No air conditioning? Los Angeles County proposes to set maximum temperatures in apartments

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Southern California has been experiencing cold winter temperatures, but soon the heat of summer will be back. For some without air conditioning, that means discomfort and sometimes dangerous conditions.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors wants to set up a maximum temperature for rental units across the county.

Supervisor Lindsay Horvath is one of the proponents of this plan.

“A maximum threshold for heat in people’s living conditions for obvious reasons. Climate change has really changed the game for us in Los Angeles County,” said Horvath.

The climate non-profit First Street Foundation predicts around 7 days above 94 degrees this year. In 30 years that number could jump to 21 days.

“For me, when it gets into the 90s is about the time when I feel have to turn the air conditioning on – at least for a couple of hours,” said Michelle McGregor, who rents an apartment in the San Fernando Valley.

Landlords say this rule would most likely affect mostly older buildings.

“And invariably these older buildings are owned by retirees, senior citizens… and after four years of limited or no rent increases and problems collecting rent because of the eviction moratoriums, rental property owners are reeling,” said Daniel Yukelson with the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles.

The association says in the older buildings it would likely be much more than simply installing new units.

“And with new electrical panels, often that requires new wiring from the pole and in some areas you have to underground wiring and it’s just a major cost. It could cost upwards of $50,000 for a four-unit building,” said Yukelson.

Supervisor Horvath says landlords could figure out what they would need to do to keep the apartments cool and not all would need new air conditioners. Some could use insulation or other upgrades.

“That’s why we built in stakeholder engagement as part of our direction and process. We are proactively telling our staff to go out and work with stakeholders to understand the challenges that they’re facing and get their advice on how this can be implemented,” Horvath added.

If the plan is approved, it would become part of the public health code. That means it would apply to almost the entire county. The goal is to have it in place by summer.

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