At the same luncheon panel (see blog post below) retrofit laws were discussed. Seismic retrofitting of older buildings that are especially vulnerable to collapse when a major earthquake eventually happens is a key issue in each of the four cities; Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Santa Monica and West Hollywood. Yet each city is at different stages of formulating an earthquake retrofit ordinance.
Since most of the buildings that fall under the rent-stabilization ordinances are older and were built to less stringent earthquake standards, the retrofitting is needed to protect the buildings and guarantee tenants still have a home after an earthquake hits.
“[By enacting these seismic retrofit ordinances], we are maintaining and preserving our rent-stabilized housing stock into the future and supporting our rent-stabilized tenants as well as our rent-stabilized landlords,” said Noonan, explaining the reason behind West Hollywood’s policy, a statement to which the other cities’ representatives concurred.
Retrofitting a building can cost anywhere from $100,000 to over $1 million, depending on the size and type of building. Such costs can be higher than some landlords can afford, so having tenants absorb some of those costs may be part of the plan.
Los Angeles, which passed its earthquake retrofit ordinance in 2017, allows 50% of the retrofit costs to be passed through to tenants, with a maximum cost of $38 per month for a period of no more than 10 years. Los Angeles building owners have been officially notified of the mandatory retrofits and now have seven years to complete them.
West Hollywood passed its retrofit ordinance earlier this year and is currently determining how much, if any, of the retrofit expenses can be passed through to tenants. The city held two public meetings in May to get resident input and also has an online survey for tenants and landlords to fill out. Noonan said the city’s staffers will present a proposal for pass-through costs at the June 14 meeting of the city’s Rent Stabilization Commission, followed by a public meeting explaining the proposal on June 16. The Rent Stabilization Commission will then vote on that recommendation at its July 12 meeting and the City Council will likely take it up at its Aug. 6 meeting. Once that pass-through amount has been determined and landlords officially notified, owners will have five years to complete the retrofits.
Santa Monica has also passed a seismic retrofit ordinance but has not yet determined the pass-through costs to tenants. That decision has been delayed because it is unclear in the city’s charter whether Santa Monica’s City Council or Rent Control Board has the final authority in the matter. However, Costello said it looks like Rent Control Board has the authority.
As for Beverly Hills, the city is currently studying the matter, but has not passed an ordinance. Otazo said they are closely watching how the neighboring cities handle the retrofit ordinances and pass-through costs before making their decision.
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