Rent Control Advocate Attacks City Council Candidates D’Amico and Meister

With the City Council election only five days away, candidates John D’Amico and Lauren Meister have come under attack by the head of the renters’ rights organization that helped incorporate West Hollywood as a city.

CES LogoIn a series of email messages, Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival (CES), urges voters not to support Mayor D’Amico and Meister and to vote instead for Councilmember John Heilman and challenger Lindsey Horvath.

“Lauren Meister and John D’Amico are being supported by the BIG Real Estate interests who oppose renters’ rights,” Gross says in his email message. “We can’t trust Meister and D’Amico to protect renters and we must stop them.” In his message, Gross includes the image of a flyer promoting the appearance of D’Amico and Meister as speakers at a luncheon sponsored by the Beverly Hills / Greater Los Angeles Association of Realtors.

In an interview with WEHOville, Gross noted that both D’Amico and Meister are supported by the California Association of Realtors political action committee and have received campaign donations from Jerome Nash. Nash filed a lawsuit in 1984 against the city of Santa Monica contesting a local law that prevented developers from demolishing existing housing occupied by low- or moderate-income people unless the landlord could demonstrate he couldn’t make a reasonable return on his investment. Nash’s lawsuit failed, but it sparked the passage by the state legislature of an act proposed by Sen. Jim Ellis that permits landlords to withdraw properties from the rental market and evict their tenants without penalty so long as those properties are off the market for a minimum of two years. The Ellis Act is often used by developers to empty rent-controlled properties and then later demolish them or turn them into condominiums.

Nash also is owner of the 32-unit El Mirador building on Fountain Avenue at Sweetzer in West Hollywood, where he evicted tenants in 2010 and has fought unsuccessfully with the City of West Hollywood over his proposals to renovate the building and convert it to condominiums or a hotel. In 2013 Nash also removed tenants from the El Pasadero building on Harper Avenue near De Longpre.

“The number one proponent of destroying rent-controlled affordable housing is lined up behind D’Amico and Lauren Meister,” Gross said.

Meister questioned Gross’s assertion that the support of the real estate agents group means she is backed by major developers. “The Realtors represent real estate agents who sell homes and condos. They aren’t big developers,” she said. “If he’s referring to that, it’s ridiculous and not comparable to actual developers who are donating to individual campaigns and independent expenditure groups.”

An analysis by WEHOville shows that Meister’s campaign received only four percent of contributions by individuals and organizations indentified as real estate interests.

Gross also questioned Meister’s support of affordable housing, noting that she is a homeowner in West Hollywood’s affluent Westside. He characterized her positions on restricting development as ” a code word for ‘not in my back yard. We don’t want those people here’.” Gross said he believes that West Hollywood needs to both preserve and develop new housing to ensure there is affordable housing for its residents.

“A lot of times to make affordable housing work you have to give exemptions and make certain concessions,” he said. “That’s a reality and a necessity.”

D’Amico also refuted Gross’s assertions, noting that during his campaign he has consistently called for more carefully managed development. At a candidates forum at Plummer Park last night he proposed a moratorium on demolition of rent-controlled housing to allow the city to study ways to provide more housing for those displaced by such demolition. D’Amico also suggested the city provide funds to landlords to help maintain their rent-controlled properties. Gross criticized that position. “He wants to give taxpayer funds to private landlords who don’t take care of their apartments,” he said.

“All of us support rent control,” D’Amico said of the Council candidates. “I’m interested in protecting rent controlled housing. John Heilman watched 700 units of rent controlled housing disappear and did nothing about it.”

“Everyone’s heart is in the right place, but we aren’t working wisely,” D’Amico said. “Our housing stock is in a crisis.”

Complicating D’Amico’s effort to present himself as an opponent of over-development is the fact that he is the largest recipient by far of campaign contributions from real estate developers. According to an analysis by WEHOville of donations through Feb. 14, D’Amico received 29 percent of all campaign contributions to candidates from real estate interests. But complicating Gross’s assertion that D’Amico is in the pocket of developers is the fact that Horvath received 22 percent and Heilman received 21 percent of real estate dollars.


34 Comments
  1. Has Gross lost his mind? As I recall (as a 36+ year resident of WeHo), CES was one of the driving forces to incorporate WeHo. Sadly, with TOO many single family homes being demolished to be replaced by multi-unit condos or apartments, it is no longer financially feasible for renters (under Rent Stabilization) who have been tossed out of their apartments via the dreaded Ellis Act to remain in WeHo. As regards the Ellis Act, here is the skinny: 2009: 5 buildings with 17 units; in 2010: 5 buildings with 53 units; in 2011: 5 buildings with 10 units; in 2012: 8 buildings with 17 units and in 2013: 12 buildings with 63 units ! ! This info is from the WeHo Office of the City Clerk. The City Clerk’s office had no way of determining how many residents had been “misplaced.” What a true tragedy ! And, yet, none of the candidates for City Council ever addressed the Ellis Act. What is the City Council doing to rescind the Ellis Act? It seems, to me, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING !

  2. @ Joetheplummer & Tom Smart?:

    It would be hard to believe that Lauren Meister would be in favor of getting rid of residents or favor expensive single family homes. However, whereas Lauren was certainly capable of standing on her own two feet she seems to have made some mighty discomforting alliances with people that don’t meet her standards and continue to drag old baggage around. Why would that happen? If ethics and integrity are paramount, oftentimes one must make hard choices.

  3. Well MY wife told me Lauren Meister is THE most honest person she has ever met and that she’s 100% for what is good for West Hollywood and CANNOT be bought by the greedy developers who are funding Heilman, Horvath and Guardarrama. But don’t take my wifes word for it, see for yourself at weho.org where all of the candidates have disclosed their backers. My wife is never wrong.

  4. My wife tells me that Jerome Nash only buys historic properties and then kicks out the tenants. So we should only be concerned about Meister and D’Amico agreeing to allow conversions of historic buildings to other uses. I told my wife, well then I’m concerned! Does that mean eventually every building get’s deemed historic and tenants are evicted? I think Lynn (commenter) above seems to be correct. Why would you take money from someone so odious? Developers are expected but the guy with the pitchfork?

    It is beginning to make sense: Ms. Meister wants to get rid of all the residents and make expensive single family homes. I heard they are doing that in San Francisco. 8 unit buildings get turned into 10 bedroom mansions. Less people = Less traffic. No thanks Meister!

  5. @ Rob Bergstein – your say “Odd how D’Amico last night (well, and really, all throughout this campaign season) was all about “I”, “I”, “I”,

    I must respond: Odd how Heilman (and Horvath) didn’t show up.

  6. @ Brian Holt: All this murkiness is troubling. It in no secret that the foxy Jerome Nash has displayed a vengeful attitude towards rent control/rent stabilization, many of the tenants under its protection and continues to evidences a lifetime commitment to thwart its intent and break its back any way possible. As far as Lauren Meister being a recipient of his support and thus tied to his philosophy, perhaps she or Nash’s advocate, sitting commissioner and friend/supporter of Ms. Meister could shed some light on this tangled mess.

  7. I’ll say this… I’m a homeowner, on the Eastside; but I was also a renter (as most of us all were at sometime, duh) and as such I’ll always know and understand the importance on rent issues facing our community. I suspect Meister is capable of the same… Though her connect to Nash is worth review.

  8. There is only one thing that will improve the rent situation in West Hollywood. That is to enact some kind of law that prevents landlords from returning a unit to “market value” after someone moves out.

    As it stands…the only “rent control” is only allowing an increase of the 1.3% or whatever it is. But when you’re already paying $1595 for a 1bedroom..it doesnt matter anymore. Soon there will be no affordable units left. People in rentals move on and move out. Doesn’t matter how many “affordable housing units” are required in these new developments. Afterall, they are only available to the low-income folks who have signed up on the wait list. And that wait list has been closed for years.

    West Hollywood isn’t alone in this. It’s all of LA. Nothing can really be done unless some type of block is put on raising rents. Maybe some type of formula that only allows the landlord to raise the rent after move out like 10% or something. But ultimately..there is no true rent control. What we have now is a law against “rental increase” for any tenant.

    And with this development…new ordinances should be in place on how many people can live in one apartment..and consequently, how many cars are allowed to park. This is why you have a traffic situation and parking issues. There used to be one person in a one bedroom apartment, using one parking spot or one spot on the street. Now you have many people inhabiting an apartment. This is exactly what is happening on Palm Ave and that 939 building where it’s becoming a dorm. Thus more crime and violence.

    This is the bigger picture here no one is addressing.

  9. It appears the viable stand alone candidate is Block. I’m voting for him because he stood up to Heilman, Duran and D’Amico at one time or another and he seems like the true independent choice. It does not seem like he is part of all this garbage PACS and committees. The top 5 money people all seem to be part of a establishment, development and real estate interests. And he is the only one who speaks to LGBT issues and that means alot to me.

  10. Gregory,

    The contributors of the IE have contributed a lot of money to D’Amico. So it doesn’t matter if the IE isn’t supporting him anymore, they already have….with their check books.

  11. Rudolf,

    I too received today’s mailer. Though I agree it was sleazy, it’s disappointing that Lauren is supported by the Realtors Association. It’s very concerning. I agree it’s also concerning that developers are funding other candidates…including D’Amico. But we cannot dismiss Lauren’s endorsement by a big special interest in our community. I’ve received mailers from them supporting Lauren and D’Amico. I expect more.

  12. We keep hearing about rent control. A friend of mine said his rent went up over 20% this year. If this is rent control, sure don’t want to know what it be like without it.

  13. In order to maintain tax-exempt status, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations cannot engage in political campaigning. Nonprofits with 501(c)(3) tax exempt status should be ever vigilant about this prohibition — a violation could result in severe consequences.

    The federal tax law is very strict on the issue of political campaigning: A 501(c)(3) organization is absolutely forbidden to directly or indirectly participate in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Violation of this prohibition could lead the IRS to completely revoke your organization’s tax-exempt status or impose excise taxes on your organization.

    In other words, the IRS is serious about this issue, and your board of directors and officers should be equally serious in making sure that your organization complies with federal law in this area.

    What Does “Participating in a Political Campaign” Mean?

    Organizations with 501(c)(3) status cannot participate in political campaigns.
    What is a political campaign? In general, the IRS rule refers to campaigns between people who are running for offices in public elections. These can include: candidates running for president of the U.S.; candidates running for governor; candidates running for mayor; and also candidates for lower elected offices such as school board officials, city supervisors, and county trustees.

    What is “participating?” Your organization cannot participate in a campaign, directly or indirectly, on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate. If your organization takes a stand in any campaign, supporting or opposing one or another candidate, this violates the prohibition.

  14. Such an organization should stay OUT of politics and if they are a 501c3, it’s probably even illegal. MY VOTE IS FOR D’AMICIO, MEISTER & BLOCK!!!!!!

  15. Hmmmm… something stinks here, and it’s Larry Gross’ hit piece, which as it happened in the 2011 campaign, it was ordered and paid for by the Heilman-Horvath-Land camp against D’Amico. Now, they are doing it again, attacking D’Amico and Meister. Imagine if the status-quo of the Heilman-demolish-all-you-can-and-build-larger-more-expensive-condos were to be stopped? What would his developer friends and highly paid lobbyist pals would do? Just take a look at the Duran-organiz Political Action Committee that is supporting Heilman, Guadarrama and Horvath (this PAC was supposed to support D’Amico until he decided to support Meister) and you will see where the real money is coming from.. It’s coming from people like the owner of Mansour, who built that monstrosity Restoration Hardware on Melrose, and others who supported Heilman, Land, Duran, and Horvath in the past. Is the City up for sale? you bet! Don’t believe me: Here it is: Official City records: http://weho.org/home/showdocument?id=19322 In the last report filed with the City of West Hollywoo, the Duran-PAC raised $130,000 from developers and commercial real estate interests. As you can imagine, they are not giving money for charitable purposes. They are doing it because they have something to gain and they will expect the favors to be repaid in kind. These are the same people who will file the next application to demolish your apartment building. Know before you vote.

  16. Oh the horrors, John Heilman running again. You know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. He has that right, and WeHo voters have the right to vote for him or not, until the Republican idea of term limits applies to him in 2027 (term limits being solely for losers who can’t win any other way). When this ill-begotten referendum was passed, the voters elected 2 long term members at the same time.

  17. Thank you, Mr. Zaslavsky, for cutting through all of this BS. Councilmembers have little effect on what is really going on here. People, over time, are going to move. And apartments become market rate when that happens. The Ellis Act is a problem, but its not the main reason that we’ve lost so many units.

    Candidates should commit to lobbying to fight that battle in Sacramento. And to commit to educating their constituents, to they can put pressure on as well.

  18. It’s the season for mudslinging and the mudslingers are out in full force. I remember Larry Gross doing a similar hit piece 2 years ago, scaring the low-information-voters exactly 5 days before the election. Classy.

    And the Friends of West Hollywood PAC have taken things to a new level of sleaze with today’s ugly mailer about Lauren Meister. I will not vote for any candidate they endorse unless they distance themselves from the Friends of West Hollywood PAC which is financed almost exclusively by out of town developers and their associates.

    If you’re worried about renter’s rights then vote for whomever is on the Friends of West Hollywood hit list and do not vote for candidates they endorse.

    Sam Borelli, what happened to you? You used to be a positive candidate, now you’re driven by negativity as well.

  19. Lauren should be ashamed of herself. How dare she take a contribution from Jerome Nash. I can’t even begin to describe how disgusting that is. She can’t take a contribution from HIM and claim she will fight for more affordable housing. When has she ever fought for more affordable housing?

    It makes perfect sense that D’Amico and Lauren are running together. They both live on the westside and they both are home owners. What concern do they have for those of us who live on the east side? What concern do they have for those of us who are renters? What concern do they have for anyone but themselves?

  20. As far as I’m concerned, the CES and Larry Gross are part of the past. What have they done lately? For them to hawk Heilman to me, makes them irrelevant. Heilman didn’t even have the courtesy to show up at the East Side’s forum? That shows us what he thinks of us on the East Side. Same for his new little puppet, Horvath. Well, my votes didn’t go to either of them. (I vote by mail). Heilman got us into this mess. After the passage of term limits (which IMHO was passed as a message directed at Heilman), he had the audacity to run again. His ego has no bounds. VOTE HEILMAN OUT March 3rd.

  21. jerome nash is responsible for the ellis act and he is a big contributer and supporter of d’amico and the candidates he is pushing for – miester and guaderrama. something is rotten in weho and it is spelled D’A MI CO! time to take out the trash and rid the city of this putrid stench of false platforms to get elected at any, and all cost.

  22. Of the twelve candidates for City Council, there is only one that has been endorsed by The Apartment Association of Los Angeles (“AAGLA”), the largest landlord association in Southern California….and that is John D’Amico. (In full disclosure, I am a HUGE landlord, ala the Sterlings, with my one rental unit in West Hollywood & two in Silverlake and I am a member of AAGLA, but AALA’s board didn’t ask for my input on Council endorsements).
    Odd how D’Amico last night (well, and really, all throughout this campaign season) was all about “I”, “I”, “I”, attempting to take credit for accomplishments in our City, as if he were the only member of City Council, not one of 5. I’m totally ok with him saying the he brought an item to Council or that he voted for an agenda item, but to act as if he were the only person on Council…
    On the flip side, he is quick to try and point fingers at let’s say, oh, Heilman, trying to place all responsibility for the loss of residential rental units, but forgetting to mention that he, D’Amico was either a Planning Commissioner or on City Council when projects were up for discussion and approval, resulting in the loss of those rental units under his watch. D’Amico also forgot to mention that the permanent removal of rental units is allowed by the State’s Ellis Act–and State law trumps City law. D’Amico can’t have it both ways….I’m just a say’n…..

  23. I was going to write a very long objection to the borderline slanderous stream of consciousness that Mr. Gross felt the need to write, but in the end it is a waste of time to respond to such an obvious grasping of straws.

    I will only say this to Mr. Gross, your name is most fitting.

  24. Real estate development is the proverbial “pot of gold” in West Hollywood. The money is going to flow to the 4-5 candidates that are likely to be elected. That way whichever three get elected will all have been financed, at least in part, real estate/development interests. Spread the money around – it just makes good business sense.

    I have yet to hear any consensus about what can or should be done to preserve affordable housing – let alone expand it beyond a handful of new units offered as a component of some of the new developments. Exactly what does CES want the city council to do? They should be specific and, if necessary, draft proposed legislation and get one or more of the council members to push it.

  25. yup, this is a an obviously well timed hit piece but i have to say, any candidate that can dump heilman, d’amico and horvath is preferable.
    but really, how many people are reading this site, or paying attention?
    this city needs to clean sweep the incumbents and dismiss their puppets.

  26. I think this a propagandist hit job. John Heilman is the ONE who is in the pockets of the developers & who is a master of deception & underhanded manipulation regarding affordable housing, renter’s rights, over-development & the many other issues facing he city. We still have the same problems we had when Heilman was first elected 30 years ago, only they are bigger & there are more of them. John Heilman’s time is up & I hope those who are predicting his political demise on March 3 are right. I mean no disrespect to Lindsey, but she was just ousted from her appointed CC office in the last election by huge numbers & what kind of sense would it make to turn around & elect her now? Nothing’s changed & I can’t believe our electorate’s memory is that short or they are that ridiculously fickle. How can we expect change if we keep electing the same old people? We Can’t. Lauren Meister & John D’Amico will win on March 3 despite the many attempted influences of sources outside the city, as they both deserve to be & have earned. I must add that I’m a little (o.k., a lot) disappointed at Lauren’s take on the CC deputy’s mess. I thought she would represent the needed change & voters are definitely looking for signs & signals of change from the candidates instead of support for the status quo. What can she possibly have against having a staff of more mature people in city hall that works closely for the good of both the city and the City Council as a whole instead of supporting the same old system that causes so much divisiveness among so many undisciplined people who should in fact all be working for common goals? To assert that the “answer” is more of the same causes concern

  27. Mr. Gross has obviously been hired as a “hitman”. Nothing could be further from the truth about John D’Amico and Lauren Meister. The mess that WeHo is in with affordable housing is on John Heilman’s head. Every gigantic over-sized development of high-rent apts on the eastside was championed by John Heilman. Heilman is portrayed as a friend of renters and yet rents in the new giant buildings he approved are unaffordable to ANYONE now living in rent stabilized units. One of the candidate’s last in the candidates’ debate stated that the new affordable units in the Huxley and the Dylan are being inhabited by 4-10 people to share the rent. Under WHO’S watch, MR. HEILMAN did a one bedroom in West Hollywood get to $4,000.00 per month? Mr. Heilman will never have to worry about his own Economic Survival and he is out of touch with the real world of those of us who struggle every day to pay our rent. Although, John Heilman and Lindsey Horvath didn’t even bother to show up at the final debate of the season. We heard they were off at a fundraiser with their Super PAC of wealthy donors. John Heilman is supporting evicting 11 disabled seniors and sick people from their low rent units on Detroit. If given the chance he would evict us, too.

    RENTERS ARE VOTING FOR LAUREN MEISTER AND JOHN D’AMICO, WEST HOLLYWOOD CITY COUNCIL.

  28. The biggest foe to maintaining affordable housing in West Hollywood is the Costa-Hawkins act, a state law which went into effect in 1997 and essentially eviscerated local rent control ordinances like West Hollywood’s RSO. Since the law went into effect (essentially eliminating full rent control and replacing it with a system of vacancy de-control), approximately 2/3 of West Hollywood’s rental units have seen tenant turnover. And there is no sign that anyone will make headway with the current legislature and governor to chip away at Costa-Hawkins. (Indeed, even when the Democrats had a super-majority and an arguably more progressive bent a few years back, the idea of modifying Costa-Hawkins was essentially DOA.)

    Put differently, only about 1/3 of the units which were originally under rent control in 1995 are still under legacy rent control. Most of this turnover (thus taking units out of legacy rent control, and putting them into vacancy de-control whereby new tenants pay market rate upon move-in and then have only their annual increases regulated) has occurred because people have voluntarily moved. As a general rule, relatively few people stay in the same apartment for 20+ years. No council member and no candidate can be blamed for this unfortunate phenomenon. We’ve certainly lost a number of units to Ellising, but that number pales in comparison to the number of affordable units we’ve lost through natural movement of people.

    As a tenants’ rights attorney, I certainly hope that we continue our efforts to protect affordable housing in the City. Unfortunately, the real battle is in Sacramento, and not at 8300 Santa Monica Blvd. Notwithstanding Larry Gross’s assertions (and I have great respect for Mr. Gross – we worked very closely with him when I did tenants’ rights work at Bet Tzedek many years ago) I believe that each of the sitting council members, as well as each of the major non-incumbent contenders, all support maintenance and preservation of our affordable housing stock.

    Unfortunately, unless Costa-Hawkins is repealed or modified, natural attrition will continue to erode our affordable housing stock in West Hollywood. Without the necessary changes in state law, within the next 15-20 years nearly all of the legacy rent controlled apartments in West Hollywood will have gone to market rate.

  29. Typical, D’Amico. Remember when he voted against the proposed over-development at Sunset and Horn but really would have voted for it had there been consensus? Many people say that Mr. Heilman & Ms. Land vote for every development but this time they both agreed that it was too much. Only Duran voted for it and Mr. D’Amico would have too if he had the votes. #inauthentic
    “I voted against the project, but I wasn’t against the project being there. I was just aware that there was no consensus,” D’Amico said.
    http://beverlypress.com/2012/08/weho-council-denies-project-at-former-tower-records-site/

  30. I’ve offered new ideas to Rent Stabilization to strengthen renters rights. The first idea proposed “Moving on Down? Council Candidate Larry Block Wants to Make It Easier for Seniors to Move to 1st-Floor Dwellings” Thu, Jul 24, 2014 was posted on here on WeHoVille.

    The object of my proposal is to help seniors and disabled folks who might live on an upper floor unit to be able to move to a 1st floor unit when available. I’ve also advocated updating relocation fees to reflect todays market rents and moving expenses.

  31. Read the last paragraph again. His advocacy of Heilman and his hopeful puppet Lindsey Horvath is laughable if his problem is indeed development dollars. There’s something else going on here.

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