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Welcome to The Hellison

“Venice Beach: All the Bohemia Money Can Buy” — A bumper sticker I saw one time.

Despite the persistent notion that Venice beach is a still a fantasy land unto itself, unspoiled by the ravaging capitalism that is tearing through the rest of LA, it is one of the most inequitable neighborhoods in the city. What was once a working class neighborhood by the sea is now dominated by seven figure condos and Silicon Beach.

The Ellison dates to the beginning of Venice. Built over a century ago, it is one of the last remaining affordable buildings in the area. It is actually a pair of buildings joined by a garden courtyard, each with a rich history. For decades it was owned by the namesake family, then by City Councilwoman Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, before coming into the possession of Lance J. Robbins and Paloma Partners.

Robbins, a notorious slumlord, has been convicted of multiple criminal charges relating to the operation of his properties, as well-documented by the Los Angeles Times

Now CEO of Urban Smart Growth, Robbins can smell the blood in the water. Unrestrained growth in the tech sector has brought even more pressure to bear on the popular tourist destination. Hotel rooms are in high demand. At one point rooms in the Ellison were improperly listed on AirBnB, although he has since been banned from that platform. Other platforms like Trip Advisor still host his listings. Even with the constant bookings, however, he continues to try to force out the remaining tenants.

The Ellison is subject to LA’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance, which has allowed many of the tenants stay in their homes despite the wild spike in rent across the neighborhood. Unable to evict, Robbins has chosen to make life in the Ellison virtually unlivable, harassing his tenants with constant construction and opening the building to unlicensed drunken parties.

The tenants have joined up with POWER (People Organized for Westside Renewal) to force the city to deal with this dangerous and illegal situation.

Three tenants of the Ellison joined me in the Ground Game studio to share their experiences. Listen below:

If you want to support the tenants you can join us in flooding the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office with postcards: https://goo.gl/forms/e1yStR3deSdfXmMF2

Accompanying photographs below:

Zoning law violation
Blocked fire escape
Cluttered fire escape route
Nearly constant construction
Marble saw in the courtyard
Marble dust
Power tools right next to units
Obstructed walkways
Broken elevator, the building is 5 stories and has several tenants with limited mobility
The “hotel” generates far more waste than can be safely managed
Bags wait in the courtyard for check in
Advertising for parties, they provide no security or controls on who comes is
Free food and wine