Holiday Venice tenants ask Obama administration to help them buy the apartment buildings

March 1, 2010

By Lydia Poncé

Residents of Oakwood’s 15 low-income buildings known as Holiday Venice Apartments, and community members, packed the Annex Room at Oakwood Park, Feb. 23, to hear what Carol Galante Assistant Deputy Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary, had to say about preserving their homes. These apartments are homes for mostly single working mothers, working families, and disabled seniors.  The apartments have a long history of human rights struggle to keep them affordable.

Gallante, appointed by the Obama’s Administration, came to hear a panel of Venice’s best: Ollie Jones; Violetta Hudson, Vice President Holiday Tenants Association; Jataun Valentine, Actionist; Rosa Arevalo, P.O.W.E.R. Board Member; and Kendra Moore, President of Tenants’ Association.

Could the panel convince Galante to work with the 246 families to purchase the buildings from the owner, Gregory Perlman of GH Capital.  Perlman is the fourth owner of Holiday Apartments.

The tenants want to purchase the complex, but need HUD to raise its subsidy per unit from $1,000 to $2,000 per month to finance the mortgage. If the tenants are unable to buy the buildings, then they want HUD to require a 55-year contract with the present owner, Perlman, to keep the buildings affordable.

Last year, Perlman was granted permission by HUD to pre-pay his current contract to HUD, an illegal transaction according to the Holiday Tenants’ lawyers. This early pre-pay by Perlman to HUD resulted in three law suits that are awaiting their day in court.

Galante told the tenants that she has only been on the job for nine months as Assistant Deputy. She said “Venice’s affordable housing issue is nothing new to me.” But she could not make a commitment on the spot that HUD would help.

Will the results of Galante’s visit to Venice be a new contract for 246 families for another 20 years? The Holiday Tenants still deserve to own their home and make a claim to their future. The struggle will no doubt continue, after all, Venice needs to keep these buildings for the Oakwood community.



Lincoln Place Tenants Going Home

November 1, 2009

Up to 83 one and two bedroom apartments will be reoccupied by tenants who were unceremoniously evicted by AIMCO (Apartment Investment and Management Company), the large corporation that owns Lincoln Place. AIMCO and the tenants’ association have reached a tentative agreement that will restore many of the 80 renters who were removed from their homes on Dec. 6, 2005.

No date has been set for accepting rental applications nor have rents been set.

The tentative settlement will maintain the historic exteriors of the  buildings and return the property to rental housing use.  The only new construction will be the replacement of 99 units which were destroyed by AIMCO and the previous owner.  No height or density variances will be requested in connection with new construction, which will return the project to its original 795 homes. However, city approval of the construction will be required.

The agreement also settles all outstanding litigation between AIMCO and former tenants.  While the agreement will be final after signature by all former tenants participating in the settlement and after judicial approval, it remains contingent upon a separate agreement between AIMCO and the city of Los Angeles and agreement with the returning tenants.

AIMCO also recently settled with historic preservationist Amanda Seward and 20th Century Architectural Alliance, which spearheaded the drive to obtain historic protection for Lincoln Place. That protection remains in force.

The buildings together with their character defining features which were constructed in the 1950s will be preserved. “Under the agreement, this complex would be preserved for future generations,” commented Seward.

“The settlement allows members of our close-knit community to return, preserves the buildings which we love, and charts a positive future for Lincoln Place,” says Sheila Bernard, the Lincoln Place Tenants Association President.

“Clearly, collaboration with the former tenants, the city, and the community is far preferable to protracted litigation,” added Miles Cortez, Chief Administrative Officer of AIMCO.


Threat to Holiday Venice Sparks Oakwood Vigil

March 1, 2009

More than 200 low-income families from the Holiday Venice Apartments held a march and rally in Oakwood, Feb. 19, to protest the loss of affordable housing in Venice. 

The vigil was held on the first anniversary of “Operation Oakwood,” when 300 LAPD and federal officers kicked down doors and terrorized seniors in an early morning para-military operation. The police claimed they were looking for gang members but found mostly elderly women, children and babies (see March 2008 Beachhead).

The 246 units at Holiday Venice represent the last multi-family project based Section 8 development within the coastal zone of California. “These buildings have always been for the working-class black and Latino families of Venice,” said longtime Venice resident Pamela Anderson. The project was financed by the federal Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and built in the early 1970s to provide low-income housing to residents in need.

The project’s for-profit owner, Gregory Perlman (GH Capital), has requested to prepay his HUD mortgages and lift the restrictions guaranteeing low-income affordability. HUD has given initial approval to the plan, despite the objections of Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, Representatives Jane Harman and Maxine Waters, Councilperson Bill Rosendahl and L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa.

“We were expecting a policy shift at HUD after Obama took office, but we’re not going to just sit around waiting for somebody to save us,” said Holiday Venice Tenant Action Committee (HVTAC) President Kendra Moore. Tenant leaders have developed a plan to buy the project with the help of a non-profit developer. 

“We want to keep the apartments affordable to low-income families forever” said HVTAC member Ollie Jones. If HUD allows the for-profit owner to prepay the mortgages, there will be no guarantee of long-term affordability and the tenants’ leverage to buy the apartments will be severely compromised.

In 1996, the average price for a 2-bedroom apartment in the Oakwood area of Venice was $550. Today, a two-bedroom apartment in Oakwood can rent for around $2,700. Roughly 15 percent of Oakwood residents still live at or below the federal poverty line. The Holiday Venice  Section 8 contracts allow tenants to pay 30% of their income towards rent with HUD offsetting the difference.


Negotiations Underway to Buy Lincoln Place

December 4, 2008

Two sources have confirmed to the Beachhead that negotiations are taking place between AIMCO (Apartment Investment and Management Company), the infamous owner of Lincoln Place Apartments and the tenants association. The subject of the negotiations is the purchase of Lincoln Place by a buyer lined up by the tenants, or a combination of an individual buyer and the tenants. Several of the tenant leaders have told the Beachhead that they would prefer eminent domain being used by the city. This would guarantee continued low-income housing without the construction of condominiums to pay back a private buyer. Eminent domain was first raised as a possibility by the Beachhead (see “The Case for Eminent Domain at Lincoln Place, Dec. 2005).

As of Nov. 30, AIMCO stock was trading at $11.47 a share, down from $43.67 earlier in the year.


A Day in Court for Lincoln Place

November 5, 2008

By C.V. Beck

The Complex Court had a h#earing on October 16 in which AIMCO had filed their demurrer and Judge Carl West made it clear that we are dealing with the preliminaries at this point. It is not anticipated that anything of substance will be reached prior to the new year. At that time, seniors/disabled group will be addressed, followed by those who were “illegally evicted.” The next hearing has now been scheduled for November 7 at 1:30 p.m. and is a status conference, monthly meetings with all attorneys will be held to address discovery matters. Thirty-seven unlawful detainer cases have been transferred to this complex court and are now being reviewed by Judge West. There is a motion pending for attorneys fees and a motion for restitution after appeal asking that these tenants be restored to their apartments immediately. It is anticipated that a hearing date will be set for these motions then. In the Bernard Mass Action Case, the judge denied AIMCO’s motion as to all causes of action, a positive for us. He also ruled the “locked out residents” who dropped their appeals, could not be restored to their apartments; that restitution for these would be limited to money damages only. Lincoln Place residents attorneys are reviewing how best to deal with this decision. Also, the plaintiffs are given the right to file for additional claims for money damages for abuse of process. We also are considering filing a claim for elder abuse on behalf of tenants over 65. This amended complaint is expected to be filed on or before Nov. 14 as both sides continue with the discovery process. 

I can’t help but remark on how unused to members of the public this complex court seems to be. In the court room, there are only a few benches for the public, and parts of this is being used as some kind of temporary storage for boxes. Acoustically, this courtroom, along with all the others I have been to, are not adequate for anyone such as myself with a hearing impairment. I came with my hearing “aid” and still had tremendous trouble hearing what the attorneys and the judge were saying, even though there are microphones in use. There is paneling in the courtroom which seems to muffle vocal sounds. It would be very interesting for someone to do a study of the acoustics in all Los Angelescourtrooms. I believe this would reveal how inadequate they are for the public to be able to hear with clarity what is being discussed by the “insiders.” 

Locking Gates Replacing Board Ups 

At Lincoln Place, board-ups are being replaced by very ugly locking iron gates. (See photo). I am not sure this is any kind of an improvement save for curb appeal” as people drive by. Functionally, it seems to me that more trash and debris will blow into the hallways and this then will not be reachable except with a key. We are still waiting for the chain-link fences to be removed and are definitely looking forward to this. It is my opinion that this “gating” of the entrances is a first step in an attempt to create a “gated community” here at Lincoln Place. It is unfortunate that with hundreds of difference, attractive models for wrought iron security doors, that the one chosen seems to be the most “jail-like”, with vertical iron bars.

One of my neighbors caught the exterminator in the act of cleaning the insecticides from his equipment into the grounds here. This neighbor has told me this has been happening for a long time, despite best efforts to get the on site manager to request the exterminator to desist from this toxic and probably illegal activity. 

Recently, one of our neighbors to the north passed by, walking dogs with the right stuff. (That is, of course, sanitation materials and leashes…) and stopped to chat with her neighbor, visiting with me. What came up in the conversation was that the first neighbor had been challenged by one of the security guards, saying…”no pee-pee, no pee-pee.” Neighbor was walking dogs on the sidewalk at the time. She said this was the first time anything like this had happened to her here at Lincoln Place. A few days later, on Penmar, signs once again appeared which say “no trespassing.” At this time I observed three security guards on Penmar alone…

We still have incidents of security breaches, where locked apartment doors are suddenly found to be unlocked and open despite the presence of security.


What’s Cookin’ At Lincoln Place – We’re Not Dead Yet!

October 1, 2008

By C.V. Beck

Here at Lincoln Place we residents who remain continue to be treated as if we are invisible and/or gone already.  This is quite a blow to our self-esteem, this being treated as though we are already dead and gone, when we are not.  We are still alive,actively living our lives in Venice, Bohemian artistic showplace of the western edge, in case this has slipped your mind.

Both sides “talked” in mid-September, apparently, AIMCO is still greedy as ever. Therefore, both sides will be proceeding with discovery and ensuing motions. The cases of the “locked-out” residents are being transferred from evictions court to the complex court where the damages suit is being heard.  Our attorneys are working very hard to get the “locked-out” residents restored to their legal apartments here.

A few weeks ago, more signs reappeared on Penmar Avenue, apparently in response to a plethora of dogwalkers who had very aggressively seized upon this opportunity not to have to clean up after their pet companions.  There were five signs, all saying “Private Property – No Trespassing – Violators will be prosecuted” and at least 3 security guards along the row who continue to tell passersbys that “no one lives here.” According to one resident, the postal workers and Fedex are still being told that “no one lives here;” and this person’s mail continues not to be delivered or picked up, timely.   

One day in September, I was awakened to the sweet sound of power equipment at 7am. When I went to look, barefoot and with a camera in my hands, I saw several tree trimming trucks and storage bins, which had magically appeared all along Elkgrove Avenue. A good sized crew was pruning and trimming up in the trees.  One of my neighbors spoke with the crew leader who said they were contracted by the city to perform 20 percent trimming and pruning of neglected trees at Lincoln Place, around the vacant units only, and that they would be there for one week.  My neighbor was told not to take pictures of the crew or of the crew leader or the trucks…. small flags have appeared around the sprinkler heads throughout the complex, of various colors, some of which say “John Deere Landscape.”

Sept. 28, at the Beachhead booth at the Abbot Kinney Street Festival, a man came up to me, saying that it was because of the Beachhead that he had decided to become an artist and was now living in Santa Monica.  He said that Venice was too expensive, that he used to live at Lincoln Place, on Elkgrove and that (he believed) almost all of the buildings here have been torn down.  I explained to him that people still live here, that 52 buildings are still intact and that the locked out residents will be returning first. He did not seem to hear me.


September 2008 – Lincoln Place – Housing the Community

September 1, 2008

By C.V. Beck

Ongoing events at Lincoln Place continue to be that of aggressive dog-walking trespassers and more delays in our very complex legal process. 

A neighbor attended an open house on Lake Street where the realtor said, why don’t they just pay them off and get them out of there so they can redevelop thereby indicating that she does not read the newspapers. Neighbor replied, have you ever been over there?, it’s like a paradise! 

One Sunday morning, prior to 8 am, I heard a noise in my hallway. I went outside to investigate and found at the foot of the back steps a pug, off-leash and alone. 

My cats had disappeared. A moment later, a very large man with another pug, also off-leash appeared. I told him he was trespassing and he said that I was, that I was supposed to be gone from here now. I told him he was wrong. 

A woman appeared with a third pug, this one on a leash. They were still in the backyard area behind my legally-occupied apartment. I told them again they were trespassing and they needed to put their dogs on a leash and leave. We had words. The man, easily 6’5”, bodybuilder, dyed black hair and the woman, average everything with dyed red hair, continued walking towards Elkgrove Avenue, telling me he was going to call the police and have me arrested for verbal abuse. 

There were no sanitary products visible and no attempt was made to put the dogs on a leash. The security guards, normally visible every time I look out the window, were, oddly enough, nowhere in evidence.

On Penmar, one of our legal residents encountered a group of dog walkers well within the perimeter of the property, walking their dogs and making no attempt to clean up after them.

Another incident occurred when two women walking by with strollers were told by a security guard in a car that “no one lives here” and that they could not walk on the sidewalk. They said they were visiting and came to see me. I was outside in the “quad,” enjoying what we have here. 

I gave them some Beachheads to read and they were very disturbed that the security guard had violated their civil rights as they were walking along a public street, on a public sidewalk.

In court, the legal delays continue while people seek a return to normalcy after lifelong disruptions. For some, it has been 22 years of this. For me, it’s only been 16 years, which is quite enough, thank you. (See box for details.)


September 2008 – Update on Recent Events at Lincoln Place

September 1, 2008

A: Building and Safety – Compliance with Dept. of Building and Safety Notices:

With the help of the office of Councilman Rosendahl, Council District 11, February 13, the Dept. of Building and Safety issued a Notice to Abate Vacant Structure on all 35 parcels at Lincoln Place with vacant buildings. It said that the owner, AIMCO, must clean up the property and make it safe, AIMCO must file a Statement of Intent, and, AIMCO must repair, replace and maintain the property in good condition. 

AIMCO asked for a modification and the Building and Safety Commission granted AIMCO’s request to remove all fences at Lincoln Place and install wrought iron gates at every entrance for security purposes on the vacant buildings only. The tenants asked for repair of the roofs, foundation vents, and other issues in compliance with municipal code 91.8104 This is still open. 

B: Current Tenants in Malibu court:

In May, AIMCO dismissed the unlawful detainer cases against the 11 households currently living at Lincoln Place, and  affirmed its right to evict the tenants under the 2005 Ellis Act which the CEQA (Calif. Environmental Quality Act) court of appeal declared were unlawful. AIMCO was hoping that because they had dismissed the cases that the tenants’ attorneys would be deprived of attorney fees. However, Judge Sarmiento granted the motion for attorney fees and AIMCO will have to pay both attorneys.

C: Evicted 2005 Tenants (ABC tenants with current appeals):

Six cases have been assigned to Judge Biderman and 31 cases will return to Judge Connor. The tenants are demanding that AIMCO allow these 37 households to return to their units immediately. Under the law, a reversal of a judgment returns the parties to the position they were in before the judgment. Therefore, the court can return these tenants to the position they were in on July 2005 (inside their units). AIMCO, of course, will oppose this motion.

D: Mass Action – Case for restitution and damages:

The tenants’ case for restitution and damages (mass action) was filed on January 4 and amended on March 14 at the Santa Monica courthouse. Because the case involves 191 plaintiffs (147 households) who represent “the chased out,” “the locked out,” and “the hold outs,” and where the facts and legal issues are diverse and the damages are specific, the case was determined to be “complex” and was transferred to the Central Civil West Courthouse (“complex court”) on June 24.

E: AIMCO preparing units:

In mid-June, AIMCO began removing the barricades from the stairwells of the vacant buildings and inspecting the vacant units. Since then, the current tenants have reported people with clip-boards walking throughout the property and climbing up on the roofs. When the L.A. Housing Dept. inspector, he confirmed that AIMCO is getting estimates for making repairs to the property. Whether this new action by AIMCO is in response to the Building and Safety Dept. notices or the recent win by the tenants, we do not know.


August 2008 – Lincoln Place: Venice Gulag?

August 1, 2008

By C.V. Beck

What is going on with Lincoln Place, you might enquire?  Well, let me tell you. It is very quiet over here, too quiet! many might say. It’s like that episode of the Twilight Zone, you know, the one where the bank teller, Burgess Meredith, goes to sleep in the bank vault and wakes up after atom bombs have gone off and he’s the only person left alive on the planet. 

Well, it’s like THAT here, the Venice Gulag! Of course, because it’s also in a vacuum (which nature abhors), certain persons are attracted to the grasses and lawns for purposes of irresponsible dogwalking… that is, these certain persons deliberately come here to let their dogs roam through the buildings, terrorizing and killing feral cats and other animals, and not cleaning up after the waste products of their pets– mostly while talking intently on their cell phone as an excuse. Oh, yes, frequently, these clowns have their backs turned away from their pets, to make sure they DON’T see anything. People go out of their way not to go to the dog parks – but to come here – where they think they can do anything they want to…with attack-trained german shepherds and other large overly-alert canines. I have dealt directly with a number of these grandiose people and on a toe-to-toe basis with same at least once. This continues to happen over and over, like a rerun movie on late night TV. 

 

The security guards, of whom we have a great number, do basically nothing but eat and chat during the day while circling the complex many, many times, dropping their food wrappers and coffee cups from “S-Bux” on the ground and at night, they sleep– while getting paid. 

Many times, I look out the living room window and see security guards sitting in their vehicle or on old beat-up looking bicycles, in my field of view. When I take out the garbage or go to my car, I see them to the west– like statues in silhouette across the meadow (I mean the vacant lot)–where the flowers are mowed down regularly with a phalanx of gas-powered edgers, filling the air with blue-silvery gas fumes and leaded particulates, polluting our earth with heavy metals. Anything green or flowering is destroyed over and over again, just to make sure. 

Additionally, these landscape helpers continue to use with great regularity the unlawful gas powered leaf blowers despite my best efforts to stop them. Management has been informed many times and apparently the guys just don’t get it. I have called the police and the South Coast Air Quality Management District  all to no avail. The one time I observed the office manager stopping a landscape cleaning guy with the unlawful gas powered leaf blower was when a group of potential buyers were on a walk-through this past month. 

These gas powered leaf blowers are not permitted to be used within the city of Los Angeles within 500 feet of a residence, did you know this? Does anyone, really? 

We do NOT have the quiet enjoyment we are supposed to have with garden apartments or any kind of apartments within our used-to-be fair city limits. 

In many parts of Lincoln Place, the grasses have been replaced by bare parched dirt, dry and cracked, part of an apparent “scorched earth policy” by the owner’s harsh and oppressive policies. The dry grasses crunch when I walk on them and there are deep cracks into the earth, some 9”,10”,up to 12-1/2” deep, in front of my place.(I measured today, Sunday, July 20th). Weeds have been allowed to grow up through the blacktop alleyways and throughout the garage and carport areas, nettles grow 4 and 5 feet high, remaining untouched, despite my requests for weeding of weeds and not for weeding of flowers.

 

The Lincoln Place Tenants Association (LPTA) has received two awards coming out of the Barney Frank-chaired Financial Services Committee in Washington, DC, on HUD Housing by the National Alliance of HUD Tenants. 

One award is for our tenants’ role in saving rent control in California in the June primary. The other is for “winning landmark victories to save (our) homes.” These awards were proudly accepted by attorney Amanda Seward on behalf of the LPTA.

 

About two weeks ago now, AIMCO minions began unboarding the empty apartments around those where human beings still live. Why are they doing this? It might have something to do with the last lawsuit in court that we had won.

The appeals court case that found the Ellis Act evictions to be illegal because the California Environmental Quality Act (which protects us) trumps the Ellis Act. 

Some of the former residents have asked when they would be able to return to their apartments. Apparently, what is holding up the works is that the city government has no “mechanism” to return people to their units and needs to develop one, I guess on our backs. 

I helpfully suggested to one of our unlawfully evicted residents that the sheriffs be allowed to smartly walk people backwards into their apartments, thus eradicating the grievous removals of two and three years ago. While funny, this is still a very good idea and would be, of course very visual in a Venice sort of way, wouldn’t it?


July 2008 – Lincoln Place Still Fighting Back

July 1, 2008

By Amanda Renner

The Lincoln Place Tenants Association held a fundraiser, June 21, in celebration of its recent legal victories. 

Sheila Bernard, president of the Association, was there to answer questions, update guests on the case and inform them about the future of Lincoln Place.

Originally there were 795 units in Lincoln Place, however 100 were illegally demolished. Of the units left only 11 are occupied. Meaning that while the nation is in the middle of a huge housing crisis and locally the city is trying to fix the problem of citizens who have had to resort to living in RVs, there are more than 700 perfectly livable low cost units, empty because of our friends at the Apartment Investment Management Company.

Bernard said there are three categories of tenants. Hold-out tenants are those 11 that stayed and fought for their right to live there; Locked-out tenants, who had eviction cases filed against them; and Chased-out tenants, who signed agreements to leave. 

The evictions have been proven illegal and now on behalf of the tenants there is a lawsuit pending, Bernard v. AIMCO, which is seeking restitution and damages against the company in hopes of being able to return to Lincoln Place.

“The place is engineered to bring people together,” Bernard said. 

She said that the 141 households and 191 tenants in the suit are from all walks of life, from families, to business men, to elders, there is a broad spectrum of people fighting to get their homes back.

“One hold up is that although the court of appeals has declared these evictions illegal,” Bernard said. “Nobody knows how to get the tenants back in, because the tenants don’t ever fight it this far.”

They are hoping to be in a courtroom by the end of 2008. Bernard said they are not going into this wanting everything. They are looking for a reasonable settlement where both parties come out all right.

The story of Lincoln Place is not a new one. The Beachhead has covered stories on the housing development since 1972.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 56 other followers