Last week, the embattled tenants of Lincoln Place in Venice took their long-running struggle to save their homes to the streets, and to City Hall – in a November 21 letter to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
“Honorable Mayor Villaraigosa:
“We thank you for your assistance with our situation at Lincoln Place Apartments in Venice. Both the commitment of your staff’s valuable time and your telephone conversation with Mr. Considine [president of AIMCO, the owner of Lincoln Place] have been vital to our continuing struggle to keep our homes and to remain in our community.
“AFFORDABLE HOUSING INITIATIVE
The strengthening of communities should be an important component of any development policy. We laud and support your efforts to raise $1 billion for the development of affordable housing throughout Los Angeles. However, we believe affordable development must not be done at the expense of current affordable housing residents losing their homes. As was stated so eloquently by John Given in his closing remarks at your Affordable Housing Conference, it is essential to protect existing communities and the ability of current residents to remain in them. Without protecting existing housing stock, we cannot “build our way out” of our present housing crisis.
Our struggles at Lincoln Place may seem like merely a local issue, but as your affordable housing initiative unfolds and infill replaces existing housing, these same scenarios will play out all across Los Angeles. Unless you address problems at the local level, these unintended consequences will be multiplied.
“One need look no further than Lincoln Place, where AIMCO began threatening tenants with eviction in September 2004, to find examples of “collateral damage”:
“Example: A tenant with a family to support, who cooks at a nearby restaurant, will have to move across town to find comparable rents; adding yet one more car to an intractable traffic problem.
“Example: A tenant suffering from Alzheimer’s forgot to pay her rent. Her neighbors intervened to prevent her eviction. Those neighbors will soon be gone.
“Example: Children are being torn from their schools in the middle of the year, losing friends and suffering all the attendant traumas associated with being uprooted.
“Example: Seniors, some who have lived in Lincoln Place for 40 years, will be torn from the life-support systems that younger neighbors provide. At best, these people will be thrown into the already overburdened social services system. At worst, they won’t survive.
“ARE THESE GOOD OUTCOMES FOR OUR CITY?
How will such problems be addressed if they can’t be addressed here at Lincoln Place? If developers can hold tenants hostage to extract concessions from the city? If deal-making circumvents public process? What will happen to your ambitious and humane vision when this isrepeated countless times?
“PLEASE TAKE CONTROL
If you can establish control now, you will go far toward ensuring your initiative’s success. To this end, we want to enlist your continued assistance in stopping the evictions at Lincoln Place and in helping us negotiate a win-win situation for the property owner, the tenants and the community of Venice.
“Mr. Mayor, we hope you can picture, as we can, these words from you to AIMCO CEO Terry Considine: ‘Mr. Considine, your activities at Lincoln Place are setting a precedent that will hurt my constituents and damage my housing initiative. You made a promise to the City when you requested, and then litigated to receive, Vesting Tentative Tract Map 51337. I want you to keep that promise. Evictions of massive numbers of tenants will not happen in my city. Stop the evictions immediately.’
We suggest you say this to Terry personally first. If he persists in evicting us, we suggest you say it to him again in a press conference. If he doesn’t respect the mayor of the second largest city in the country, how does this bode for our city, and how does it bode for you and other elected officials, in cities, in states, and in our country, in our public entities’ dealings with national and multinational corporations?
“The tenants of Lincoln Place, and the Venice community, will continue to fight for our rights while seeking a constructive solution with AIMCO. We thank you again for your support and hope that our experience can help point the way towards a successful housing policy initiative.”Sheila Bernard, President, LPTA