Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz introduced a motion Tuesday aimed at blocking the eviction of 120 senior citizens from a Westwood retirement home by designating the facility a residential hotel.
The motion would direct the city's Housing and Community Investment Department to report back within two weeks on making the determination, which would make the property ineligible for the Ellis Act evictions the property's owner is seeking and require an alternative approach to renovating the building, according to Koretz's office.
The Ellis Act is a provision in California law that provides landlords with a legal way to get out of the rental market business. Only the Housing and Community Investment Department can make the determination if the property is a residential hotel, and not the council, according to Koretz's office.
"From the start, I have done everything in my power to ensure these residents have a chance to stay in their homes," Koretz said. "Last week, I met with the residents of Westwood Horizons. We had a thoughtful conversation. I heard them loud and clear, and that's why I introduced the motion which I believe can provide them with additional protections."
In November, Watermark Retirement Communities served eviction notices to the residents of Vintage Westwood Apartments at 947 Tiverton Ave., saying they had to be out by April so the building can be transformed into a luxury retirement home.
"A determination that the Watermark at Westwood Village senior care facility is a residential hotel is inappropriate and will not prevent the much- needed repairs and renovations at it," Watermark President David Barnes said. "The Watermark at Westwood Village is not a residential hotel and does not qualify for the residential hotel designation that is aimed at preserving housing of last resort for low-income individuals and families. The intent of the ordinance was to protect skid row housing, not to protect luxury Westside apartments. The Watermark at Westwood Village is a senior care community where the average rent is over $5,000 per month."
Barnes added, "Regardless of the designation, the 50-year-old building is in a serious state of disrepair and requires a much-needed renovation and seismic upgrade. The building is a former UCLA dorm that's been in use for half a century and is not properly licensed as a residential care facility. The residential hotel designation resolution is nothing more than a delay tactic."
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Koretz has been scathing in his criticism of Watermark, calling it a "greedy corporation."
He also in December started a pressure campaign by publicly releasing the names and contact information of Watermark's top officials and asking supporters to "pressure these faceless, heartless wheeler-dealers by calling, emailing and mailing to express your outrage."
A December motion introduced by Koretz also asked multiple city departments to examine ways to stop the evictions.