CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that the online map covered the City of West Hollywood as well as Los Angeles. In fact the map covers only housing in Los Angeles. The story has been corrected to reflect that.
The Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) today released an online map, viewable here, that chronicles the number of evictions of tenants in Los Angeles under the Ellis Act from Jan. 1, 2001 through Dec. 31, 2016.
The map was created by the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, which was formed to document evictions of San Francisco residents during the tech boom. While the map focuses on Los Angeles, it also shows the locations of buildings near West Hollywood where tenants have been evicted under the Ellis Act since 2001. The map uses data provided by the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department (HCIDLA).
The release is timely, given that a discussion of the impact of the Ellis Act will take place tonight at 7 p.m. in the WeHo City Council Chambers at 625 N. San Vicente Blvd. south of Santa Monica. State Sen. Ben Allen and Assemblymember Richard Bloom will join a panel of public policy and housing experts to discuss the impact of the Ellis Act on tenants in West Hollywood and across California.
The Ellis Act allows landlords to evict residential tenants if they decide to “go out of the rental business” and then destroy or convert their property to condominiums or other uses. Tenants evicted from those buildings, which typically are older and often covered by the city’s rent stabilization law, can find it difficult to find an affordable apartment in West Hollywood.
The Ellis Act was adopted by the state legislature in 1985 in response to a California Supreme Court decision in Nash vs. City of Santa Monica. That case involved a lawsuit brought against the City of Santa Monica by Jerome Nash, a developer who owns buildings in West Hollywood such as the Mirador on Fountain Avenue. Nash wanted to evict tenants and demolish a building he owned in Santa Monica, but that city denied him a permit.
Nash initially won his case, but in 1984 the state Supreme Court ruled that Santa Monica had a right to deny the permit to protect scarce rental housing. In response, Republican state Sen. James Ellis of San Diego introduced a successful bill that allowed landlords to evict tenants from a building so long as they were not going to continue to rent its units.
“The Ellis Act has resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of affordable rent control units, the gentrification of neighborhoods and the displacement of tenants throughout California,” said an announcement of the map from CES. “There is a great need to build new affordable housing. At the same time we must preserve our existing affordable housing stock. Unless decision-makers understand that we need to do both, preserve and produce, we will be doomed to a failed housing policy and our crisis will get worse.”
According to CES, from 2001 through March, 2016, 20,000 rent control units were destroyed in the City of Los Angeles due to the Ellis Act.
The impact of the Ellis Act emerged as an issue in the March 7 West Hollywood City Council election. Some of those campaigning against incumbents John Duran and John Heilman said that they are responsible for the loss of a large number of apartment units because of the Ellis Act. However, from its adoption in 1986 up to December 2015, only 5%, or 764, of West Hollywood’s rent-stabilized apartments have been “Ellis’d” by building owners. The West Hollywood City Council has no control over whether or not a building owner can remove his or her property under the Ellis Act.
The apartments removed as of the end of 2015 are a total of 764 units in 203 buildings. As of the end of 2015, 51.7% of those units were still off the market or were converted to single family homes; 31% were new and pending condominiums; 1.5% were new and pending apartments; 7.9% were returned to the market, and 7.9% were converted to other uses such as bed and breakfasts or commercial. After a period of five years off the market, a building owner can begin renting units again in a building whose tenants have been evicted.
West Hollywood’s rent stabilization law, which covers only residential buildings built before July 1, 1979, restricts the amount by which a landlord can raise a tenant’s annual rent to a percentage of the Consumer Price Index for the greater Los Angeles area. Landlords can, however, raise rents to the market rent when a tenant leaves.
CES is fighting for repeal of the Ellis Act, which is unlikely given the strong lobbying efforts of developers in Sacramento. It also is suggesting amendments to reduce the impact of the act. They include:
Restricting the ability to use the Ellis Act to property owners who have owned the property for at least 5 years.
Limiting the number of times a year a developer can use the Ellis Act.
Providing all tenants, regardless of age or family status, with a one-year notice of eviction. (Assembly Bill – AB 982 just introduced by Assembly Members Bloom Assembly Members Richard Bloom and David Chiu, and Senator Allen would provide for a one year notice.)
CES also is asking the Los Angeles City Council to take the following steps:
–Limit the number of rent controlled buildings allowed to be demolished per year.
–Provide that the official date of withdrawal for a unit subjected to an Ellis withdrawal be the date the last evicted tenant vacates the building, either via eviction or by voluntary vacating after receiving Ellis notification.
–Require a one-for-one replacement of all rent controlled or affordable units that are demolished or converted at affordable rent levels.
–Develop incentives for developers to develop on vacant, commercial or city-owned parcels, while creating disincentives and obstacles for development projects that would result in demolishing or converting existing affordable housing.