In a brief, informal statement sent via email to local media, AIMCO, owner of Lincoln Place Apartments, announced on Monday, March 21, that the tenants of the complex, “received eviction notices based on the Ellis Act, a landlord’s decision to go out of the rental business.”
AIMCO, which took complete ownership of the 696-unit complex last year, after co-owning it with longtime previous owner, TransAction Corporation, had made its intent to redevelop the property clear over the last several months, but had, until now, avoided using the Ellis Act to evict Lincoln Place tenants.
Instead, AIMCO representatives offered relocation money and assistance to any tenant agreeing to willingly exit the premises by a pre-determined date – up to $5,000 for single residents and $10,000 for families, seniors and disabled renters.
According to AIMCO vice president, Patti Shwayder, most tenants have already taken some form of relocation assistance, and have left their apartments. “70 percent of the property is now vacant,” she said.
Not so, says Sheila Bernard, President of the Lincoln Place Tenants Association (LPTA). “There are still 200 to 250 families living in Lincoln Place. Some may have already accepted relocation assistance, but many have not. They’ve chosen to stay on.”
The apartment complex, eight square blocks of courtyard-style buildings, was built in 1947 to house soldiers returning from WWII, and their young families. Located just off of Lincoln Boulevard, between Lake Street and Palms Boulevard, with Penmar Park to the east, Lincoln Place has, over the years, built a loyal following – of tenants and neighbors, as well historians and preservationists.
For well over a decade, tenants and their allies have fought successful battles in the face of various potential developers to keep the property as is, always with a secondary agenda to purchase the property as a cooperative. LPTA’s motto, seen in the windows of many Lincoln Place apartments, is: “Let’s Own It.”
Last year, AIMCO approached LPTA “with an offer to preserve a portion of the property as is [for the current tenants],” Shwayder said, “It was a very generous offer, but that offer was summarily rejected by a few members of the tenants’ [association].”
“We also listened to their offers to purchase the property,” Shwayder said, “They put some offers on the table, but nobody came up with any money.”
Bernard counters, “A number of developers have made offers to AIMCO for substantial amounts of money that would have preserved our tenancies and the historic buildings.” Of AIMCO’s offer to preserve part of the property, Bernard says, “They never offered to sell to us, only move us all temporarily to Penmar [Street], which only had 159 units. It wouldn’t have even covered half of the [remaining] tenants. We felt that was not a viable solution.”
Shwayder could not detail AIMCO’s future plans for the property – in part, she explained, because there are ongoing issues regarding Lincoln Place that must resolved before development can go forward, including whether or not the property will be placed on the register of California’s historic places. “We’ll have to first let the chips fall where they may,” she said.
Bernard pointed also to two open court cases in which LPTA asserts that the City of Los Angeles violated its own laws by permitting and then allowing the demolition of ninety-nine of Lincoln Place’s courtyard buildings.
Both Shwayder and Bernard vowed to move ahead with essentially conflicting agendas, but both also left the proverbial door open.
“The Ellis act evictions are irrevocable, Shwayder stated firmly. But she also said, “We will be looking for a win-win situation for all parties.”
Bernard stated, “We’re going to do everything in our legal and political power to protect the neighborhood, protect our tenancy … [and to] find a solution that will work for everyone.”LPTA will meet on April 3 at 10:30 a.m. at Penmar Park to “assist tenants who have questions, apprise [them] of their rights, and help senior citizens and others to fill out forms that will give them a full year before they have to leave their homes.”