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.


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Dapper Dan
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Dapper Dan

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… Read more »

Mikey
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Mikey

Riley,

Do you have to live in West Hollywood in order to be a renter’s advocate? I think not.

Lynn
Guest
Lynn

@ 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.

Tom Smart
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Tom Smart

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.

joetheplummber
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joetheplummber

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… Read more »

Riley
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Riley

Also, odd that Larry Gross has never lived in West Hollywood.

Riley
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Riley

@ 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.

Lynn
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Lynn

@ 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.

Brian Holt
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Brian Holt

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.

SaveWeho
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SaveWeho

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… Read more »

Brad
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Brad

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.

JJ
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JJ

John Heilman, Lindsey Horvath and Joe Guardarrama for City Council!