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Tenant groups are collecting signatures to repeal Costa Hawkins rent control law

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Signature gatherers are headed to neighborhoods “heavily hit by... rapidly rising rents”

A repeal of Costa Hawkins would allow cities to expand rent control to newly constructed buildings.

Signature-gathering will pick up steam this weekend in an effort put a measure on the state ballot asking California voters to repeal Costa Hawkins, a law that limits cities’ abilities to expand rent control.

The campaign kicked off last month with paid signature gatherers, but will expand this weekend with “hundreds, hopefully, eventually, thousands of volunteers,” says Walt Senterfitt, a spokesperson for the LA Tenants Union.

They will knock on doors and post up at high-trafficked areas, like flea markets and grocery stores across Los Angeles County. But Senterfitt says to expect a bigger presence in cities and neighborhoods with high concentrations of tenants and areas that have been “heavily hit by the threat of displacement or rapidly rising rents.”

That includes, he says, Hollywood, Boyle Heights, East LA, South LA, and pockets of the San Fernando Valley.

“On the other hand, I’d say we’re getting a lot of support from homeowners and even small landlords, because they don’t want to see this massive displacement by development that also changes the character of their neighborhoods,” Senterfitt says.

Under Costa Hawkins, cities are restricted from applying rent control to new units. In Los Angeles, only buildings constructed prior to 1978 are under rent control.

Tenant advocacy groups want the law repealed so that Los Angeles and other cities with rent control have the option to expand rent control to newly constructed buildings.

The same groups are also collecting signatures to enact rent control Los Angeles County cities that don’t have it already, including Inglewood, Pasadena, and Long Beach. Only 15 cities in California have rent control right now.

The proposed ballot initiative to repeal Costa Hawkins was filed with the state in October. Its backers—including Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation—wanted to use the initiative to put pressure on lawmakers to pass a repeal in the state legislature.

But lawmakers rejected a repeal bill in January.

Now, the issue might go to voters in November 2018—but only if it supporters can collect the 365,880 valid voter signatures required to get the initiative on the ballot.