A tenant is about to lose her home of 18 years because her son, who grew up there, grew up.
UPDATE 4/22: Virginia is now being officially evicted and is applying for a stay to remain in her home while she appeals the eviction. The LA Tenants Union is holding an action at her home this Thursday, 4/26 at 5pm in support. The FB event is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/271468293393313/
Before Jeff Byrd came along, there were seven rent-controlled bungalows at 1333 N Edgemont, a community of working class Latinx residents, many of them seniors. Then, a new landlord bought the building and Byrd, representing Cardinal Property Management, went on a campaign of harassment.
He refused to cash the tenants’ rent and tried to evict them for non-payment. He served notices to pay rent at an address in Corona, a city in Riverside two hours from Northeast LA, forcing tenants to mail rent rather than travel to personally deliver it. When unsuspecting tenants dropped their rent without proof of mailing, he lied about not receiving the rent, telling immigrant tenants that the sheriff would come lock them out (without due process) because they couldn’t prove payment.
He claimed he needed to fumigate the apartment multiple times a month, forcing the tenants to pack up all of their belongings each time. If they didn’t pack their things precisely enough, he tried to evict them based on claims of non-compliance with fumigation.
He knocked on tenant’s doors at all hours, offering them buy-out deals and pushing insidious cash-for-keys offers. Eventually, the tenants couldn’t take Byrd’s disruptive hassling, and they gave up. Virginia was the last tenant left.
Thanks to a court decision last week, Virginia is about to lose her home of 18 years because her son, who grew up there, grew up.
Virginia has lived with her now 32-year-old son in her Edgemont apartment since 2000. The building’s new landlord claimed that her son is an unlawful extra tenant in her apartment and, so far, the court has taken the side of the landlord. In a “tentative decision” made on March 6, the judge sided with Cardinal Property Management, finding “no merit” in the realities that a renter’s son, raised in the home, is a long-time tenant of the building, not merely “an additional person.”
Jeff Byrd, the harasser of Virginia and the other tenants at N Edgemont, exemplifies the distant, rich manager who will profit off this ruling if it is made final. Graduating from Stanford University with a B.A. in Sociology and an M.A. in Communications (an irony that barely necessitates pointing out), Byrd went on to be the Vice President for Finance at biotechnology company Epinex Diagnostics in Tustin, California. Similar to Boyle Heights developer BJ Turner, who lives on the Westside and invests in the East, Byrd currently resides in Trabuco Canyon, the multi-million dollar mansion-dotted foothills of Orange County, about one and a half hours away from East Hollywood.
While he made a home in the OC’s seclusion of riches, Byrd simultaneously made a history of harassing and eventually evicting Latinx families across Los Angeles — what he describes in an Epinex Q&A as having become “very involved in owning real estate and [having] created quite a portfolio. It started out as a hobby and turned into a business.” This self-description is spot on; evictions seem to be Byrd’s leisure and pleasure. For example, at marker 0:28 in a video made by the LA Tenants Union (LATU), Byrd is captured dancing gleefully in response to long-term residents losing their homes. Most of these now-evicted tenants paid $1,200 per month. As he told the court when he sued Virginia for back market-rate rent, Byrd plans to re-rent the units of 1333 N Edgemont at $2,800 per month, a rent increase that ensures more displacement in the area.
The potential loss of her home is personally devastating to Virginia: rent control allowed her to afford to stay in LA, and having to relocate in an area with market-rate rentals double and even triple what she has been paying would make it nearly impossible to find a reasonable new lease. This precedent is also systematically devastating for the entire city: it sets a model for landlords to evict any family the day their child turns 18. Wealthy, white flippers like Jeff Byrd can exploit the technicalities of the law to steal the (rent-controlled) homes of working class Latinx families. San Francisco has a law that protects tenants and their children when they turn 18; however, Los Angeles has not followed suit. Instead, the city is potentially setting a terrifying legal precedent for tenants with children, one that aids landlord harassment and abets property managers’ sneaky tactics.
In continuation with their fight for an anti-landlord harassment ordinance in the city, LATU is now running a GoFundMe for Virginia’s legal fees and potential moving costs. The goal of this campaign is to raise the same amount that a buy-out would have been, and to show Jeff Byrd that tenants take care of each other: there are more of us in Los Angeles than of him.