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CALABASAS MULLS RENT CONTROL SOME COSTS UP 40 PERCENT.

Byline: Gregory J. Wilcox Staff Writer

CALABASAS - Calabasas, one of the most expensive places in California to buy a house, is considering rent control after a resident of an apartment complex complained about a proposed increase of nearly 40 percent.

``We do have an interest in having long-term residents who want to live (here) be able to live in the city,'' said Calabasas City Manager Tony Coroalles.

City staff has done some initial research on the issue and will present six options at the City Council meeting on May 26. They range from an inventory of complexes with four or more rental units to limiting rent increases.

Officials also plan to get information on rental rates.

Coroalles said he favors the inventory and a requirement that landlords notify the city of any planned rent increase. Unclear at this point is how big the increase would have to be to trigger the notification.

He acknowledges that Calabasas is an upscale area - in March it had the state's fourth-highest median resale price, $1.12 million - and hopes a discussion on rent control gets landlords' attention.

``We hope that it will dampen not their ability but at least their appetite to raise rents. If it does not, the council can certainly go to other (measures) but that would be a much more drastic step to take,'' he said.

This is the second time that the city has considered regulating rents.

``It came up many years ago and we ... had a committee that made an understanding with some of the landlords, and things were calm and quiet. We didn't have to do anything,'' said former mayor and current Councilwoman Lesley Devine.

The rent control issue came up this time after Englewood, Colo.-based Archstone-Smith bought a 600-unit complex in Calabasas and renamed it Archstone Calabasas. The company took over the property at 3831 N. Orchid Lane in December and started negotiating leases with tenants.

Rents start between $1,345 and $1,990 a month, depending on the units' size.

Anthony L. Pecoraro, a freelance writer who has lived in the complex with his wife for 10 years, said he was initially offered a new lease with a 37 percent increase and negotiated it down to 9 percent.

He's not happy with the way the new owners are taking care of the landscaping, and he thinks the city should adopt a tough ordinance to protect renters.

``They come in here and try to charge the most rent they can,'' he said of Archstone-Smith.

Heather Campbell, Archstone-Smith's vice president for media relations, said that the company uses a proprietary product called ``Lease Rent Options'' to come up with rent rates.

``It's really driven by many different variables that also include competitive prices and demand,'' she said.

Lease terms can run from two to 12 months, and rates can vary from tenant to tenant.

``Prices can change every day,'' she said.

Councilwoman Devine is encouraging Calabasas renters to call City Hall and let officials know what is going on at their complex. The council office can be reached at (818) 878-4225.

``Obviously we need to be more formal than we were a number of years ago. How formal? I think that's what were going to find out,'' she said of addressing the city's rental stock. ``It's a resource that needs to be protected.''

Gregory J. Wilcox, (818) 713-3743

greg.wilcox(at)dailynews.com
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:May 12, 2004
Words:566
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