Business & Economy

LA housing panel hammers out final rules for seismic retrofitting law

LA's Housing Committee voted unanimously to split the cost of reinforcing rent-controlled homes against earthquakes between tenants and landlords.
LA's Housing Committee voted unanimously to split the cost of reinforcing rent-controlled homes against earthquakes between tenants and landlords.
Sanden Totten/KPCC

Los Angeles councilmembers voted Monday to split the cost of earthquake retrofits evenly between landlords and tenants in rent-controlled units, capping off a year of vigorous debate between the two groups. 

The new policy attempts to close the loop on one of the most controversial aspects of the city's brand-new law requiring seismic retrofits: how to pay for repairs that cost potentially tens of thousands of dollars per building.

Under the new policy, tenants would see rent increases spread out over a 10 year-period. Monthly rent hikes would be capped at $38. The policy would apply to more than 170,000 housing units covered by the city's rent-stabilization law.

The 3-o vote by the Housing Committee comes nearly two months after the city approved its seismic retrofit mandate. The 50-50 payment plan still needs to be rubber-stamped by the full council in the coming days.

"Our primary goal is to make sure that everybody has a place in the city that they can live and work that is safe," said Councilmember Gil Cedillo, who chairs the housing panel.

Under current law, landlords have the right to pass through 100 percent of retrofit costs to renters, though increases would be restricted to $75/month. In San Francisco, landlords can pass on all the costs to tenants. But Cedillo had stated earlier this year that wasn't the plan in Los Angeles, where the gap between housing costs and renters' pay is among the widest in the country.

Renters' rights groups such as the Coalition for Economic Survival had objected to any rent increases related to seismic retrofits, but its executive director Larry Gross conceded that a 50 percent pass-through was still better than 100 percent.

"It is a victory in the sense that we've been able to lower the cost that is now shared," Gross said.