BURBANK – Burbank is looking to revisit and strengthen the Tenant Protection Urgency Ordinance passed in 2023 after residents critiqued the city ordinance as too weak.

Tenants mostly have taken issue with the way the ordinance deals with substantial remodel just cause evictions. This type of evictions was first introduced in the state Tenant Protection Act of 2019 and has since faced widespread criticism from tenant advocates as effectively acting as a loophole through which landlords can evict tenants for even the most minor cosmetic adjustments and then raise rent prices for new tenants.

Burbank’s Tenant Protection Urgency Ordinance was passed on September 12, 2023, after LA County’s COVID-19 eviction moratorium expired on March 31, 2023. According to Dan Kleiman and Alissandra Valdez, co-founders of the Burbank Tenants Union, that was when landlords across California — and in Burbank — began mass evicting tenants under the pretense of substantial remodel.

Because of the September ordinance, landlords who declare a substantial remodel are now required to provide permits and inform tenants with a detailed account of the proposed renovations. In addition, the new ordinance increases relocation assistance from one month of rent to three months.

Prior to the Urgency Ordinance, Burbank defaulted to state law and didn’t have any sort of tenant protections at the city level. 

“Now we have a framework that we can adjust and tweak,” former Mayor of Burbank Konstantine Anthony told LA Public Press (another Burbank councilmember, Nick Schultz, took over as mayor in December. Anthony is still a councilmember). “State law is very much a one-size-fits-all kind of legislation, and so now that we’ve adopted it locally, how can we modify it so that it is better suited to the city of Burbank rather than the entire state of California?”

Many renters, including elected officials in Burbank, believe the tenant protections enacted last year are still not strong enough. Kleiman said that the September ordinance really just adds extra steps to the substantial remodel process, which landlords could ultimately continue evicting tenants for. 

Nearly 60% of Burbank’s population are renters, including Anthony himself and Burbank Vice Mayor Nikki Perez. According to Anthony, the ordinance was enacted to address immediate concerns with the expectation that a more comprehensive ordinance would be adopted later. 

“This is the first time in Burbank’s history that we have two renters on the council, and we are actively looking at tenants’ rights as a core component of our housing policy,” Anthony told LA Public Press. “We’re 122 years old, and this is the first time we’ve ever really tackled tenants’ rights. I think what we’re going to be doing in 2024 is really shoring up the lack of protections for renters that we’ve been missing for decades.”

South Pasadena, on the other hand, effectively closed the substantial remodel loophole in its entirety in 2023. Kleiman hopes that the city of Burbank will follow South Pasadena’s lead, as well as instate substantial rent stabilization in their new ordinance.

“We want a rent cap,” Kleiman said. “We don’t want them to raise our rent 10%. We want to bring that number down a lot.”

Burbank resident Steven Craig echoed Kleiman’s wishes, noting that his rent had doubled in the last 13 years since he moved into his apartment.

“Wages haven’t doubled in 13 years. People aren’t making twice the amount they were 13 years ago,” Craig said. “So the fact that rent has gone up exponentially with seemingly no end in sight […] I think that not gentrifying an area, keeping the existing tenants housed and in their homes, needs to be the priority, rather than offering [relocation] assistance.”

However, Craig says that landlords still maintain a strong presence in the city, both in their numbers and through their advocacy groups such as the Apartments Association of Greater Los Angeles, which Kleiman says has already been showing up to city council meetings to push back against ordinances that provide greater tenant protections.

Landlords are also disproportionately represented on Burbank’s Landlord-Tenant Commission, which only has one tenant among a sea of real estate agents and property owners.

Still, Kleiman and Valdez say they are grateful that a majority of Burbank’s council members understand tenant struggles, and are encouraged by the accomplishments of its other tenants unions around LA County. 

“I’ve learned a lot from the organizing work that Pasadena Tenants Union and LA Tenants Union has done, and [am] applying it here in Burbank.” Valdez said. “We’re all fighting for the same thing here, which is to improve the lives of tenants.”

Correction: Konstantine Anthony termed out as Mayor in December. This article previously listed him as the current Mayor of Burbank.