Saturday, July 22, 2017

City's Change In Building Designation To "Residential Hotel" Puts Kibosh On Gentrifying Landlord's Plan To Boot Nearly 50 Seniors From Retirement Home; Advocate Hopes Dozens More Whose Premature Move-Out Was Triggered By Illegal Eviction Notice Return, Move Back In

In Los Angeles, California, KABC-TV Channel 7 reports:
  • There has been a big victory for a group of seniors fighting eviction from their Westwood retirement home.

    Nearly 50 elderly residents -- many of them disabled and approaching 100 years of age -- were served notices last December and told they had only a matter of months to get out.

    "Who the heck wants to be evicted at age 100?" said Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz, who met with residents of the Vintage Westwood Apartments shortly after the notices were served in December.

    "It couldn't be more outrageous. (It's) probably the largest senior citizen mass eviction in the country's history. I've never heard of anything like this."

    The owner of the building wanted to renovate and turn the residence into a luxury assisted living community, but the city has now designated the building a "residential hotel," which prevents the residents from being moved out of the building.

    Watermark Retirement Communities, the company that manages the building, claims the residential hotel designation will do nothing but prevent residents from receiving a "generous settlement package" that guaranteed they could return to the building after the planned renovations were completed.

    "We still believe that Westwood Horizons is not a residential hotel, and we will appeal the determination," the company's president, David Barnes, said in a statement.

    Despite the new designation, renovations to the building must still take place. "The building is in a serious state of disrepair and basic life safety systems must be immediately addressed," said Barnes.

    The company maintains that residents need to temporarily be relocated so that the necessary renovations can be completed.

    One resident who will soon be 102 years old said she's glad she won't have to move.

    "This is a wonderful place," said resident Ruth Frank. "It's a place for living, not leaving and we're all very, very happy here."
Source: Elderly residents won't be evicted from Westwood apartment building.

See also, Westwood seniors get reprieve from orders of eviction:
  • In December, the new owners of the Vintage Westwood Horizons moved to evict the 117 seniors living there, most of them Jewish, intending to conduct extensive renovations. While the city decision stays the evictions, many onetime residents already have moved out, leaving fewer than 50 still in residence.
    [Jessie Kornberg, president and CEO of Bet Tzedek Legal Services, a legal aid clinic that represented a group of tenants fighting eviction] said under the building’s new status, Watermark would be required to pay the cost of temporary relocation should it become necessary during renovations.

    She sees the city’s move as a victory that will lead to a restoration of the building’s former vibrancy.

    “I would love to see people who relocated based on those invalid eviction notices be able to return to the building and be able to rebuild the community that was there before,” she said. “I’m hopeful that it’s possible.”

    Jeannine Frank, who advocated against the evictions and whose mother is a resident, said she shares that hope.

    Frank said she disapproves of the way the eviction was handled and that damage was done when Watermark posted eviction notices in December, saying the residents had 120 days to vacate their units.

    The community was really torn apart by fear and uncertainty,” Frank said.

    The 120-day deadline turned out to be misleading, failing to account for exemptions that give seniors and those with disabilities more time to comply with an eviction order.

    The notices nonetheless sparked an exodus of dozens of tenants.

    “They kind of jumped the gun, and they left early when they didn’t have to,” said resident Flossy Liebman, 96.

    She said those who left are having trouble finding a place on par with the Westwood location.

    “It’s a delightful, wonderful place,” she said of her current home. “It’s friendly, and that’s the one complaint that we’re hearing from people who leave: It’s not friendly anyplace.”

    [Resident Emiel] Meisel said he is not planning to move unless absolutely necessary. “They’re going to have to blast me out of here,” he said.