A November initiative is the latest battle in a long war that has driven housing costs in the Golden State exorbitantly high.
Co-published by International Business Times
In California’s recent legislative “grand compromise” of an affordable housing package, developers got subsidies for building and a streamlined path to construction. It’s hard to see what they gave up in the exchange.
Renters across the country are having an increasingly difficult time keeping a roof over their heads, with Californians who search for affordable housing finding the task a particularly challenging one.
“It’s raining! It’s pouring! Evictions are soaring!” chanted the small but defiant crowd on the corner of Vermont and Franklin avenues in Los Angeles’ gentrifying Los Feliz neighborhood. Holding signs reading, “Honk if your rent is too high” and “Where will you go when you can’t afford your neighborhood?” the demonstrators had come to protest the Ellis Act eviction of the residents of 1655-65 Rodney Drive from their 12 rent-stabilized apartments.
Enacted in 1985, the Ellis Act provides a way for landlords to get out of the rental business other than selling their properties. Under this law, a landlord can evict an entire property’s residents with 120 days’ notice for most tenants, or a full year’s notice for senior citizens and disabled tenants. If the landlord tries to re-rent the apartment within five years,
It’s just after dusk on a recent Friday in Los Angeles and already the streets of Los Feliz Village are bumper-to-bumper with the inflow of weekend diners, cocktail loungers and movie- and theatergoers along its main drag, Vermont Avenue.
Apart from being a nightlife hub, the neighborhood boasts highly rated public schools, a very good public library, a still-thriving bookstore and even a good sidewalk newsstand. And they’re all within leisurely walking distance from the single-family Craftsmans, California bungalows and modestly scaled courtyard apartment buildings that line its shaded streets.
Within a stone’s throw of Vermont are is a somewhat nondescript postwar courtyard complex at 1655 Rodney Drive. Though a bit weathered and overgrown on the outside, inside its dozen rent-controlled units are spacious and neatly kept. Its longtime, largely middle-aged gay residents pay around $800 to $1100 a month.
In a city notorious for its atomized sprawl,
Thanks to the determined efforts of tenant activists and area residents, real estate developer Matthew Jacobs’ plan to demolish eight affordable housing units in the Fairfax District and replace them with “luxury” living accommodations has been put on hold—for now. Jacobs (who recently resigned from his chairman post at the California Housing Finance Agency), his business partner Guy Penini and their company, Bulldog LLC, had already begun demolition of the rent-controlled bungalow structures located at 750-756 N. Edinburgh Avenue (where they used the Ellis Act to evict eight families), when the city abruptly halted their tear-down undertaking.
Tenant activist Steve Luftman, who lives in another Jacobs-owned building that was also slated for the wrecking ball, is involved in the Edinburgh preservation project — just as he was for the building that he lives in. Luftman’s Flores Street apartment complex was designed by noted architect Mendel Meyer,
Steven Luftman did not have much to feel good about last Tuesday as he stood in the TSA line before catching a flight from Sacramento to Los Angeles. After all, he was in the process of being evicted from his Fairfax District rental under the state’s Ellis Act, a law that speculators often use to kick out longterm renters from their homes in order to redevelop a property for higher profits. But then Luftman realized who he was standing behind: Matthew Jacobs, the man responsible for his eviction.
Hours before, the two had squared off during the July 14 meeting of the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) in which Jacobs, an agency chairman who had been facing mounting criticism for his efforts to evict dozens of tenants who live in complexes in Los Angeles’ Beverly Grove and Fairfax neighborhoods, announced he was quitting the agency.
“He was right in front of me —
The mass Ellis Act evictions and planned demolition of rent-controlled housing in Beverly Grove is a tragedy. Tenants and their supporters continue to protest, generating strong media coverage over the evictions being carried out by Matthew Jacobs, Chairman of the California Housing and Finance Agency. The agency’s mission is to “[support] the needs of renters and homebuyers by providing financing and programs that create safe, decent and affordable housing opportunities for low to moderate income Californians.”
Yes, Jacobs is a hypocrite. He has no business working for a state housing agency. And Ellis Act evictions are an outrageous circumvention of local rent-control laws.
But Jacobs would not be evicting these tenants under the Ellis Act if Los Angeles prohibited the demolition of rent-controlled housing.
As it states on its website, “for more than 35 years, the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) has supported the needs of renters and home buyers by providing financing and programs that create safe, decent and affordable housing opportunities for low to moderate income Californians.” But now some apartment dwellers in Beverly Grove and the Fairfax District are wondering whether the agency’s chairman, Matthew Jacobs, has forgotten— or perhaps, never really embraced—the noble purposes expressed in the state agency’s mission statement.
Jacobs has sat on the board since 2012 and was designated chair by Governor Jerry Brown in December, 2013. He has an extensive, accomplished background in real estate finance and development, and is the Principal at Bulldog Partners, LLC., a real estate development company that is now in the process of using the Ellis Act to evict 17 tenants from four rent-regulated buildings,