SANTA MONICA PROPERTIES v. SANTA MONICA RENT CONTROL BD.
203 Cal.App.4th 739 (2012)
137 Cal. Rptr. 3d 802
SANTA MONICA PROPERTIES, Plaintiff and Appellant,
SANTA MONICA RENT CONTROL BOARD, Defendant and Respondent.
Court of Appeals of California, Second District, Division Eight.
February 16, 2012.
Law Offices of David R. Akin and David R. Akin for Plaintiff and Appellant.
BIGELOW, P. J.—
After taking more than a year to issue a final decision, the Santa Monica Rent Control Board (RCB) decreased two tenants' rents because their landlord, Santa Monica Properties (SMP), lowered the temperature on a hot tub during workday hours, heating it only during evening hours, and altered a sauna's timer knob so that the sauna heated for one-half hour at a turn instead of the previous one hour. SMP filed a petition for writ of administrative mandate challenging the rent decrease decision. In the same pleading, SMP sought a petition for writ of traditional mandate to compel RCB to adopt regulations establishing administrative remedies to be applied in the event RCB fails, as it did here, to issue a final decision in a rent adjustment proceeding within 120 days as required by the Santa Monica City Charter, article XVIII, section 1800 et seq., Rent Control Charter Amendment, hereafter the rent control law (RCL).1 The trial court entered judgment for RCB. We reverse the judgment as to SMP's petition for writ of administrative mandate, and remand the cause to the trial court with directions to enter judgment in favor of SMP. We affirm the judgment as to SMP's petition for writ of traditional mandate.FACTS
The Rent Decrease Proceeding
SMP owns a 32-unit apartment building that is subject to RCB's jurisdiction pursuant to the RCL. Under section 1805(a) and (b), RCB is empowered to make general adjustments, annually or upon a noticed public hearing, of the "rent ceiling"—the "maximum allowable rent which a landlord may charge on any controlled rental unit." (§ 1801(k).) Under section 1805(c), RCB may, upon a tenant's petition, decrease the "maximum rent of individual controlled rental units."2 On January 31, 2008, a tenant in SMP's apartment building, R. Liza Salvatore, filed a "Petition for Rent Decrease" with RCB. (No. D-4392.) The petition alleged that a decrease in her monthly rent (then $1,214.25 for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,200-square-foot unit) was justified because SMP had reduced housing services by changing the hours that the property's Jacuzzi was heated, from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., down to 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.; and by installing a sauna timer that "reduced greatly" the length of time
that the sauna would stay heated "from 1 hr to 25 min."3 On March 10, 2008, another tenant, Roberta Rosskam, also filed a "Petition for Rent Decrease." (No. D-4396.) The petition alleged that a decrease in her monthly rent (then $1,440.33 for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,300-square-foot unit) was justified because SMP had reduced housing services by changing the hours that the property's Jacuzzi was heated, from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., down to 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., and by installing a sauna timer that "reduced significantly" the length of time that the sauna would stay heated "from 1 hr to 25 min."4 In late March 2008, RCB consolidated the rent decrease petitions. "[O]n several occasions" prior to the hearing on the petitions, a hearing investigator employed by RCB went to SMP to inspect the operation of the hot tub and sauna.