The Hollywood Local of the Los Angeles Tenants Union (LATU) is currently supporting the Yucca-Argyle Tenants Association (YATA) in their years-long fight against developers Bob Champion and Greg Beck, represented by the notorious displacement advocate Jerry Neuman of DLA Piper. The developers are attempting to abuse the controversial Ellis Act, a state law that allows landlords to evict tenants in affordable apartments in order to build luxury units and hotels. This case is somewhat unique though, because YATA’s fierce struggle forced the City Planning Committee (CPC) to add a specific condition to the project that would allow Yucca-Argyle tenants to return to the new building at the previous Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) rates. Condition 14(d) not only protects Yucca-Argyle tenants, but also creates a Universal Right of Return to all units citywide. The Right of Return would force developers to allow tenants to return to comparable units on the new property, for the same rent, as well as cover the difference in the rent they pay elsewhere during the time of construction. This condition could set a legal precedent that communities and tenants could leverage their fight against developer impunity and social cleansing.
YATA must appeal to the Planning and Land Use (PLUM) committee on December 3rd to make sure the condition isn’t stripped away or watered down. Yucca-Argyle tenants are asking community members to call in and demand that PLUM to keep 14(d) as a permanent condition for this project. PLUM is currently facing a crisis of legitimacy stemming from the felony corruption charges handed out to former Councilmembers José Huizar and Mitch Englander over backroom deals with corporate developers that the city is eager to paint as aberrant violations of norms rather than business as usual. YATA sees this shadow of corruption contributing to the urgency of their demand that PLUM honor this key condition that was essential for the project’s initial approval. If the committee cannot keep their word to the Yucca-Argyle tenants, and maintain this hard-won and essential victory for Hollywood tenants, it will be clear that it will take much more than a couple FBI investigations to transform the city’s planning and land use apparatus into something other than a network for the allocation of developer graft.
LATU and YATA held a press conference on November 21, where residents spoke about what this chance means for them and for all tenants across LA who are facing Ellis Act evictions, which had been halted earlier in the pandemic when infection numbers were much lower. The harm on renters from ballooning economic devastation has only grown since the June 18 expiration of the Mayor’s Ellis Act eviction moratorium. Winning the Right to Return to their homes after the development project is complete with the same rent they pay now would represent a much-needed ray of hope for tenants across Los Angeles and the organizations that stand up for them. Less symbolically, it would also be a tremendous near-term material victory for working class tenants in Los Angeles.
Since its passage in 1985, the Ellis Act has been the primary tool by which developers, and their accomplices in the city council, have ejected largely Black and brown working class Angelenos out of Central Los Angeles and into the outer suburbs and the streets. Data from the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project shows that between 2001 and 2020, landlords have filed Ellis Act eviction declarations for at least 26,958 units in Los Angeles. For the most part, these RSO units are replaced with quasi-luxury buildings that are financially out of reach of former residents and which aesthetically serve to erase any trace of their existence. The passage of a Universal Right of Return would go a long way toward ensuring that redevelopment does not immediately dispossess the tenants that make our neighborhoods what they are. Even more, it would combat the perverse incentive that encourages landlords who want a slice of rising rents to evict all their tenants and build something new.
The possibility of a Universal Right of Return has only been achieved thanks to the dedicated collective struggle of the Yucca-Argyle Tenants Association. The PLUM Committee decision is the city’s best opportunity to defang the concessions that YATA was able to secure — and it is only the continuation of tenant struggle that can hope to force them to honor their word, and take this small but significant step toward making Los Angeles a livable place for poor and working people.
Instructions for calling in to the PLUM committee for public comment — on Thursday, December 3rd, 2020 at 10AM — can be found at bit.ly/yucca-argyle