Lincoln Place Apartments victory for tenants

Lincoln Place Apartment forced evictions

(One of a series of photos of the forced evictions at Lincoln Place Apartments, evictions a judge just ruled were unlawful.)

Lincoln Place Apartments in Venice CA is one of the oldest and largest apartment complexes in Los Angeles, with over 800 units. For twenty years the Lincoln Place Tenants Association has fought developers who want to gentrify it. The twists and turns of this saga rival that of the nearby Ballona Wetlands, where environmentalists won a huge victory last week, halting development, maybe permanently.

On Thursday, in a stunning move, the 2nd District Court of Appeals sided with tenants, halted current evictions, ruled that previous evictions were unlawful, and ordered that the thirteen remaining tenants can stay. A lawyer for the tenants said those who were involuntarily evicted could seek their apartments back as well as sue for emotional distress. The court also chastised the City of Los Angeles for not intervening in the fight.

While I was peripherally involved in the Ballona Wetlands struggle, my involvement in Lincoln Place was more personal. I lived there for ten years and was an LPTA member. When the then owner made a velvet glove in the iron fist offer, I took their $5,000 and moved. Many tenants there though were struggling working class or retired, with no easy ability to move. Some have had a rough go of it. One family hung in for years until the stress got too much and they were forced to move. They now pay much higher rent. This is in an area where you might get a 1 bdr apartment for $1700 a month. Might.

The current owner wants to either convert to pricey condos or apartments with nosebleed rents (much higher than $1700 a month). Forced gentrification is ugly. It destroys the fabric of a community, displaces long-term residents, and raises rents for the entire area. A better way is to include everyone in the plans.

How did the tiny, constantly broke LPTA manage to fight for twenty years against apparently overwhelming odds? After all, the current owner of Lincoln Place is AIMCO, the largest owner of apartments in the country.

They did it by getting the community involved, by reaching out to other groups, by listening, by marshaling the help of all-important pro bono lawyers. Most of all, they did it by refusing to give up.

I spoke with LPTA president Sheila Bernard yesterday. Like any organizer, she’s happy with the results and but says there’s still much work to be done, like getting evicted tenants back into their apartments. What they have done will serve as a model and inspiration for other tenant associations and for those facing gentrification. From the press release on the LPTA website, quoting Sheila Bernard –

“We are jubilant. This points the way for council members to assist long-time renters being pushed out of gentrifying neighborhoods by condo conversions where the developer wants to evict them rather than include them in redevelopment plans. Council members can negotiate win-win situations and the city can enforce these agreements.”

Never say die. Keep organizing.