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Tenants Protest Ellis Act Evictions by Affordable Housing State Official

May 28, 2015

Jacobs DemoMatthew Jacobs is the Chair of the California Housing Finance Agency, a state agency with a mission to support 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.

Matthew Jacobs is also a developer who recently acquired four rent controlled apartment buildings in the Beverly Grove and Fairfax areas of Los Angeles. Jacobs is evicting 17 families living in these buildings under the dreaded state Ellis Act to build 19 4-story houses under the city’s Small Lot Sub-Division Ordinance that will each sell for well over $1 million.

“That gets me, too. I mean, the fact that we have very little affordable housing, and they’re not adding to it,” said Tenant Leader Steven Luftman.

Tenants facing eviction and their supporters protested in front of their landlord’s home, assisted by Coalition for Economic DemoJacobsShameSurvival, on May 27. Ironically, Jacobs lives blocks from the buildings on North Flores he’s demolishing.

In a phone response to a KPCC radio reporter’s question regarding the tenants’ protest in front of his home, Jacobs responded, “To build denser LA, some people need to be displaced.”

The Ellis Act is a California law enacted in 1985, which ostensibly allows landlords to “go out of business” and evict tenants in rent-controlled properties.

Alarmed by the rash of Ellis evictions like Jacobs’ projects and the

Rent Controlled Apartments Matthew Jacobs is Destroying

Rent Controlled Apartments Matthew Jacobs is Destroying

resulting destruction of historically significant housing stock, the Mid City West Community Council, a City-certified neighborhood council, voted unanimously to ask the City Council to forbid demolitions in Beverly Grove and other nearby areas until new regulations can be passed to protect the tenants and the buildings in which they live.

“I’m a widow and a senior citizen, being displaced from my home of twenty-two years;” said Cynthia Cohn. “Apartments in my neighborhood are fifty percent more expensive, and none accept dogs.”

The historic buildings facing demolition are 118 through 124 North Flores Street and 750 through 756 North Edinburgh Avenue.

Calif Housing Finance Agency Chair Matthew Jacobs said, “To build denser LA, some people need to be displaced.”

Calif Housing Finance Agency Chair Matthew Jacobs said, “To build denser LA, some people need to be displaced.”

Since 2001 the City of Los Angeles has lost nearly 19,000 rent controlled affordable housing units due to the Ellis Act, according to the LA Housing and Community Investment Department.

Luftman stated, “My message (to other tenants) is to get active now.”

Tenants and the Coalition for Economic Survival are urging people to contact Governor Jerry Brown to demand that he remove Matthew Jacobs from the California Housing Finance Agency. Given that Jacobs is destroying affordable housing and displacing low income and working tenants to build housing for the rich, they believe that this man has no moral right to sit on the board of an agency dedicated to providing affordable housing for the people of California.

Contact Governor Brown at 916-445-2841 or by email to tell him to remove Jacobs now.

Click for More Pictures of Protest at Matthew Jacobs Homes.

Click to View KNBC – Channel 4 News Report on the Evictions.

Ellis Act Evictions in L.A. on the Rise – Report on 89.3 KPCC-FM

April 27, 2015

Evictions by Ellisby Leo Duran – Friday, April 24, 2015

Evictions in Los Angeles through the Ellis Act rose 235 percent, according to recent figures from the LA Housing and Community Investment Department.

Landlords cleared out 725 apartments in 2014, compared to 308 the year before.

Ellis Withdrawals Graph“We’re slowly seeing a trend that started in 2009,” says general manager Rushmore Cervantes.

The Ellis Act, passed by the state legislature in 1985, allows landlords to get out of the rental business by evicting their tenants from rent-controlled buildings, so long as they either sell the building, convert the units into condominiums, or let the building sit vacant for a minimum of five years.

Landlords don’t typically use the Ellis Act to sell their property when the real-estate market is weak. When the market is strong, they can cash in. Not surprisingly, the data from the city shows that Ellis evictions were highest when the the housing market was strong. As the housing market rebounds in Los Angeles, Ellis evictions, once again are on the rise.

“A lot of these landlords are seeing this as their way out of the market, and this is a quick and easy way to do it,” says USC’s Raphael Bostic.

“Every rent-controlled tenant should be worried,” warns Larry Gross from the Coalition for Economic Survival, “and it’s going to get worse.”

Gross says many of these evictions are happening in a Nike “swoosh” shape across Los Angeles – they span from Venice, cut through Hollywood and Koreatown, and encompass parts of Silver Lake and Echo Park. There is also a hotspot in the San Fernando Valley around Sherman Oaks, Studio City and Valley Village, which he says affects many who work in the entertainment industry.

“The number of SAG-AFTRA members that were being displaced,” he says, “I hadn’t seen anything like that.”KPCC-logo-C

Recent Ellis Act evictions are still are far cry from a peak in 2005 when landlords cleared out 5,425 units. However, Bostic says to expect numbers to climb in the coming years because of the strong housing market in Southern California, where demand greatly exceeds supply.

“This is just another sign that there’s real pressure in affordable housing in Los Angeles,” he says.


New Landlord Scheme: Have L.A. Tenants Pay for Water!

April 24, 2015

water-conservation-logoThe landlord group, Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA), is urging that the Mayor and LA City Council take action to have renters pay their own water bills. This would be a significant change given that for most tenants’ water costs are included in their rent.

Because it’s included in the rent, landlords claim that tenants have no incentive to conserve water, thus have little concerns about letting their faucets run and not reporting leaks. As a result, landlords say they are facing increased water bills.

However, the LA Department of Water and Power reports that the City has cut water use about 10% since early last year and is on track to comply with Mayor Eric Garcetti’s order to slash consumption by 20% by 2017.

Given that approximately 65% of LA residents are renters, these water conservation achievements could not have been obtained without significant participation of tenants throughout the City.

Nevertheless, we all have a responsibility to conserve water. This is a real crisis that requires tenants, landlords, homeowners and businesses to all do their part.

LandlordSchemingThe AAGLA plan appears to be nothing more than another landlord scheme, which clearly is an attempt to take advantage of our water drought crisis to shift financial responsibilities to tenants who can least afford to pay more.

This plan is disingenuous and opportunistic and is more about attempting an end-run around existing rent control laws and tenant protections in order to get more money from tenants.

Los Angeles has become the nation’s most unaffordable city for renters. Many renters are already paying unaffordable rents, paying upwards of 50% of their income to maintain a roof over their heads. This proposal would make our affordable housing crisis worse.

The landlords’ plan is essentially an arbitrary water allocation and billing practice referred to as Ratio Utility Billing System or “RUBS”

RUBS allows the landlord to charge for water use by some ratio like the number of residents in the unit, the number of bedrooms or perhaps by the square footage. All of these systems assume constant and equal water usage based on the arbitrary ratios. But, without sub meters for each unit, chances are that water use and SavePlanetcharges will be inaccurate, with some tenants ending up overpaying for their usage and some underpaying.

It is unclear whether tenants would be responsible for the cost of the landlord watering lawns, or operating water-inefficient washing machines, or cleaning the property common areas.

Plus, it would include the controversial use of a 3rd party bill collector, which would mean additional administrative costs to tenants above and beyond the water charges.

There have been problems where RUBS is currently being used. Some landlords have marked up the cost of water to their tenants creating a hidden rent increase in the guise of water billing.

The RUBS billing formulas bear no relationship to actual water usage.Landlord-Repairs

This system provides a substantial incentive to landlords to avoid making needed repairs. What Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) organizers have found in assisting renters is that landlords, in many cases, refuse to fix leaky toilets or faucets or repair broken pipes waste a lot of water. This proposal would increase landlords’ lack of interest in making needed repairs.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti says he only supports tenants paying for their water usage if they have their own water meters.

“I’ve been supportive of individual meters so individuals could track their own use,” Garcetti said.

LA City Council Member Mike Bonin agreed, stating, “The only way to do it is with individual meters. As a drought-fighting tool, you need to have the use tied directly to the cost.”

SavethedropShowersCES believes that first there’s a need for an education and outreach campaign to tenants – in order to increase their involvement in conservation efforts.

Also, landlords should be required to make their apartments building water efficient by converting their lawns to drought resistant plants, installing energy/water efficient washing machines, and providing their units with low-flow toilets and faucets without passing those costs on to tenants. There should be stiff fines to landlords and increased rent reductions to tenants when landlords fail to make quality repairs to leaks in a timely manner.

The installation of sub meters in buildings could be studied, ensuring that tenants would be charged only for what they use. But there would have to be a corresponding reduction in rent to accurately compensate tenants the full amount of savings to landlords.


Story by Larry Gross

Tenants Protest Their Evictions at Historic Hollywood Villa Carlotta Apartments

April 22, 2015

Villa Carlotta - SylvieTenants Facing Ellis Act Evictions at the historic Villa Carlotta Apartments received support for their “Hug the Carlotta” Protest from the Coalition for Economic Survival (CES), students from The Oakwood School and Community Groups and Residents on April 21, 2015.

Last Christmas, CGI Strategies, the new owners of the Villa Carlotta Apartments in Hollywood provided their tenants with presents in the form of eviction notices. Using the provisions of the state Ellis Act, which allows landlords to remove units from the rental market and evict tenants, the owners served tenants with 120-day eviction notices. The eviction notices expired on April 21, 2015.

Villa Carlotta - Protect BldgThe owners have stated that they want to convert the building into a short-term luxury hotel. Tenants, many who have been long-term renters there, have been under severe pressure to accept payouts to move earlier than the eviction date. A number of tenants have succumbed to the pressure and have moved.

The rest of the tenants have fought back, claimed that owners have no much higher rents. This would violate the provisions of the Ellis Act by re-renting the units within 5 years after falsely forcing tenants out.

The tenants have been gaining community support. They have been assisted by the tenants’ rights organization, the Coalition for Economic Survival. Recently, students of The Oakwood School‘s senior theatre class became aware of the Villa Carlotta’s plight whileVilla Carlotta - preparing a play that echoed the Carlotta’s story. Determined to help the residents keep their homes, students and tenants recently spoke before the LA City Council, asking Council Member Tom LaBonge, who represents the district Villa Carlotta is located in, to intervene on their behalf.

With their pleas to the City going unanswered, the tenants, students and community supporters stood together on the day of their eviction notice states they need to vacate and collectively hugged the building in a visual demonstration and show of solidarity to protest and stop the evictions. The Oakwood School theatre students also performed a reading from the play “Hot l Baltimore” after the action in the lobby of the Villa Carlotta.

Villa Carlotta - Hug BldgThe current candidates running for the LA City Council District 4 seat, David Ryu and Carolyn Ramsey, both made appearances at the protest.

In addition there was a representative from UNITE-HERE Local 11 (two members of the union reside at Villa Carlotta), the Hollywood United Neighborhood Council and tenants from the Rodney Drive Tenant Association who are also facing Ellis Act evictions from their Los Feliz apartments.

Villa Carlotta Apartments has had a storied past. The four story building on the northwest corner of Franklin and Tamarind was designed by Arthur E. Harvey for the estate of early filmmaker Thomas Ince. One of the Villa Carlotta - Group building’s most famous long-time tenants was gossip columnist Louella Parsons, who wrote her column from her apartment there. Other past tenants in the 50-unit building included actor Edward G. Robinson, producer David O. Selznick, actress Marion Davies, architect Wallace Neff, Neil Patrick Harris and lead vocalist Dan Reynolds of the rock group Imagine Dragons, who wrote a hit record there, and whose wife and child attended the protest.


Story by Larry Gross



Songs Celebrating the Fight for Social Justice Filled the Air – A Review of the Concert for Social Justice

April 10, 2015

ConcertForSocialJustice_LA_013In their song “Ripple,” the Grateful Dead sang, “Let there be songs to fill the air.” On April 8 at Hollywood’s Fonda Theater, it was Social Justice songs that filled the air.

A star-studded cast contributed to making the Concert for Social Justice an outstanding event.

The David Crosby and Graham Nash opening number, “Long Time Gone,” best demonstrated the theme of the night.

“Speak out. You got to speak out against the madness.
You got to speak your mind if you dare.”

The GRAMMY Museum and the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights co-sponsored this event to benefit their “Speak Up Sing Out: Songs of Conscience” program, which is a student music competition that encourages middle and high school students to become engaged in human rights by writing a song.

Rocky Dawuni

Rocky Dawuni

The night kicked off with the high energy of international Ghana-born reggae star and humanitarian activist Rocky Dawuni who performed his self-described “Afro-roots” sound, a fusion of reggae and Afro Beat groove, exhibited in “Shine a Light,’ from his new album, “Branches Of The Same Tree.”

Rocky had been re-tweeting my previous blog article about the Concert and I was fortunate to speak with him in the Lobby of the Fonda Theater after his performance. He thanked me for my article and I thanked him for his performance. Rocky is definitely someone to watch as his career takes off.

Rocky was followed by a reading from actor Dennis Haysbert, famous for his portray of the President on TV’s “24.” Between acts, the actors on hand delivered testimonials from international human rights leaders providing stories of struggles for justice around the world.

La Santa Cecilia

La Santa Cecilia

Then came LA’s own La Santa Cecilia playing a blend of music that included cumbia, bossa nova and boleros. Lead vocalist, Marisol Hernandez (aka La Marisoul) said, “Social justice music can also be good to dance to!” They also spoke about the need for immigration reform and about how deportations have a devastating impact on families who are torn apart.

We were treated to a dynamic version of the The Beatles “Strawberry Fields” that they dedicated to farmworkers and their stuggle.

Another testimonial reading followed by actress and political activist Alfre Woodward who recently starred in “12 Years a Slave.”

Tom Morello

Tom Morello

The intensity was turned up a couple of notches with the performance of Tom Morello.

Upon seeing a velvet roped off VIP section in front of the stage, Morello in his typical rabble rousing style, challenged the crowd and the concert promoters shouting, “Are we in this together?” a number of times. He demanded that the ropes come down, and they did, thus eliminating a make-shift class system within the audience.

Morello opened with “One Man Revolution” followed by Black Spartacus Heart Attack Machine.” He then went into the Bruce Springsteen classic, “The Ghost Of Tom Joad,” singing,

“Now Tom said, “Ma, whenever ya see a cop beatin’ a guy
Wherever a hungry new born baby cries
Wherever there’s a fight against the blood and hatred in the air
Look for me Ma, I’ll be there
Wherever somebody’s strugglin’ for a place to stand
For a decent job or a helpin’ hand
Wherever somebody is strugglin’ to be free
Look in their eyes Ma, You’ll see me”


At one point, Morello pulled his guitar up to his mouth to play with his teeth revealing a sign “I Can’t Breath” pasted on the back of his guitar, in protest of the death of Eric Garner, the 43-year-old father of six, who died as a result of a chokehold applied by a NYC police officer who heartlessly ignored his plea.

He ended his set with “The Road I Must Travel” and his familiar message to the crowd, “Take it easy, but take it!”

Chad Lowe, Billy Rae Cyrus, David Arquette & Martin Sheen

Chad Lowe, Billy Rae Cyrus, David Arquette & Martin Sheen

Then came a joint reading by Billy Rae Cyrus, Chad Lowe, David Arquette and Martin Sheen.

Earlier I had the opportunity to speak with Martin Sheen and reminded him that one of his first public political speeches was at a Coalition for Economic Survival Rent Control Rally in West Hollywood’s Plummer Park in 1980.

I also was able to speak a bit with Chad Lowe in the lobby of the Fonda.

Melissa Etheridge

Melissa Etheridge

Next up was Melissa Etheridge, who spoke as a cancer survivor about the importance of legalizing medical marijuana use. “I have come out of the closet as a gay person,” Etheridge said. “I’m also coming out of the closet as a cannabis user — surprise!”

She said, “Social justice starts with the individual. That’s how we make change.”

Her set included “Testify,” “Silent Legacy,” a cover of Brandy Clark’s “Get High” and closing with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh’s “Get Up, Stand Up.”

“Get up, stand up, stand up for your right
Get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight!”

Etheridge was followed by David Crosby and Graham Nash who launched into their classic hit, “Long Time Gone,” which Crosby wrote the night Robert Kennedy was assassinated.

Graham Nash & David Crosby

Graham Nash & David Crosby

Then came Nash’s song “Chicago (We Can Change the World),” written about the “Chicago 8” trial, where protest leaders at the 1968 Democratic National Convention were charged with intent to incite a riot. The first line of the song refers to Black Panther Party Chairman Bobby Seale, the only African-American plaintiff, who was actually gagged and bound to a chair in the courtroom.

“Though your brother’s bound and gagged
And they’ve chained him to a chair
Won’t you please come to Chicago
Just to sing?
In a land that’s known as freedom
How can such a thing be fair?
Won’t you please come to Chicago
For the help that we can bring?
We can change the world
Rearrange the world
It’s dying to get better.”

They also included in their set “Military Madness,” an a cappella version of “What Are Their Names?” and “Teach Your Children” with enthusiastic audience participation.

Kerry Kennedy & Bob Santelli

Kerry Kennedy & Bob Santelli

Kerry Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy’s daughter and President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, and Bob Santelli, Executive Director of The GRAMMY Museum then introduced Jade Rhodes, the winner of their “Speak Up, Sing Out” contest. A student at Los Angeles’ Brentwood School, she wrote and performed her song called “Invisible” about the plight of a Darfur war refugee.

Kennedy said that in organizing this concert the first person they thought of to ask was Jackson Browne. She said that not only did he immediately say yes, he called his friends to join him.

Jackson Browne

Jackson Browne

Browne then came out and sang “Lives in the Balance” followed by “Far From The Arms Of Hunger.”

“Far from the arms of hunger
Far from the world disorder
Beyond the reach of war
There is a world where we belong”

He concluded with “Looking East” and then Steven Van Zandt’s “I am a Patriot.”

"No social justice concert would be complete without a Woody Guthrie anthem. "

“No social justice concert would be complete without a Woody Guthrie anthem. “

With the concert’s artists returning to the stage for the encore finale, Tom Morello stated that, “No social justice concert would be complete without a Woody Guthrie anthem. Whether you’re of the Occupy Wall Street generation or the Aquarius generation … This land is your land!

Concluding this trip from the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters, Morello shouted out “The future is unwritten!” The crowd then dispersed into the Hollywood night having experienced a magnificent concert, and, more importantly, hopefully inspired to become active and involved in the ongoing fight for economic and social justice.


Written by Larry Gross

The Concert for Social Justice – An Event Not to be Missed

March 23, 2015

Concert Social JusticeThroughout history, movements for social change have utilized the power of song to recount history and to inspire people in their journey toward justice. Music has been a catalyst for change, a medium for protest, and a way to deliver a message of hope. No one understood that better than the likes of Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs, Joan Baez, Bob Marley and Bruce Springsteen.

Songs have the power to move people, more than words alone. Teaching people songs – and singing them together – can move people emotionally, socially, and politically.

Bono said, “Music can change the world because it can change people.”

Jackson Browne, David Crosby & Graham Nash

Jackson Browne, David Crosby & Graham Nash

Ensuring that music will continue to play a significant role in social justice movements means that our youth, who hold the keys to the future, must be taught to understand this. Thus, the importance of the new program, “Speak Up Sing Out: Songs of Conscience,” being sponsored in partnership by The GRAMMY Museum and the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.

This program, first piloted in Los Angeles schools in 2014, invites middle-school and high-school students to write songs about social justice issues and express their perspectives on issues ranging from domestic violence and housing to global warming and human trafficking, and other topics.

To advance and fund this important program Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the GRAMMY Museum are presenting “The Concert for Social Justice” in Hollywood on April 8, 2015 at the Fonda Theater, were the winning song will be performed.

The show will highlight the power of music as a tool for social justice and will feature a collection of artists performing songs that have helped generate change over the past five decades.

The artists who have agreed to participate thus far are Jackson Browne, David Crosby & Graham Nash, Melissa Etheridge, La Santa Cecilia, Tom Morello and Rocky Dawuni. There will also be special performances from actors Dennis Haysbert, Martin Sheen, David Arquette, Chad Lowe and Alfre Woodard.

Jackson Browne & Tom Morello

Jackson Browne & Tom Morello

Singer and activist Tom Morello, who will perform at the Concert, says it’s his job as a musician “to steel the backbone of people on the front lines of social justice struggles, and to put wind in the sails of those struggles.”

Clearly, this is an event not to be missed. Get your tickets while they are available online at or Purchase tickets by phone by calling AXS at (888) 929-7849. Tickets are $55.

Coalition for Economic Survival’s Response to LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Speech on his Housing Plan for Los Angeles

October 31, 2014

The Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) believes what was important about the LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s speech given at the Mayoral Housing, Transportation and Jobs Summit at UCLA on October 29, 2014, was the recognition that we need to link the commitment to providing new affordable housing with raising the minimum wage.

For low wage earners providing one without the other is an inadequate formula. Without the wage increase one can’t afford the housing, and without the affordable housing a wage increase will only go to the landlord.

The other important commitment made by the Mayor was the need to preserve existing affordable housing in addition to producing new affordable Units, as well as protecting the city’s rent control law and tenant protections.

Over 13,000 rent controlled units have been lost in the City since 2001 as a result of developers using the Ellis Act to convert and demolish these units and build high-priced condominiums and apartments.

If we don’t preserve the existing affordable units then no matter how many units are built they won’t meet the need. We will never build our way out of our affordable housing crisis unless there is an equal commitment to preserve existing affordable housing.

The Mayor also committed to building 100,000 housing units by 2021. Most of these units need to be affordable units.

In a City where the majority are renters and most of those renters are currently paying unaffordable rents, CES applauds the Mayor’s stated commitment to ensuring that there is adequate affordable housing for the people of Los Angeles.

It is going to take this type of leadership, commitment and creativity to truly achieve real equity and economic justice in Los Angeles.


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