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Soulvine: mass eviction from Boulevard Villa Apartments

Columnist Betty Pleasant on the mass eviction of the tenants at Boulevard Villa Apartments

The state of the city goes completely out of whack and the Lord smites us all when the least of His people are treated dastardly

Sodom and Gomorrah, and Los Angeles

Mayor Eric Garcetti delivered his second annual State of the City address April 14, 2015. He declared Los Angeles to be in pretty good shape and then droned on and on about improvements he will implement this year to make it even better.

ComptonHerald.com | Betty Pleasant

“Soulvine” is commentary by Betty Pleasant

He talked about raising the minimum wage, strengthening buildings to withstand earthquakes, stationing 5,000 trash cans to clean up our dirty streets, hiring many more police officers to lower our rising level of violence, creating domestic violence response teams to reduce that hidden crime to which many of the city’s women fall victim, permitting ride-sharing service of Uber and Lyft to pick up customers at the L.A. airport, etc., etc., etc.

Gentrification rears it’s ugly head

However, there is an atrocity occurring in Los Angeles right now that takes the shine off the “state of the city” about which Garcetti did not speak. In fact, no city official has spoken of it. So I will. Here it is: the elderly, the disabled and military veterans are being evicted, en masse, from a 40-unit apartment complex because the new owner, the new owner, Lafayette Square Apartments LLC, wants to rent their apartments to younger and more prosperous tenants! He admits in his eviction letters that the tenants have done no wrong and that their wholesale ouster is for his own “economic reasons.”

This apartment building, at 1625 Crenshaw Blvd., is known as the Boulevard Villa Apartments and is located in City Council President Herb Wesson’s 10th District — the city council district that has one of the rare and highly-sought federal “Promise Zones” in it. Specifically, in Koreatown.

Many of these elderly, ailing and/or veteran tenants receive Section 8 vouchers with which they pay their rent and the owner states in his letter that he no longer wishes to deal with “Section 8 requirements, paperwork, inspections and attempts to obtain rent increases.” So, not only are the evicted tenants old, sick and war-weary, they are also poor and receiving no relocation funds! I know that the God I serve does not like this.

Where does the city come into this picture? After the tenants brought it to me attention, the first thing I did was inquire of the Housing Department about some moving money for them and I was informed that the building is not governed by rent control rules because it was constructed in 1984 and no rent control benefits (such as relocation funds) apply to any building constructed in the city after 1978. They told me that this awful situation results from some kind of law passed by the state legislature way back then and there’s nothing the city can do about it.

How to put the ball in someone’s court?

Leilani Zachery, the spokesperson, told me that she and a group of the tenants went to a City Council meeting and spoke of their plight during the audience comments portion of a City Council agenda. She said the council members sat politely and listened to their tale of woe and did nothing. “After we spoke, our Councilman Wesson adjoined the meeting for lunch and we’ve not seen nor heard from him or his staff or anybody else from the city since,” Zachery said. That doesn’t surprise me because I’ve made numerous calls to Wesson and to his press deputy to discuss this abomination and neither of them have returned any of my calls.

However, Zachery led her group of ousted tenants, a couple of which were 90 years old, to a meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors where they explained their problem. After which Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas sent a worker with the county’s Consumer Affairs Department to provide some assistance to the tenants. And since the city says this problem stems from a state law, I contacted Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, in whose assembly district this building is located, and sent him a detailed account of this horrendous situation so he can prepare a humane legislative remedy for this ghastly problem.

I also contacted Jackie DuPont Walker of the Ward Economic Development Corp. to see if some of her federal money can be used to help these tenants get affordable housing elsewhere. She’s on it. And I’ve been trying to locate former 10th District Councilman David Cunningham under whose tenure the building was constructed, to learn the conditions under which it was built, i.e. was it zoned for low income and/or for seniors? Was a cap put on the length of time such a zoning would be in effect? But I’ve been unable to contact Cunningham.

Then I took the issue out of the non-responsive political offices and put it in the streets, meaning I told Najee Ali about it. As a result, we are going to gather for a rally against the evictions on Sunday, April 19 at 2 p.m. in front of the building and act like we always do whenever the state of the city goes completely out of whack and the Lord smites us all for this dastardly mistreatment of the least of His people. Join us.

In memorium

It is with great sadness that I report the sudden death of Helen Greer, the production manager of the L.A. Sentinel back in the good old days when I was there. Even though I left the newspaper, we remained close friends. She was found dead in her home and is survived by her two daughters Yolanda and Deanitra.

Betty Pleasant is a contributing writer and columnist for the Compton Herald. She was formerly a reporter at the Los Angeles Sentinel and a columnist at the Los Angeles Wave.

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