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Three Santa Monica Landlords Granted Permission to Move into Their Vacant Buildings
Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
Roque & Mark Real Estate
2802 Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90404
(310)828-7525 -

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica


By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

July 6, 2016 -- One is a modest 1911 bungalow in Santa Monica’s Ocean Park with rental property in the back. Another is an Ocean Park home with a mother-in-law unit. And the third is a 1,418-square-foot multi-family residence on 17th Street.

On Friday, the trio will officially join the ranks of residences withdrawn from rent control under the state’s 1986 Ellis Act that allows landlords to go out of the rental business. In all three cases, the owner will occupy one of the units.

The City Council was formally notified of the newest exempted units on June 30 in a report by David Martin, the City’s director of Planning and Community Development. The permits had already been approved by the City’s Rent Control Board and take effect July 8.

In terms of the total renters impacted, the number is small. And for the Rent Control Board, the new permits did not hint at any notable trend.

“There is no particular” trend lately among landlords who apply for such permits, said Neil Wessel, the board’s public information manager. “We get all types of property owners.”

The total number of such permits issued so far this year was not available Tuesday.

Last year, the Ellis Act prompted 22 notices to withdraw rent-controlled units from the market, impacting a total of 153 units, according to a rent control officials.

All told, 2,019 units had been removed since Ellis became effective 30 years ago, officials said.

City officials have traditionally kept a close watch on the removal of rental units under Ellis, initiating safeguards that include requiring owners to obtain re-occupation permits before using their buildings for any other purpose.

City officials last year also increased oversight of owner-occupied exemptions on two- and three-unit properties like those being granted on Friday.

Of the 40 percent of property owners granted the exemption contacted by the City, 10 percent appeared to no longer qualify and their units were returned to the rent-controlled housing stock, the board said.

Some crackdowns have been more aggressive. In 2009, City inspectors monitored 73 apartment buildings removed under the Ellis act that remained standing with no building permit activity and concluded that 30 showed signs of being occupied (Who's Living in Those Ellis Units," June 3, 2009).

More than a dozen of the targeted owners said they or family members or friends were legally occupying the units by not paying rent.

Landlord representatives called the crackdown a way for the City to increase revenues and claimed the 1989 ordinance that requires the owner of an Ellised building to obtain a re-occupancy permit constitutes an “illegal tax.”

Martin’s June 30 reports to the City Council detailed the three latest properties granted reoccupancy permits.

One is a residence on Marine Street that was vacated and is being re-occupied by the present owners. Another is a two-family home on 5th Street to be occupied by the owners and a non-rent paying tenant, and the third is a multi-family residence on 17th Street to be occupied by the owner in the front and tenants in back units paying market-rate rents.

Rent control became law in Santa Monica in 1979, essentially freezing rents on existing units, with small annual increases approved by the Rent Board.

The 1994 Costa-Hawkins Rental Act allowed landlords to raise rents to market rates when the law took full effect in 1999.

As of last year, 4.4 percent of the city’s rent-controlled housing was affordable to renters with low, very low and extremely low income, down from 83 percent before Costa-Hawkins, according to rent board officials.

Of the 27,542 units that remain under the City’s rent control law, fewer than 8,000 are occupied by renters who moved in before Costa-Hawkins, officials say ("Santa Monica Affordable Housing Disappearing, Report Says," March 9, 2016).

Santa Monica’s rent control law allows some property owners to apply for exemptions, including about 580 granted to properties that serve as the owner’s home and have three or fewer rental units.

Jorge Casuso contributed to this report.

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