Letter to the Editor: Resident Give Credit to City Council for Taking Action

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Letter to the Editor:

I have been critical of City Councils both past and present. It is important to give credit when credit is due.

At last night’s City Council meeting, renters spoke en masse about receiving “no reason” 60-day eviction notices. These residents have lived in Burbank for years, some for decades, and they spoke of their love for our city and about how they contribute meaningfully to making Burbank wonderful in many ways. Their apartment buildings had been recently sold and the new owner (evidently a corporation) has decided to evict all tenants, most of whom are low income. The speakers are responsible, decent and hardworking people and families now on the verge of being homeless. They have no money to pay for a move, nowhere to move to and their lives are filled with fear and panic as they are on the brink of a financial and emotional disaster that they did not cause.

In the past, our city leaders would probably have simply referred all these desperate people to the Landlord Tenant Commission and left it at that. In fact, that is what City Staff attempted to do last night. But our City Council understood that this was a crisis happening before their eyes. They took responsibility and immediately and unanimously voted to add this situation to the agenda so they could address it and explore what action could be taken to protect their constituents. They responded with compassion, accountability and leadership.

Anyone who watched last night’s Public Comment and was not shaken and moved is the definition of heartless. These people are being treated with abject cruelty and brutality by this new landlord. While a solution will take time, I am grateful that my neighbors were not responded to with empty promises and shrugged shoulders. We are a small city and we need to take care of each other, and our Council last night showed they understand how important this is for all of us.

Linda Bessin
Burbank

    CBIS DataTax

    2 COMMENTS

    1. Please stop with the drama Linda. The property owner is following the law. The council was clearly overreaching. It should be noted that some of the speakers were complaining about three day notices. This type of notice is to cure something or vacate. (most likely non-payment of rent) Some of the tenants have not paid any rent for YEARS under the excuse of Covid. Do you expect this to be able to go on for eternity? Get real. Additionally, No one is being evicted… yet. They have had their tenancy canceled via a 60 day notice. There is a huge difference and using the inflammatory word “eviction” is not the case here at all.
      Linda, were you aware that after the expiration of a lease, any renter can vacate by giving the property owner 30 days notice? How is it fair the a property owner must give that same renter a 60 day notice AND and amount equal to one months rent? One speaker, if he had his way would wanted an amount equal to six months rent. Crazy.
      Did you hear the City Attorney tell the council to stay out of it and that this was a matter for the legislature? He told them twice, but the council ignored him (clearly they think they know more than their own attorney). The meeting Tuesday night was a dog and pony show with the council far exceeding their authority. The meeting was filled with Brown Act violations as well. Do you think it was proper for the Mayor and Vice Mayor to be whispering in each others ears during public comment while a speaker was actually speaking?
      Linda, I’ll tell you one thing – the Socialist agenda of this council will not stand for long, it can’t. You are witnessing the destruction of Burbank as we know it. Totally anti business and anti property owners rights. The courts will have something to say about all of this and guess what, the taxpayers of Burbank will have to foot the bill.

      On a related matter, I have called for the reopening of small claims court and Unlawful Detainers (eviction cases) to be heard here in Burbank and not Pasadena. Many years ago we had these types of cases resolved locally and did not require travel which is a hardship for disabled, and people without a mode of transportation to a distant city. In many cases with landlord tenant matters there can be a dispute as to security deposits that call for a court intervention.
      Linda, will you and every person please support this desire to have these types of cases back to be resolved locally by asking our council to contact our county representative to make this happen? This request helps everyone – property owners and tenants equally and there is no downside.

    2. Disclaimer: I am a current property owner in Burbank who has tenants.

      There is a common belief that a property owner has a perpetual duty to continue offering the same accommodation to the same person or group of people indefinitely at a static price or at a price that is controlled by the government. This does not account for the multitude of contractual relationships that exist between tenants and property owners (and the City Attorney addressed contractual rights multiple times on 4/25/2023 during the City Council meeting). Let us flip this around for a moment, a property owner spends thousands of dollars preparing an apartment for rent, it is pristine, remodeled and amazing. They rent it on a month-to-month basis, depend on that rental income to cover the mortgage and then suddenly, the tenant decides to give 30-days notice to leave. The owner is clearly going to be negatively affected financially by this move-out and then will have to deal with a vacancy, advertising costs to pay to find new prospective tenants, then spend valuable time showing the apartment. Should there be an urgency ordinance preventing that tenant from leaving in 30 days? Should a tenant have the right to stay in a property after a lease expires? What if a family member was planning to move into it after that lease was over? Should that tenant then stay in the apartment forever and the family member be asked to look elsewhere?

      Taxes are one of the greatest reasons rents are what they are. The owners of property are the first to be asked to pay additional taxes by way of voted indebtedness and direct assessments. There is very little these property owners can do about this. These include metro water district, community college, unified schools, flood control, vector control, trauma and emergency services, and clean water fees, which all sound beneficial but in some cases, these assessments are complicated with unclear purposes and they are tacked onto the tax bill. Some of these assessments were added recently and longtime owners of property did not anticipate these costs when acquiring the properties they own. Twice, local Burbank School District bureaucrats put up a measure to add a parcel tax based on square footage, not value, and there is talk of even more “tax” to be added for the alleged good of the people. There is no limit to how many voter-approved add-ons can be tacked onto a property tax bill which means the property owner pays more and sees.

      Use the example of a 5-unit bread-and-butter rental building that today costs $2,500,000. The property taxes alone on this building are $28,500 to a new owner. That is $5,700 per tenant. That amounts to $475 per month in taxes per tenant.

      Due to the uncertainty of acquiring rental property, I stopped buying them in 2007. I invested my money elsewhere. And many of the good, small mom-and-pop investors have gone away as well because of the fear that the government will assess more rules and add more taxes. This is not guesswork, I have spoken with these former rental property investors.

      In my humble opinion, the rental costs have continued to rise as a result of the exit of smaller investors, the increase in taxes, and the speculation of larger investors who either flip the properties to benefit from inflationary appreciation, decide to convert to condos (good for some because it increases the supply of purchasable homes), or to renovate.

      Making summary judgments about the latest situation is a slippery slope. Some of the speakers admit to not having paid rent, COVID crushed some property owners who could not survive the nonpayment of rent, and some had to sell valuable property which in and of itself is likely to result in rent increases. Any time property is uncapped (the taxable value is reassessed by a purchase), the new, higher property tax must be paid and that means rent increases are imminent.

      The Burbank City Council should not engage in the activities reserved for the judiciary. That is the job of judges. Summary judgment should not be imposed on situations. Every tenant has inalienable rights and can seek legal assistance to enforce them.

      We also lack sufficient information about every personal situation and it is not the job of the City to brush broad strokes that may affect the life savings of a local investor in a fleeting moment of compassion for a group of individuals in a single building as appears to be the situation brought to Council this week. There is inventory in Burbank of available rentals and in candor, the City itself is holding onto far too much vacant land, in my opinion, that could be suitable for building housing.

      If you have the time, investigate 10 Magnolia as one large property that could be used to build lots of apartments.

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