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‘They’ve Just Gone Bonkers’: Tenants Welcome Rent-Control Vote in Booming Inglewood

[dropcap size=big]C[/dropcap]elebrating a vote that ensured a cap on rent increases in the rapidly developing city of Inglewood, the leader of a local activist group said Wednesday they were prepared to keep up efforts to prevent the over-gentrification of a community that will soon welcome an NFL stadium.

On Tuesday, the Inglewood City Council unanimously moved to make a previous temporary rent-control ordinance permanent for renters in the city. Rent increases — which before the measure were affecting tenants with radical spikes in rent — will now be capped at 5 percent annually in most cases. The council initially considered an 8 percent cap, but speakers at the meeting argued that'd be moot.

I would say it’s a temporary solution, but there are many other things we need to do to make Inglewood a model for economic development and housing that serves the local community,” said D’Artagnan Scorza, a leading organizer with the coalition group Uplift Inglewood, earlier today.

Scorza, who also sits on the Inglewood school board, still welcomed the move. “It’s been three years of organizing and mobilizing to get the council to respond to what we knew would be a challenge for a number of years,” he told L.A. Taco.

A native of Inglewood who attended neighborhood schools, Scorza said he has seen firsthand how young people serviced by his community organization have been pushed out of the Inglewood rental market. Some of the youth he sees have become homeless, he added.

'They've just gone bonkers.'

At Tuesday's council meeting, one resident who identified herself as a retired LAUSD teacher told the Inglewood City Council that the owner of her rental unit, "walking distance of this council," had placed her in collections using the well-worn developer tactic of not cashing a renter's checks when an owner wants a tenant to move.

"I've never been late," the woman said told Mayor James T. Butts and the rest of the council.

"This time last year I was paying 1550, January I was expected to pay 1750, March I was expected to pay 1875, and for May and June I was expected to pay 2000," she went on. "No one in my building can afford that, and there's no monitoring of this owner. They've just gone bonkers."

But others in the room opposed the measure.

"Rent control definitely is not something that is good for cities, more so, the Rams stadium is not the problem," another resident said before the council. "Nowhere in the United States can you dictate to an owner what he can or cannot charge for goods and services."

Watch the Tuesday night Inglewood City Council meeting here.

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Beverly Brinson is owner of a soul food restaurant in Inglewood that received an order that doubled its rent. (Photo by Jessica Flores/L.A. Taco archive)

Housing and gentrification have become hot-button issues in Inglewood, as the eventual Rams/Chargers NFL stadium takes shape right next-door to the historic Forum and Hollywood Park Casino. The casino is also being redone to bring in 2,500 new housing units, a huge shift in the geography of an area just below the flight paths of landing jets at LAX.

Residents are divided over the future of Inglewood with all the construction. Critics point out that successive administrations at City Hall have not done enough to stave off the negative effects of increased economic development: chiefly, the displacement of longtime working class tenants who can’t keep up with rising prices. In most cases, those pushed out are black or brown.

The community of Inglewood has been predominantly African American for several generations, and is still largely Latino and black. Real-estate speculation related to the stadium development (as well as a possible arena for the L.A. Clippers) has sent rental and home prices up and up in Inglewood — sometimes double or more.

Small family run businesses are also feeling the pinch of Inglewood’s bullish growth. Beverly Brinson owns a soul food restaurant that saw a double rent increase last year, as L.A. Taco reported. "It’s the stadium and all that," Brinson said at the same.

Scorza said protections for commercial renters is "next on our list" for Uplift Inglewood.

“We have to make sure that our local businesses who are suffering are able to thrive as well,” Scorza said. “There are developers who’ve arrived, who are razing buildings, raising rents, and that puts them in jeopardy of losing their own businesses.”

The NFL stadium is apace to open sometime next year, while a legal battle looms over the future of a Clippers arena. The Inglewood rent control measure goes into effect June 19, a day after the temporary rule expires.

RELATED: Venice Renters Taking Action: Tenants Picket Outside Wurstküche Shops

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