Celebrates Its 25th Birthday
for Economic Survival, the Group That
Led the Cityhood Drive, Congratulates the
City Built on Rent Control
The Real Story Behind
the Creation of the City of West Hollywood
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years ago members of the Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) rejoiced after a
7-year campaign to secure tenants' rights and preserve affordable housing in
the then 1.9 square mile LA County unincorporated area of West Hollywood.
November 29, 1984, CES members joined with other residents to pack the
auditorium in West Hollywood's Plummer Park, as media from around the world
covered the swearing in of West Hollywood's first City Council. Four out of the
5 being elected were on CES' Renters' Right Slate of Candidates. And while the
news-media reported on that this was the first City Council with a majority of
gay and lesbian elected officials, which was significant in itself, the real
story was that the main reason this new city was created was to save and
strengthen rent control.
The Fight to Win Rent Control
1979, CES led an effort to secure a rent control ordinance for LA County's
unincorporated areas by a vote of the LA County Board of Supervisors. This came
a year after CES' success in winning rent control in the City of Los Angeles.
But in 1983, an anti-rent control conservative majority took control of the
Board of Supervisors. They eventually voted to phase out County rent control on
December 31, 1984.
first attempted to counter this by placing the only initiative measure on the
LA County ballot, which was a strong rent control law. Proposition M failed in
November 1983, as landlords spent millions on a fear campaign targeting
homeowner voters in the outlying unincorporated areas. But in West Hollywood
the measure received overwhelming (5 to 1) voter support.
West Hollywood Cityhood
laid the electoral groundwork for CES' role in leading incorporation efforts
for West Hollywood. With the County determining that West Hollywood could be a
financially viable city, CES forged a unique alliance made up of gays and
lesbians together with senior renters uniting around the need for tenants'
rights, civil rights, and local control. CES secured a number of seats on the
small West Hollywood Incorporation Committee, chaired by Ron Stone and
co-chaired by CES West Hollywood Chapter chair Audrey Isser.
which had a large active grassroots membership in West Hollywood, took
responsibility for obtaining the required number of signatures - 25% of the
area's registered voters - in order to place the cityhood measure on the
ballot. Pushing to secure the measure for the November 1984 ballot in order to
beat the County rent control phase-out date, CES set a County record by signing
up 27% of the voters in only 52 days.
landlords and real estate lobbyists tried to deny a cityhood vote with a failed
lawsuit and then by a last minute move to convince the Board of Supervisors to
extend a weak version of rent control. Their moves could not stop a November
1984 cityhood vote.
process also required voters to choose the first five members to serve on the
City Council if the incorporation was approved. CES developed a slate of
candidates as CES' Renters' Rights Team, which was a reflection of the
gay/lesbian, senior and renter community. On November 6, 1984 West Hollywood
cityhood and all but one of CES' Renters Rights slate, out of a field of 40
candidates, were approved by voters. At the first City Council meeting the
Council unanimously voted to freeze rents and place moratoriums on evictions,
demolitions, development and condo conversions until the city developed its own
rent control law. The Council also voted to prohibit all forms of sexual
discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The City of West Hollywood Established
History in the Making &
Lessons to be Learned
This was only the
beginning. In its 25-year history, West Hollywood has provided leadership in
the state and the nation on progressive legislation, such as on LGBT issues,
HIV/AIDS, gun violence, domestic violence, women's issues and animal cruelty.
reflecting on CES' historic work, Larry Gross, CES Executive Director stated,
"The success in West Hollywood serves as an important example for tenants in
the Los Angeles area and across the nation. When you organize people and bring
them together and empower them through their involvement, that's where real
change is going to occur. That's where things that matter and impact people are
going to happen. This effort must serve as a lesson in people's power for
generations to come. West Hollywood was created by an organized grassroots
effort. It is a city built on rent control. I am so very proud that CES played
such a crucial role and was a determining factor in the creation of the City of