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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
Southern California

Proposal to Retrofit Apartments May Rise Rent Costs

Your rent could go up soon thanks to a proposal to retrofit a quarter of L.A. apartments. Read more on the proposal and how it will affect both renters and landlords.

Mayor Eric Garcetti proposed a funding plan on Wednesday for mandatory retrofitting of L.A. apartments to prevent collapse and damage during earthquakes. The proposal is part of Garcetti’s 2014 “Resilience by Design” plan. South L.A. building owner Richard Tjoe has been managing properties in the city for more than twenty years. He’s worried about the costs of mandatory retrofitting.

“It means we have to cut down on our expenses for repairs,” said Tjoe, “like, you know, plumbing, carpet, painting, daily maintenance.”

Jim Clarke, executive vice president of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA) is trying to figure out how to pay for the repairs, which will prevent buildings from falling over or caving in. 

“We’ve tried to find ways of building what we call a funding stew, and every ingredient is important to making this right,” said Clarke. 

Mayor Garcetti wants landlords and renters to split the cost 50-50.

“It’s a big bone of contention, each side doesn’t want to pay the whole thing,” said Clarke. 

An estimated 13,000 apartment buildings, mostly concrete and wooden, are in need of retrofitting across the city.

Many would argue that it’s still better than the alternative—the renter assuming 100% of the cost. But renters are still concerned about the potential of rising rent costs—an estimated $8-$38 per month. USC Senior Yasmeen Serhan lives in an old, wood-frame house on 29th Street with six other girls. She said although many USC students would likely be able to handle the rise in rent costs, that’s not necessarily true for all L.A. renters.

“Los Angeles already has such a huge homelessness problem, it’d be horrible to think that we would, just by nature of having to make these necessary upgrades, moving these people out, and maybe these are people who don’t have anywhere else to go,” said Serhan, “that’s between them buying a pair of shoes for their kid or not. So I could imagine $30 being pretty significant." 

Tjoe is skeptical of the mayor’s proposal, saying extra costs could cripple him and his tenants. 

“They might not be able to pay the rent. They might get evicted,” said Tjoe.

But graduate researcher Brittany Moffett says these proposed changes to old and decrepit buildings are necessary. She explained that concrete buildings, which are often the most susceptible to collapsing from earthquakes, are visually misleading because they may appear the strongest of any structure.

“What we see from these softer stories [between building floors] is this pancaking effect where the upper floors just squish the first floor…we’re preparing for something that it feels ambiguous, but it is inevitable,” she said.

And ultimately, it comes down to the old saying—safety first.

“I think it’s necessary. I mean we just saw yesterday with the earthquake in Chile, you never know when these types of natural disasters are going to happen,” added Serhan.

The mayor hopes to pass a law mandating retrofitting by the end of the year. Funding will be the biggest obstacle.

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