Chinatown

Tenants Call on LA to Buy Chinatown Complex After Rent Hike Notices

Chinatown Apartment Rent Dispute
Wulff

What to Know

  • Some tenants said they received notices that showed their rents (normally around $900) could be increased to $3,000 per month by August.
  • A 30-year agreement between the city and Hillside Villas to keep rents affordable at the property expires on Aug. 31.
  • The tenants claim they have been getting rent increase notices for at least the last year.

Tenants of the Hillside Villa Apartments in Chinatown once again called on the city of Los Angeles Tuesday to take over their residential complex, after they said they received another round of rent increase notices.

The Hillside Villa Tenants Association and the Los Angeles Tenants Union sent out pictures of notices they received from their landlord, some of which showed rents around $900 could be increased to $3,000 per month by August.

A 30-year agreement between the city and Hillside Villas to keep rents affordable at the property expires on Aug. 31.

"This building is meant to serve the community and house working-class people of color, like us, but right now, it is primarily serving to line the pockets of an extraordinarily rich white man from Malibu,'' a statement from the Hillside Villa Tenants Association read. "Only strong action by the city can fix this.''

This building is meant to serve the community and house working-class people of color, like us, but right now, it is primarily serving to line the pockets of an extraordinarily rich white man from Malibu,.

Hillside Villa Tenants Association

The tenants claim they have been getting rent increase notices for at least the last year.

City Councilman Gilbert Cedillo filed a motion last month for the city to start eminent domain procedures in acquiring Hillside Villa after negotiations with the owner, Tom Botz, fell through.

In August, Botz said the city hadn't offered enough when it first attempted to enter into an agreement with Hillside Villa, though Cedillo disputed that the price was unfair in a statement.

"These are tenants who have been there forever and should be subsidized,'' Botz told City News Service at the time. "The city has not (agreed to the money) that they said they would.''

Conrado Terrazascross, a spokesman for Cedillo, said the council is slated to hear the eminent domain proposal by the end of the month.

The state Legislature passed a bill last year that caps rent increases for buildings built before 1978 or that are at least 15 years old to 5% of what they were in March 2019 plus the cost of inflation. But Hillside Villa is exempt from the provisions because there are existing covenants tied to it, Terrazascross said.

Once rents are brought up to market rates on covenant-controlled residences, the landlord can raise rents only in increments per the new state law.

The Hillside Villa association and supporters are also calling for eminent domain to be used to protect what they estimate are nearly 12,000 affordable housing units in Los Angeles that are under rent-control agreements that expire in the next five years.

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