Pasadena Landlord Lawsuit Invalidated


PASADENA, California – A lawsuit brought by the California Apartment Association (CAA) against the City of Pasadena has been dismissed by Judge Mary H. Strobel, who ruled in favor of the city and against the landlord lobby's claims that Measure H was unconstitutional. The ruling is a victory for tenants' rights advocates who fought for the passage of Measure H, a ballot initiative that amended the Pasadena City Charter to establish rent control and tenant protections in the city.

The lawsuit, brought by the CAA and five Pasadena landlords, alleged that Measure H was invalid and unconstitutional and that it constituted a charter revision rather than a charter amendment. The petitioners claimed that the measure substantially altered the city's basic government plan and that it reserved too many seats on the Rental Housing Board for tenants. However, Judge Strobel disagreed with these arguments, denying every substantive motion in their suit.

"The court concludes that Measure H is an amendment to the Charter and that enactment of Measure H by initiative did not violate article XI, section 3(b) of the California Constitution," Judge Strobel wrote in her ruling. "The voters could rationally conclude that it was necessary to limit the number of landlords on the Board to prevent those who have traditionally controlled the rental market in City from dominating the Board."

Measure H, which passed last November with nearly 54% of the vote, went into effect on December 22, 2022, becoming Article XVIII of the Pasadena City Charter. The measure establishes a rent stabilization program that limits annual rent increases to 5% and requires landlords to have a just cause for evictions. It also creates a Rental Housing Board composed of seven tenant representatives and four at-large seats for any Pasadena resident. The board will oversee the implementation and enforcement of the program.

The Pasadena Tenants Union, Affordable Pasadena, and the Intervenors in the lawsuit welcomed Judge Strobel's ruling, saying that it affirmed the voters' decision to enact rent control and tenant protections in Pasadena. "We are relieved that these frivolous claims can now be put to rest and we can get back to work creating safe and fair conditions for tenants in Pasadena," they said in a statement. "We look forward to the appointment of the Pasadena Rental Housing Board in April and its work commencing in May."

Tenant advocates also emphasized the importance of educating tenants on their rights under Article XVIII. "Many tenants were too scared to force the issue. I respond to tenant inquiries at the Pasadena Tenants Union and they have questions all the time about the status of the lawsuit; they were very scared! Now it’s resolved!" said Liberty McCoy, a tenant and board member of Affordable Pasadena. "Article XVIII has survived legal scrutiny and the city can continue forward with its implementation."

The ruling is a significant victory for the rent control movement in California, which has faced opposition from landlord groups and real estate interests. Other cities in the state, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, have already established rent control programs, and more are considering similar measures to address the affordable housing crisis.

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