The tenants of the 28-unit Teriton Apartments, located at 130 – 142 San Vicente Boulevard can breathe a sigh of relief, as the Santa Monica City Attorney’s office obtained a comprehensive settlement to stop their evictions.
These tenants have been under the threat of eviction ever since a religious group called Or Khaim Hashalom (OKH) bought the Teriton in April 2006 for $10.5 million. They decided to demolish the Teriton in order to build 40 luxury condominiums to be made available only to Jewish immigrants from the Middle East.
Several Teriton tenants contacted the City Attorney’s office after receiving warnings that their tenancy was in jeopardy. The City Attorney filed a lawsuit in July 2006, and according to a press release issued by the City Attorney’s office, OKH “committed an egregious type of housing discrimination against its tenants – terminating their tenancies because of their race, religion, and national origin.” The release continued: “… OKH had falsely claimed it was a religious organization to defraud its tenants, (many of whom are elderly and disabled), as well as the Santa Monica community.”
In an interview with the Mirror, Deputy City Attorney Gary Rhoades stated that, “this case was very unique and complicated compared to the cases I’ve seen before.” Rhoades’ office usually deals with landlords who try to force their tenants out by harassing them or neglecting to make repairs, or both. “This is the first case [where there was] transparent housing discrimination based upon a certain religion and national origin in the context of the Ellis Act,” said Rhoades. The Ellis Act addresses when a landlord decides to go out of the rental business and asks his tenants to vacate their apartments.
Rhodes also stated that so far OKH has satisfied the first seven conditions of the settlement agreement stated below. The tenants who have already moved out are now entitled to monetary restitution for their moving expenses and extra rent at their new location. They can also move back into the Teriton if they so choose.
The mandatory monitoring and reporting, required by condition nine below, begins in 2009. Rhoades hopes that through this type of monitoring his office can keep their eyes on things.
The City Attorney’s press release stated that under the settlement agreement reached through their office, and from the mediations with a federal court judge in a separate lawsuit, OKH must do the following:
1. Restore the tenancies and return all units to the jurisdiction of the Rent Control Board at their former rent-controlled rates;
2. Rescind OKH’s Notice of Intention to withdraw the Teriton Apartments from the rental market;
3. Forbear from withdrawing the property from the rental market for at least three years with an additional one-year grace period for all tenants;
4. Adopt a comprehensive written fair housing policy stating that race, national origin and religion will not be used as criteria for tenants or residents at the Teriton property and have that policy distributed to all staff and tenants at the property;
5. Obtain certified fair housing training for OKH property managers and officers, and assure that any property management company at the Teriton is qualified to manage a non-profit housing operation
6. Post HUD Fair Housing signs and City brochures at the property and OKH offices;
7. Pay for a fair housing awareness advertisement to be published in the same newspapers in which OKH’s allegedly discriminatory housing statements appeared;
8. The settlement agreement establishes formulas and mandatory mediations under which each Tenant was able to negotiate for his or her monetary restitution;
9. For three years, OKH must provide the City Attorney with reports on its status with the IRS, the FTB and how it is soliciting donations. For the same period, OKH must provide the City with copies of all rental agreements and applications.
In June of 2007 Santa Monica’s City Council voted to make the Teriton Apartments which were built in 1949 a historical landmark. OKH has been challenging that decision ever since because City law does not permit non-commercial sites that are used for religious purposes to be landmarked.
The Mirror was unable to contact OKH, co-defendant Rosario Perry, and the law firm who represents them by press time.