Tenants at Botz’s buildings have been threatened with eviction for their kids playing outside — and there’s an entire court case about it.
Many of the tenants at the Hillside Villa Apartments in Chinatown are facing eviction as their “affordable housing” expires and rents are being raised to market-rate by the landlord Tom Botz.
But this isn’t the first time they’ve had issues with the Botz family.
Multiple tenants have described actions taken by the building’s management — primarily by Tom’s 20-something year-old daughter, Chloe Botz, who is paid by her father to help run the apartment complex — to crack down on children. Specifically, they say that they and their children have been reprimanded for the kids playing in the building’s central courtyard. One tenant says Chloe even threatened her with eviction over this.
These claims are supported by an online review from another building owned by Botz, in addition to a court case in California where the judge found that a company run by Botz was evicting families in response to children playing, and was thus guilty of violating the federal Fair Housing Act for discriminating against families.
I will review this evidence below after briefly covering the situation at Hillside Villa.
The Hillside Villa Tenants Association’s initial demand letter lays out the problem, and stated: “we want our children to be treated as such and be allowed to play in the common areas.”
According to one tenant I spoke with — whose name has been withheld in order to prevent possible retaliation — enforcement got more strict once Chloe began to help run the building. She told me one story from about a year-and-a-half ago, representative of many similar ones, where Chloe stopped her son playing in the courtyard and took him up to their family’s unit upstairs.
“[Chloe] said to me, ‘didn’t you listen to what I told you?’ She talked to me with a tone. She said, ‘listen, I’m gonna give you a warning, and if you don’t listen, we’re gonna kick you out.’” Chloe apparently suggested there was some sort of three-strike policy that would lead to eviction.
Tom Botz, for his part, claims the tenants are lying. He has repeatedly insisted that it is the official policy of the building’s management that children are free to play in common areas. He even hired a lawyer to send me a letter demanding that I clarify this in a previous article I published on this struggle.
But, regardless of the “official policy,” there’s evidence, in addition to the tenants’ direct testimony, from other buildings to support their claims.
For the Botz family, then, there appears to be a disturbing pattern of anti-children, and anti-family, management — beyond the simple fact that they’re uprooting dozens of families at the Hillside Villa Apartments right now in order to make bigger profits.
First, see this online review from a building in Inglewood owned by Tom Botz (or, more specifically, by an LLC he runs). A year ago, an anonymous reviewer wrote: “Theres [sic] a courtyard which children are not allowed to play at all unless you are the children or friends of management.” Sounds familiar.
Even more damning is the story from the 2009 court case, Matthews v. Arrow Wood LLC. Arrow Wood LLC is a corporate entity controlled by Tom Botz that owns the apartment complex in Fontana where this took place. The court specifically names Botz in its ruling finding the LLC guilty of discriminating against families.
In fact, this case was decided by ‘summary judgment’ — meaning the evidence against Botz was so strong that the judge ruled a jury trial wasn’t even necessary.
The quotes below are pulled directly from the court’s published opinion.
According to the court, the building’s manager (hired by Botz) sent out rules to the tenants stating plainly that “children are absolutely not allowed to play outside their apartments at any time,” and that “families whose children are playing in the common areas or are without adult supervision will be promptly asked to leave.”
This policy was enforced on multiple families. Both the Cuevas family and the Matthews family were served 60-day eviction notices by the manager for having their children play outside in the common areas.
According to the court, Tom Botz knew about this, and did nothing to stop it. He allowed families to be evicted from their homes because their kids were playing outside.
The court writes: “[The manager] also served 60-day notices of termination of tenancy as a means to force tenants into complying with said house rules, a tactic which Mr. Botz was aware of and did nothing to stop or reprimand [him] for doing.”
This also had a devastating impact on other families and children at the complex who were not themselves served eviction notices. For Necole McCain, according to the court, “[the manager’s] pursuit in enforcing these house rules was so extensive that she stopped letting them go outside altogether. In fact, her children [had] “scarcely” been outside at the apartment complex in the last several years.”
This is absolutely shameful, even for a family currently evicting at least dozens of low-income households with nowhere else to go.
At best, the Botzes are completely indifferent to the well-being of their tenants, and are willing to look the other way even as their building managers prevent children from playing in common areas and even threaten some with eviction. At worst, this is an intentional (if informal) policy to prevent children from playing freely, perhaps to prevent wear-and-tear and thus to maximize profits.