President's Message

Reflections

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I love the holiday season. It brings back memories of a happy childhood, Santa, exciting gifts, visits with family and the food. The food is the best. The aroma of turkey baking for hours, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie—I can’t get enough. There are also a lot of people who use this time of year to donate their time and give generously to people who are either less fortunate or have fallen on hard times. It’s a special time for sure, but sometimes I think I take it all for granted and don’t set aside enough time to remember the people who helped ensure that I could enjoy all those wonderful memories.

I was reminded of this recently while reading an incredible book called The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors. It’s the story of the last naval battle in history. It happened during the waning months of WWII and pitted the US Navy against the Imperial Japanese fleet. I purchased the book while on a tour of the battleship USS Iowa in San Pedro Harbor.

During the battle, the USS Samuel B. Roberts, DE-413 was sunk, and the survivors drifted on life boats or whatever they could hold onto for three days until they were finally picked up. Bob Despain was one of those sailors picked up. He happened to be on the USS Iowa the day I visited, and he signed my copy. The book is filled with stories about the efforts of incredible people making unbelievable sacrifices. They faced a determined foe and didn’t blink. On top of that, when they came home, they weren’t looking for a handout.

Earl “Blue” Archer, a Kalinin Bay VC-3 Avenger pilot suffered a serious back injury while flying through the brambles of flak. He had an option to take an 80 or 90 percent disability benefit and begin a life of inactivity, or he could take three or four aspirins twice a day and continue flying planes in the naval reserve. He decided he could make a living and passed on the disability payment.

These are the men who helped make sure that I could enjoy all those lovely holiday memories while I was growing up. Their contributions can also be celebrated on December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day.

Is there anything we can learn from these people that we can apply to the struggles we face in our own lives today? I think so. If we want to use their example of not backing down against a determined foe, it might help us defend our property rights next year.

I hope that you will join me and take some time to reflect on the people who have helped us get here and maybe draw inspiration from them to help us going forward. And if you are looking for a worthy cause this holiday season, a visit to the USS Iowa, or a donation to the non-profit organization that maintains the USS Iowa, helps to keep the contributions of these great Americans alive for future generations.

Organized and Effective

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Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on the past year and share with you what AACSC has done and what I’ve done as President of the Board to help our members and protect our property rights.

Let’s start with political efforts both statewide and local. As usual, there were well over 100 bills introduced in State government that would have negatively affected our industry.

They were fought with a tremendous degree of success through the efforts of both our lobbyist Ron Kingston and through personal appeals to individual Assembly Members by your Board. I personally met with Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Assembly Members Patrick O’Donnell, Ian Calderon, David Hadley and others to press our case. Our State Legislative Committee and our Political Action Committee (PAC) were beefed up this year and we are better organized and more effective than ever before.

On the local level, our Executive Director Johanna Cunningham, your Board and I meet on a regular basis with all of the Long Beach City Council and have worked very hard to help them understand the negative impact our industry faces with initiatives like Just Cause Eviction, REAP and Rent Control. To date, these efforts have helped convince the Council that it is in nobody’s best interest to consider these measures.

There were two projects I worked on this year that have improved our member benefits and experience. First, we’ve made several changes to our membership meetings including more legal updates and a different seating arrangement design to make it easier for us to get to know one another better and share our ideas. Finally, we added snacks to keep those stomachs from growling.

The second project was to deliver completely updated, user-friendly forms. This project had been talked about for several years, but I made sure it happened this year. The new forms, by the way, are fantastic thanks to a lot of effort by Board member Vicki Abe.

Another of my missions this year was to reach out to the large property owners and managers in Long Beach to get them more engaged in our efforts to defend our property rights. I’m happy to report that several new large property owners are getting involved. I’m confident we will be able to do an even better job for you with their help. Of course there are many things we do that you will never see such as our constant planning, strategizing, organizing and structuring that happens on a daily basis; these combined efforts of our great, dedicated staff and Board are helping to improve and protect your rental business. For that we can all give thanks and carry on.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

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If you have heard it once, you have heard it a thousand times. It is a little like the boy who cried wolf. The same message, the same threat and after a period of time it wears thin. The Call To Action just seems to lose its impact. However, at the risk of repetition I am compelled to tell you that this threat is not only real, but they are organized and ready to pull the Rent Control trigger.

I attended a recent Long Beach City Council meeting and the agenda included discussion about the recently enacted PRHIP ordinance. In addition, there was talk among the audience about fears of a possible REAP ordinance and rent control. When the meeting was over and I was walking to my car, the immortal words of Greta Garbo popped into my mind—"I want to be alone." I think Greta was trying to say that she wanted people to leave her alone, and I found myself wishing that the City Council, the housing inspectors and the groups trying to pit tenants against landlords, would just leave us alone. Of course—that will never happen! Now that I'm over the fantasy, I'll tell you what we must do.

We must work like we've never worked before to protect our businesses and our rights.

The AACSC does many things to defend our industry including local lobbying, state level lobbying, communicating with and updating our members on important issues, but we should be doing more and we'd like you to be more involved.

In that regard, we plan to set up a new committee, different that the committees that we have set up in the past. We're calling it the Special Committee for Long Beach Legislation. It will consist of a group that includes AACSC members, nonmembers, AACSC board members, property management groups, major property owners and other influencers who understand the importance of our mission.

Initially, we will be assessing how real the various threats are and when they might be coming our way.

We'll develop a list of actions:

• How to counter negative legislation,
• Identify people or groups that we can align with and collaborate.
• How best to get the word out to ALL owners, landlords, management companies.

We know this threat is real, and we also know we cannot do this in a vacuum. Your involvement in this very important movement is critical. Please contact us at AACSC to get involved. We will be announcing future meetings through our website, in our AACSC Beacon Newsletter delivered to your e-mail every Tuesday and in the Apartment Journal magazine. If protecting your rental business is important to you, please join us!

Be sure to attend the Annual Membership Meeting on October 27th at the Petroleum Club, 7:00 p.m. where we will be updating you on new laws, new forms and electing our new Board Members.

A Personal Story

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While on a Southwest flight recently, I had the good fortune to sit next to Josephine. She is 76 years young, impeccably dressed and looking forward to seeing her relatives in Brevard, North Carolina, for the first time in many years. She told me she can’t really travel much any more — doctor’s orders. She needs a walker to get around, has rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and takes over 50 medications every day, but she decided to ignore the doctor this one time. The lady has a lot of courage and the gift of gab. She talked for most of the four-hour flight. One of the earliest female graduates of Fisk University, she had a business career, met and married, and survives a wonderful handsome husband. She had a child of her own but lost him a few years ago. She adopted two children and until recently was raising one of her grandchildren. She had her smart phone out the whole time sharing apps she likes and many family photos. It would be hard not to like this lady.

We also found out that we live about ten minutes from each other. Josephine rents a comfortable one-bedroom apartment in Bixby Knolls for $825 per month. I let her know that I thought her rent was extremely reasonable, and she agreed. She said that when she moved in four years ago, she explained to her landlord that she was on a fixed income and didn’t want her rent going up. “The landlord has never raised the rent,” she exclaimed.

In Long Beach, and most surrounding cities, market forces and personal decisions about what to charge for rent give housing providers a lot of latitude. Josephine’s rent was below market for sure, but was she getting a steal by accident? I don’t think so. There are many ways to help people in need. Americans are famous for donating money and supplies to people in crisis. We donate to charities like the United Way or the Salvation Army. We can even choose to keep our rents below market for people like Josephine as a way to donate on a more personal level.

You have the flexibility to do that in a free market if you choose to. Don’t expect that in a heavily regulated market, however. Cities like Los Angeles, West Hollywood and Santa Monica heavily regulate the rental housing industry. That regulation gives incentive and really forces housing providers to raise rents as much as possible. It should be no surprise then that rents in those cities are some of the highest anywhere, and the poor families are slowly getting squeezed out. We’re not there yet in the cities served by AACSC. Let’s keep it that way.

City Hall

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These are interesting political times we are living in. A lot of local elections have been decided already and the National elections finish things up in November. Our new representatives will want to make a positive impact on the lives of their constituents. In order to help them understand what’s important to us and what will fairly benefit everyone, it is up to us to deliver the message as to how we feel about issues that affect us.

For AACSC members, that means sharing information related to the rental housing industry. You may not realize it yet, but there are determined groups in our community that feel that the best way to manage your property is to get local elected officials to enact layer upon layer of suffocating legislation to burden thousands of small apartment owners. They’ll package their recommendations to government in happy sounding wrappers like: Community Benefits Agreement or Renters Right to Know.

Other communities near us have heaped these types of ordinances onto our fellow housing providers with terrible results for—surprise—our tenants! I feel so bad for low income tenants in Los Angeles and Santa Monica where, for example, a myriad of local ordinances in those cities have pushed rents to sky high levels. Housing providers are forced to underprice their units. Without the money to afford normal upkeep, tenants stay living in substandard conditions. These groups can’t explain why builders aren’t building more low income housing. If they knew the value of “incentive”, they would understand.

So are you comfortable allowing your business and your tenants to be legislated into such a negative world? I hope not! The lower rents and better quality of housing that our AACSC housing providers deliver can be directly attributed to the lower level of legislation we work with, but that doesn’t happen by accident. AACSC is doing all it can to help protect your interests, but the coming wave of negative proposals that will be presented to our elected officials will need to be countered by a bigger group. That means we need your help more than ever. We need you to be at City Hall in large numbers when rental housing issues are being discussed. We need you when it’s important to make calls to our representatives. It’s never been more important and we’ve never needed each other more.

On a brighter note and one we are all excited about—Ed Begley, Jr., is going to be the guest speaker at our luncheon during the AACSC Trade Show on September 15. One of the most well known advocates of green living, Ed Begley has made it his mission to help us all live in a way that is less harmful to our environment and in a manner that future generations will applaud us for. This is a can’t-miss event and has already created so much buzz that I would strongly recommend that you purchase your tickets well in advance. See you at the Trade Show!

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