Moving on Down? Council Candidate Larry Block Wants to Make It Easier for Seniors to Move to 1st-Floor Dwellings

In West Hollywood, rent is expensive—but right now Larry Block’s concern is that, for some residents, it’s the stairs that are too damned high.

Block, a local business owner who plans to run for City Council in 2015, wants seniors and disabled people struggling with access to their upper-floor dwellings to get dibs on first-floor units that become available in their building. Tonight, Block plans to present a proposal to the city’s Rent Stabilization commission. He hopes the commission will encourage the City Council to support updating the city’s rent stabilization ordinance.

Larry block
Larry Block, a West Hollywood business owner and a candidate in the 2015 City Council race.

“In today’s market environment, a senior citizen, or disabled person who can no longer walk up steps to their unit are forced to relocate,” Block wrote in a draft of his proposal that he provided to WEHOville.com. “If aging in place is part of our Vision 2020 plan then we have to strengthen our rent stabilization ordinance.”

To qualify under Block’s proposal or “swap initiative,” a tenant would have to meet certain criteria of either having mobility issues or meeting a certain age requirement (“perhaps age 80”).

Due to WeHo’s rent control laws, which limit how much rent can be raised for existing tenants but allow vacant units to be rented at market rate, landlords would often stand to make more money by losing a tenant than by keeping him or her in the building.

Block suggests that a mechanism could be enacted to “thread the needle,” with the newly vacant upper-floor unit returning to market rate and landlords offering a percentage of that profit, in the form of rental credit, to the relocated tenants. Those tenants, he said, would see a rental increase when they moved to the ground floor, but that increase would be offset by a credit (and perhaps through financial assistance from the city or social service agencies).

Kathleen Sullivan, who heads the seniors services department at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, agreed that first-floor units are often preferable for the “safety and well-being” of seniors.

“For many of older adults, climbing up a flight of stairs is difficult, tiring and can be dangerous,” Sullivan said via e-mail. “There are also concerns in the event of an emergency when an evacuation is necessary. Exiting from a first-floor unit is faster than from a higher floor.”

According to Sullivan, 14.9 percent of WeHo residents are 65 or older (compared with 12 percent of the U.S. population), with that percentage expected to reach 32.5 percent in 15 years.

“Living alone for all seniors correlates with negative mental and physical health outcomes,” Sulivan said. “Center staff can find no other city with an equal or higher rate of seniors living alone [than WeHo].”

For seniors who have accessibility issues in their homes, Sullivan said, the Center may be able to offer referrals to agencies that can help “enhance functionality.” For WeHo renters, she said, it is a good idea to contact City Hall, which has “a variety of expertise and services.”

It’s an issue that the City of West Hollywood has been dealing with in an effort to make it possible for the elderly to “age in place.” In 2010, there was an “Aging in Place” conference at Plummer Park with a panel that included representatives from Jewish Family Services, the West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation and Victor Regnier, a professor of gerontology with a degree in architecture who has conducted research in international settings as well as the United States. West Hollywood housing staffers also tried to assess the state legislature’s interest in funding help for seniors who are long-term tenants in aging buildings. The city’s budget for  2014-16 calls on its Rent Stabilization and Housing Division to work with its Social Services Division to further develop strategies and programs to assist aging residents.

 

 

 

In the spirit of full disclosure, WEHOville contributing editor Stevie St. John previously worked in the marketing and communications department at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Since leaving the Center, she has worked on some Center projects such as contributing to the Vanguard newsletter and teaching a class through the Learning Curve program.


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Brian Hamilton (@iBrianHamilton)
Guest

I think this is a good idea that deserves some consideration.

Larry Block
Guest

Hey Nimby, Get involved, offer ideas, instead of criticizing people who attend all meetings, give input, serve the community and volunteer their time. There’s no special treatment here, Im working on crosswalks, rent stabilization issues, mobility and disability issues. and things important to the community. My name didn’t even appear in the article of the metro bus passes that the city sponsored and it was my idea on the disability board, carried thru transportation and up to the city council as the only speaker. So, the only real nimby is a nameless person who wants to critique somebody who loves… Read more »

Wehoan Fed Up with the NIMBYs
Guest
Wehoan Fed Up with the NIMBYs

Actually, real journalism is using an editor’s judgment to know when you’re giving too much play to someone who knows they can use your publication as their own personal soapbox. I appreciate this site for being one of the few places for information about West Hollywood, but the ubiquitous presence of Larry Block in almost every single story is getting to be too much.

Michael
Guest
Michael

Promote this guy instead of dregs like John Durand. Frankly, only muckrakers can go after the dreadful five running West Hollywood!

Romanoff
Guest
Romanoff

Luca D: lol–great one. I guess I’ll be having one of those signs waved at me.

Wehoan Fed Up with the NIMBYs
Guest
Wehoan Fed Up with the NIMBYs

This site sure does promote Larry Block all the time… I hope he declares the in-kind contribution to his campaign on whatever disclosures he’s required to file.

Henry (Hank) Scott
Admin

WEHOville.com doesn’t promote anyone. What we do do is write about people who organize campaigns around important civic issues, and we also publish opinion pieces by local folks who have something intelligent to say about important local issues. All sitting City Councilmembers have been invited to contribute such opinion pieces. To date, only two have accepted: Mayor John D’Amico, whose mayoral acceptance speech we published, and Councilmember Jeffrey Prang, who wrote a well-argued piece disagreeing with an opinion piece written by me. Some candidates for office also have written opinion pieces that we’ve published (Heidi Shink and Steve Martin, for… Read more »

luca d
Guest
luca d

perhaps mr. block can organize seniors to wave signs at dangerous crosswalks to encourage hipsters and whippersnappers to slow down!

Larry Block
Guest

JJ- all you have to do is come to one our our Disability meetings, or attend any of the Senior Advisory meetings .. and you can see the people with these type of issues talking during public comment. The only thing I did was try to think of a business approach to a problem issue that can be a win-win for both tenant and landlord. And its the same approach I used during public comment to discuss how we can sponsor/revenue share with CSW on the Pride festivities. And its also the same approach used to when I proposed to… Read more »

Rudolf Martin
Guest
Rudolf Martin

JJ, you sure have a way to charm the elderly..

Rudolf Martin
Guest
Rudolf Martin

I don’t see this as a naive or impractical idea at all but rather a common sense approach that could help both landlords and seniors in those rare but vital cases. While other candidates spend their time fundraising, outside of the community, Larry Block goes to every commission and council meeting and not only remains involved in the community but takes the lead on issues. I’m glad he’s around to shake things up and I bet he will continue to do so, elected or not.

joetheplummber
Guest
joetheplummber

On the substance, this is really talking about “public/private partnership” If the landlord could make some additional cash flow, and the City would subsidize a “qualified” senior or disabled person this would be a win/win. But the City has to give some incentive money like the way the County gives Section 8 money so that the landlord has an incentive. Could the money come from affordable housing trust fund? Could we get grants? Perhaps if we had a “pool” of money and it was available to Senior’s who qualify on a first come first served basis why would that be… Read more »

Tony R.
Guest
Tony R.

My name is Tony and I live on the 2nd floor in a rent stabilized unit. Im 78 years old. There are 90 year old women, 2 of them that are my neighbors. Our elevator was out for over a month needing repair and everyday one of the ladies stayed in the apartment the entire month because there she was in a wheelchair and could not walk the steps. I had to do their shopping and still do. The elevator is now fixed but if there was a fire I fear for both their lives. While some of you above… Read more »

JJ
Guest
JJ

Wow Tony R. you have THE *perfect* case to support Mr. Block’s idea! How incredible that you found this article and were able to backup and support his issue with your unique situation. I didn’t realize how out of touch I was. Thank you for sharing your horrible experience with all of us. And more importantly, thank you for shining a light of support on Mr. Block when he so needed it. I hope now that your elevator is finally fixed after an entire month – that your neighbor (who I hope finally left her apartment) remembers to look before… Read more »