After last year’s rent increase of 6.4%, the highest increase in Santa Monica in over four decades; the city passed Measure RC to try and prevent a similarly large increase from happening this year. In the first year after a new formula to increase the rent was created, the increase is less than half of what it was the previous year.
The Rent Control Board is expected to approve an up to 2.8% increase in rents across the city at its June 8th meeting. Santa Monica is one of a handful of “rent control cities” where rents for most units are determined by a formula that sets the amount at 75 percent of the Consumer Price index for a 12-month period. This year, the regional increase in the Consumer Price index is 3.7%.
The Board will also set a dollar amount cap on the increase, which is also determined by a formula. The Santa Monica Lookout reports that this year’s ceiling will be $804 per year ($67 per month) and will apply to units with a maximum allowable rent of $2,375 or more.
The Rent Control Board’s role in this process is mostly ceremonial. While it is mandated to hold a public hearing and a vote, the Board does not have the power to change the numbers created by the formula and is expected to quickly pass the changes.
Measure RC’s easy passage, it received over 58% of the vote and needed just a majority to pass, was seen as a victory for progressive groups in the city as it was backed by Santa Monica Forward, the Santa Monica Democratic Club and Santa Monicans for Renters Rights (the real SMRR.) The measure did face opposition from some of the city’s more conservative groups, but little organized resistance other than from landlords associations who funded mail campaigns.
Measure RC nearly didn’t make it to the ballot. The Council initially declined to put that measure on the ballot after a last minute proposal from Councilmember Lana Negrete was offered instead that would have radically changed how Rent Control was done in the city by tying it to income. Negrete’s proposal was backed by Councilmembers Phil Brock, Oscar De La Torre and Christine Parra. When that measure proved wildly unpopular, and perhaps unconstitutional, the Council placed RC on the ballot instead after Brock dropped his support at the last second of the last minute.