of this measure and how it would help them personally.

Renters make up 60% of Burbank’s population. Our jobs-to-housing ratio is 3:1, and the vacancy rate of rentals is a precipitously low 1.5%. We created Measure RC because our city council refused to provide what our 24,000 renting households need: stabilized rents and stronger eviction protections. Our team included lawyers from the community development practice area of Public Counsel, who are experts with decades of experience in this discipline. Over the course of 10 months, we worked together to craft the measure to be compatible with Burbank’s city charter. Based on best practices from 13 other California cities, Measure RC is the best way to stabilize our community while protecting mom-and-pop landlords with local control.

The measure’s administrative expenses would be paid through small fees charged only to landlords and tenants, just like any rent board in the state. Measure RC has already won two challenges in the Superior Court of California. Despite all the hand-wringing from large, corporate landlords and their lobbyists, this measure is no different from rent regulation measures implemented across California in the last 10-20 years, which is why it is endorsed by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, Pilipino American Los Angeles Democrats, and San Fernando Valley Young Democrats.

Regulating rents is only one part of the housing puzzle. We still need to construct new affordable units to bring bloated housing prices down. That’s why I’m in favor of adding more affordable housing instead of the current trend of rubber-stamping luxury apartments. One alternative is to allow homeowners the freedom to build ADUs on their own property, and another is to finally approve the mixed-use development standards that were created with community input and have been seemingly ignored by our city council ever since.

In addition, our home sales are skyrocketing, and young families with good jobs and down payments for their first homes are being priced out of the market. They can’t compete with the corporate real estate purchasers and out-of-state cash buyers who care nothing for the community of our city and only seek to gain capital investment. To combat this, we must ensure that large-scale residential developments require a 10% minimum of for-sale housing and a 20% minimum of affordable rentals, deed-restricted for 55 years.

In addition, California’s new public banking law allows for Burbank to utilize the city’s general fund to offer low-interest-rate loans to those who need a competitive edge against large corporate buyers. This will not cost the city any money, and in fact could increase revenue on the small-interest loans it provides. The general fund could also be used to aid a building’s tenants in purchasing said building in order to convert it into a housing co-op. To assist in this, city council should enact a right of first refusal on all non-owner-occupied rental properties.

Tamala Takahashi:

We have a very high demand for housing in our city. With a 3/1 jobs to housing ratio our vacancy rates are low, around 1%. This drives up housing costs, as many of those who want to live in Burbank are willing to pay the high costs. Scarcity plus demand drives up cost. 

If we want to see housing costs go down, we either have to increase availability, or reduce demand. 

Creating more housing is the solution that most cities are adopting, and is required by the state to meet the demand for housing statewide. It’s important that as we build new housing to ease up the high costs, that we don’t lose our high quality city services and neighborhood feel. It’s also important that we abide by the state law to build more housing so that we maintain local control for where and how we can build. If we do not build housing, we may be forced to rezone single family neighborhoods into high density. 

To this end, I support a combination of “gentle density” for our single family home (R1) neighborhoods, and more traditional density in public transportation corridors. 

Gentle density is the peppering of small-scale additions of housing spread out around the city in the form of ADUs, micro housing, duplexes and triplexes, and small mixed use buildings. 

Workforce housing is also desperately needed in our city, and one of the most difficult kinds of housing to build. Partnering with non-profits and businesses, especially the large businesses, is a possible way to address the issue of workforce housing demand that the city cannot do alone, and will not likely be created by traditional development interests. 

We can also decrease demand for housing in Burbank, by leveraging the potential likelihood of remote working after COVID, and considering incentivizing non-traditional workers that don’t need to drive into Burbank every day of the week. 

In regards to Measure RC – I do not support Measure RC and will be voting “no”. 

The discussion around RC has mistakenly been about rent control. The issues that the public needs to look at for this measure is not about whether or not Burbank needs stricter rent control that we already have as mandated by the state. That discussion is definitely worth having in general, but it distracts from the most important part of the measure we are voting on. 

The one change that this measure brings about, that cannot be done in any other way except by the ballot process, is the creation of a completely separate governing body in the city government. Once it’s implemented, it will have no accountability to council or the city manager, and has full access to staff and money in the budget without oversight. This portion of the measure is what we’re really voting on, because a measure on the ballot is the only way that this kind of governing body can be created. 

The questions I have are whether it’s good use of our very limited city funding, what other city services we should give up to fund this, whether we want a governing body in our city that is of equal power as our city manager and city council, and is the inflexible nature of the measure acceptable in a time when Burbank needs to more adaptable than ever.

Before COVID, our city was recovering financially. But when COVID hit, it reduced our city funds significantly. Currently, we are looking at a $20 Million deficit. If this measure passes, it will add another $9 Million bill to our already strained budget. Further, the city council and the city manager will not be able to adjust or change that portion of the budget, due to the power that this new governing body will have. If the new committee asks for $9 Million, they get it. So, my question is, as someone who has had to make this kind of hard decision on the Infrastructure Oversight Board, since we will already be tightening the apron strings for the $20 million that we have no control over, where in the budget will we cut out $9 million more, to cover this new governing body’s budget? 

This committee will also be of equal power as the city council and the city manager. It will be able to hire staff, pull resources from the city attorney’s office, and create its own budget, without approval or process outside of the committee. The one possible oversight that is available is that council can remove members of the committee. However, this can only be done if a member of the committee has done something illegal or has been derelict in their duties. Council cannot remove a member because they are bad at budgeting or ask for too many hours from the staff. If the committee decides they need $15 Million, they get it. And the city council can’t remove members for taking too much from the budget. So, in reality, there is no oversight. 

Lastly, and one of the most important parts of this measure, is that it’s immutable. If it’s voted in, and the court challenge against it fails, it will change the city charter permanently, and it cannot be modified or updated again until there is another ballot measure put forward. Therefore, in order to change the stipulations of this measure, or to change the power of the new governing body, a resident or group of residents would have to gather 7,000+ signatures and go through the effort of putting up an amendment to vote. Or, the city would have to create a charter amendment committee to create a ballot measure to change it. Not only are both of these expensive scenarios, but they are slow. And while it’s happening, whatever problem has been found with the committee will not be able to be addressed during the petition process. If we vote this committee in, we’re changing the charter, and it’s permanent. 

No matter what any other part of the measure says, or what the merits are, is changing our charter to create an immutable separate governing body the right thing to do, during COVID, when we need local adaptability more than ever? I don’t believe so, so I am voting no. 

Michael Lee Gogin:

I am opposed to rent control. The basic math of 7% times the rent today within 10 years the rent will double. For the fixed or low income person would create homelessness for those including people with disabilities & elderly. There is also the possibility that if a landlord or property owner does not want to wait out the 10 years, they would put the property into a trust to change the name of the owner. This then would allow the NEW Named Owner to bring the property price up and maybe even become cost prohibitive for low income / fixed income or disabled. Again, will cause Homelessness.

Paul Herman:

I am very much opposed to Measure RC because it will reduce the housing supply, greatly increase market rents over time, diminish the quality of available housing, create an unaccountable rent control board, drive a stake through the heart of our City Charter, and cost the City millions of dollars to implement. The most expensive places to live in this country (New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Monica, etc.…) all have rent restrictive rent control laws.  If rent control works so well why is the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco about $5,000 per month (San Francisco has had rent control for decades)?  Besides, we already have statewide rent control legislation (AB1482) that was passed last year and went into effect Jan. 1 of this year, so why are special interest groups outside of Burbank trying pass this initiative?  Because they do not have Burbank’s best interests at heart, which is why if Measure RC passes Burbank’s current housing needs will never be met.  If Measure RC passes Burbank will become less affordable for all but the few who win today’s rent control lottery and do so to the detriment of our kids and grandkids. 

I will answer your question about how the housing demands are being met in Burbank on Nov. 4th.

Nick Schultz:

The lack of affordable housing is not just a problem for those who live in Burbank. It is also a problem for our teachers, firefighters, police, studio workers, and service industry workers who have to commute from far distances to work in Burbank. All of this commuting has collateral consequences for our community such as increased traffic and air pollution. Too many of our neighbors are suffering under the burden of housing costs. 

Adding to our stock of affordable housing over the next four years is of absolute necessity. To that end, I will prioritize the addition of more affordable housing for low income families, for those new to the workforce, and for seniors on fixed incomes, as well as housing for people who work in jobs critical to the well-being of our community. I believe that the Golden State District presents a natural home for the new affordable housing options that Burbank desperately needs. If elected, I will work with my colleagues and city staff to re-assess existing barriers to developers seeking to add affordable housing units to Burbank.

Our city is made up predominantly of renters and they cannot afford to wait for the addition of more affordable housing to get relief.

As a lawyer, I have spent a considerable amount of time going through the language of Measure RC and its potential impacts. On one hand, I am supportive of common-sense rent control measures, including rent stabilization and renter protections. However, I have concerns about the cost of this proposal and the scope of the powers that would be vested in the Landlord-Tenant Commission. In researching this issue further, I believe that Assembly Bill 1482 already provides a framework that allows for the protection of our renters, including rent stabilization. As a councilmember, keeping tenants housed would be my absolute top priority, and I believe we can accomplish this with current state law.

Sharis Manokian:

I am an advocate for both Measure RC and the state-wide rent control law passed earlier this year. No one should have to live with the fear that they could lose their home and be forced to live on the streets. Furthermore, increasing rents are driving out the diversity from our city, and contributing to LA’s housing crisis. We’ve seen rent control work in cities all across the United States, and there is no reason it can’t work here.

I’m optimistic about the future growth of Burbank. Along with rent control, I would like to see us build more affordable housing and dedicate more existing units to lower-income families. It is clear that many residents are concerned about the housing crisis, and rent control and increasing the supply of housing are just two steps we can take to meet demand.