Anaheim Apartment Tenants Get No Rent Relief from City Council

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Mother and daughter plead the city council to have rent control in Rancho La Paz at a June 2019 Anaheim City Council meeting.

The Anaheim City Council voted against two separate temporary apartment rent control ordinances, despite a tenant protest in front of City Hall and hours of residents pleading for help to the Council during public comment. 

The Council voted 2-5 Wednesday morning against both ordinances, with Councilman Jose Moreno and Councilwoman Denise Barnes voting yes on both. 

“So we heard from a lot of our residents this evening and we heard from lobbyists. The lobbyists say everything is fine, housing is going to come,” Moreno said shortly after 2 a.m. Wednesday. “We heard from residents over and over that they are seeking relief. I am offering our Council, as I did with the mobile home park ordinance, an urgency ordinance … On July 3, their rents are being increased by $700 — that we’re aware of.” 

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Left, Yolanda Guillen, 60, and Evelyn Quinonez, 65, both live in Rancho La Paz.

The meeting started at 5 p.m. June 18 and public comment lasted for at least four hours, with a majority of people advocating for rent control. The proposed rent control ordinances were scheduled to be debated by the Council earlier, according to the agenda schedule — but Mayor Harry Sidhu moved the annual budget hearing in front, after council members finished the consent calendar. The Council didn’t take up the rent control proposals until shortly after midnight, when most people had already left.

Residents from Casa Grande apartments started attending City Council meetings in April to petition the city for help on the incoming rent increases they will soon face.

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Overflow room at a June 2019 Anaheim City Council meeting.

The two proposals would have limited apartment rent increases to no more than 10 percent for six months in an effort to provide residents some relief while the Council looked for other ways to help Anaheim renters.

The urgency ordinance would have taken effect immediately, but needed six of the seven Councilmembers to vote for it. The temporary ordinance would require four votes and a second reading and would have taken effect 30 days after the second vote. 

“Everybody knows I oppose rent control and it’s not because the apartment association contributed to my campaign,” Councilman Trevor O’Neil said. “They contributed to my campaign because they know I’m a staunch opponent of rent control.” 

O’Neil presented powerpoint slides to the Council and said the average apartment rent prices for the area around Casa Grande is $1,536. He also said, after the increases, the average rent for Casa Grande will be $1,489. 

He also said 16 out of 18 people have already signed the new leases. 

“After having such an opportunity to leave, nobody did,” O’Neil said.  

Councilwoman Lucille Kring also said the rents have been historically under market rate. 

“There’s a reason they’re not leaving — because the rents have been so under market,” Kring said. “The landlord did not keep rents up to what it should have been.” 

She also said the city would bear some enforcement costs on rent control and if the proposals were adopted, new apartment construction would stop. 

 “We had the building associations here — you put rent control here, you will automatically, overnight, stop construction of those apartments,” Kring said. 

But the ordinances focused on apartment buildings that have been operating since before February 1995. 

Moreno said the cost for tenants to relocate is too high for many of them because of the down payment needed for a new apartment. 

Over 350,000 residents live in Anaheim and roughly 55 percent of the population rents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The median household income is $65,000 and 16 percent of Anaheim residents are living in poverty. 

According to the Census Bureau, half of Anaheim’s 54,000 renting households spend 35 percent or more of their income on rent

About 31 percent of the roughly 33,000 mortgaged homes in the city pay more 35 percent or more of household income to mortgage, while 30 percent of mortgaged homes pay 20 percent or less to a mortgage. 

Roughly 60 to 70 people protested in front of city hall during the meeting in an attempt to push the Council to vote yes on the rent control ordinances.

SPENCER CUSTODIO, Voice of OC

Protests in front of the June 2019 Anaheim City Council meeting.

Among the protestors were Casa Grande residents, along with residents from the Rancho La Paz senior mobile home park. 

Rancho La Paz residents kicked off rent control discussions in the city when they began to lobby the City Council for help in March. Their fight helped spark the Casa Grande apartment residents to petition the Council for help a month later. A new owner bought the Rancho La Paz property and told Anaheim he has to increase the rent in order to recover the increase in property taxes he has to pay.

After a March meeting with Sidhu, the mobile home park owner, John Saunders, agreed to halt rent increases until September and begin negotiating with mobile home residents. But residents said the rent increase negotiations have stalled. 

Although the City Council indefinitely tabled the mobile home park rent control ordinances April 16, Rancho La Paz residents said they wanted to show support for the apartment renters because both groups are facing rent increases they consider unaffordable. 

Local labor union members were also part of the protest. 

Labor union Unite Here Local 11 helped organize the protest. The union represents many employees who work in Anaheim hotels and employees working at Angel stadium. 

Unite Here President and Orange County Democratic Party Chairwoman Ada Briceño said she wants to get residents organized to stand up against special interests. 

“We’re going to continue to organize and wake up residents in Anaheim for them to really stand up against the corporate interests,” she said.  

“They can do it (vote down rent control), but there will be consequences. I just would love to leave it at that,” Briceño said, without specifying the consequences. 

Some Unite Here members and residents were also protesting the perceived lack of transparency surrounding the Angels stadium negotiations and pushed for a deal that would include a community benefits agreement. Such agreements could stipulate the team provide neighborhood amenities, use a local hiring process and many other things — depending on what’s negotiated. 

“Harry (Sidhu), escucha (listen)!” many residents and Unite Here members chanted as they marched in a circle just outside the entrance to city hall. 

While the protest was happening, the City Council chambers filled up and many people waited in line to get inside to speak during public comment. At one point, the line extended out of City Hall and into the protest area. There was also at least 40 people watching the meeting through a live television feed in the City Hall lobby. 

Casa Grande resident Maria Carpio said she often has to face difficult choices when paying rent. 

“Sometimes we have to choose [between] giving food to our kids, or rent,” Carpio told the Council. 

Resident and meeting regular Mark Richard Daniels said the Council’s voting pattern isn’t reflective of the city. 

“You don’t seem to connect with the rest of the residents of the city,” Daniels said. “You just kind of look at us … it’s almost futile coming here.

Kring said new apartments are being built, which can help stabilize rent pricing in the city. 

“So there are a lot of things the city is doing. We’re building hundreds of new apartments,” Kring said. “And we are opening up our section 8 which has not been open for the past 10 years … rent control is absolutely not the way to go.” 

But Moreno said the waitlist for section 8 housing vouchers is so long, it’s not going to help residents currently petitioning the Council for help. 

He also said the new apartments being built are expensive, high-end apartments.

“I’m asking for your consideration to move out of ideologies. I’m not trying to fight on this,” Moreno said. “Basically the apartments where working class, poor folks live, are one or two star … there is no growth. In fact, there is negative growth.” 

“All new apartments in Anaheim are four and five star. That is above moderate income … there really is no place for folks to go,” he said. 

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at scustodio@voiceofoc.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio.