Boyle Heights tenants protest planned demolition and development of rent-stabilized properties

Their landlord claims he plans to build dozens of affordable housing units.

Anabel Munoz Image
Friday, March 15, 2024
Tenants protest demolition of Boyle Heights rent-stabilized properties
A group of tenants in Boyle Heights are rallying together to fight evictions from their long-time homes. Their landlord claims he plans to build dozens of affordable housing units.

BOYLE HEIGHTS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A small strip of rental units in Boyle Heights has been "home" to a handful of families for, in some cases, decades.

Guillermina Barba said she's lived there for more than 22 years, adding that it was tough when, over the holidays, she received a notice that her tenancy would be terminated and she'd have to leave at the end of April.

Thursday, she and her neighbors protested the planned demolition of their homes and one commercial property along First Street.

"We're here to try to just stop that process and demand that the landlord meet with the tenants and negotiate with them collectively as a tenant association," said Chris Estrada with the Los Angeles Center for Community Law and Action.

The property owner told Eyewitness News he has followed the legal process under the Ellis Act, which allows the termination of tenancy in rent-stabilized properties.

He said the planned development would include about 50 units, all of which would meet affordable housing standards for qualifying low-income residents and that tenants would receive the required relocation payment. Still, the Los Angeles Center for Community Law and Action is pushing back.

"They all have extremely affordable rents," said Estrada, who explained that all but one tenant pays less than $1,000 a month.

Estrada said the new units would not compare to that affordability and would reduce the number of rent-stabilized units in the city.

"We have a very limited stock of rent-stabilized housing in Los Angeles," he said.

Estrada said most of the tenants are seniors. Under the Ellis Act, seniors and people with disabilities who have lived in their units for at least a year can extend their tenancy to one year versus 120 days since the date on the notice.

Estrada said Barba would not qualify for such an extension.

Barba says she's gone out to look for housing, but it's too expensive. The group has also called on city leaders for support.

Councilmember Kevin De León has not taken a position on the planned development, according to his office.

Last year, he introduced a motion that would halt demolitions of certain historic and rent-stabilized properties.

However, the ordinance has not been approved by the state and is superseded by an executive directive on affordable housing, according to Pete Brown, De León's communications director who also stated the tenants are in a very difficult position.

Brown said the Boyle Heights Community Plan aims to improve the standards for affordable housing by using the Boyle Heights median income versus the countywide median. However, the plan has not yet been approved and would not apply to this property, said Brown.