|L.A. mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel has gained the endorsement of the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles. (Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times / February 18, 2013)
When Wendy Greuel announced a landlord group's support of her Los Angeles mayoral campaign this week, she called it a sign of her growing appeal among business and labor.
But landlord endorsements are not entirely a badge of honor in a city where about 60% of the housing is occupied by tenants.
One of the city's biggest landlord groups, the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles, threw its support behind both Greuel, the city controller, and mayoral rival Jan Perry, a City Council member.
Perry, who has relied on landlords for campaign donations, kept quiet about the group's support.
Greuel, however, publicized the endorsement Wednesday with a press release expressing appreciation, sparking alarm among tenant advocates who fear she might weaken renter protections.
Tenant advocate Larry Gross said the landlord association and other groups backing Greuel had fought "to destroy rent control and undermine tenants' rights."
"Based on this, we have a duty to warn renters that Wendy Greuel does not appear to be a friend of tenants and we urge that they strongly consider this when they cast their ballot on March 5," said Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, one of the city's leading tenant groups.
Greuel spokeswoman Shannon Murphy said the controller had "a record of fighting for affordable housing issues throughout her entire career."
"From her very first job working for Mayor Tom Bradley to reduce homelessness and create affordable housing, to her time in the Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Clinton, Wendy has fought to make housing accessible and available to all Angelenos," she said.
At HUD, Greuel administered homelessness prevention grants to big cities. She also oversaw HUD's housing relief efforts in Los Angeles after the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Later, she led HUD's regional office in Los Angeles.
"As mayor, Wendy will work with both tenants and apartment owners to develop common-sense solutions that appeal to both parties," Murphy said.
Tenants are a major constituency in the nonpartisan March 5 mayoral primary. With a population of 3.8 million people, Los Angeles has about 764,000 rental housing units.
About 638,000 of those units are covered by a rent control law that keeps landlords and tenants in a perpetual state of battle at City Hall. It limits rent hikes and protects tenants from arbitrary evictions. The mayor and council are also caught between the two sides in fights over housing code enforcement.
James B. Clarke, chief executive officer of the apartment association, said Greuel, a former City Council member, had sided with landlords about 80% of the time, and Perry a bit more often. The other city official in the race, Councilman Eric Garcetti, "always listened to us on our issues, but he has probably only been with us maybe 50-50," Clarke said.
Greuel "has always been fair, and that's all we're looking for," he said.
From a tenant perspective, Greuel was on balance "somewhat of a good vote" on the council, according to Gross. But tenants were "extremely disappointed" that she did not take a leading role in preventing evictions of renters when condo conversions were booming in her San Fernando Valley district in the years before the recession hit.
When Perry sent voters a mailer accusing Greuel of tossing "thousands of fixed income seniors from their homes" by letting campaign donors tear down buildings to make way for expensive condos, Greuel's campaign called the charges a distortion. Greuel "helped lead the charge" to protect tenants threatened with eviction in condo conversions, her website says.
As a whole, the real estate industry has been a major source of campaign contributions for all three city officials. Real estate donors have given at least $137,000 to Perry's mayoral campaign, $205,000 to Greuel's and $212,000 to Garcetti's, a Times review found.