Chinatown tenants protest at mayor's home, plead for help amid eviction notices and rent increases

Eric Resendiz Image
Saturday, April 15, 2023
Chinatown tenants protest at mayor's home amid eviction notices
Tenants from a Chinatown apartment building L.A. is trying to obtain via eminent domain protest and change outside Mayor Bass' home.

CHINATOWN, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- On Friday, tenants from a Chinatown apartment building the city of Los Angeles is currently trying to obtain via eminent domain protested and chanted in front of Mayor Karen Bass' home to urge her to step in and stop the high rent increases and evictions they are facing with the building's current owner.

Last year, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to start the process of obtaining the Hillside Villa apartment building through eminent domain, thus having the landlord sell the building.

Tenants say the process is not happening fast enough or with enough transparency.

Tenant Ed Concepcion said Bass made a promise before she became mayor to help the tenants.

"Mine went up $1,000. And I would understand a 10%, maybe 5%. But not a 100%," said Concepcion. "That's a lot. Maybe I need to pick up another side job."

Organizers said one of the top reasons for the eminent domain was to stop rent hikes and to keep housing affordable. Tenants said the process was stalled due to the appraisal, which is taking longer than expected.

And, with the pandemic eviction moratorium ending earlier this year, some tenants are now receiving notices to evict.

"We have three demands. One is to fire Ann Sewill, who is the head of the housing department, for her complete inaction and unwillingness to support working-class tenants in this city," said Sunik Kim, an organizer with the tenants association. "Our second, clear update on the appraisal process of eminent domain for Hillside Villa. Third, is eminent domain now."

ABC7 reached out to the landlord Tom Botz for a statement, but we haven't heard back. In a statement, a spokesperson for the mayor said: "Mayor Bass will always work to help Angelenos stay in their homes and this instance is no different -- even though this situation involves a privately-owned building that is not in the City's control. Our office has met with residents, and in coordination with Councilmember Hernandez and the City Attorney, we are working on a solution."

The Los Angeles Housing Department told ABC7 that the current owner of the apartment building is not allowing access to the property to make an appraisal. The City Attorney is currently trying to get a court order to obtain consent to access the property.

Tenants said one way Mayor Bass can show her support is with her presence.

"We are asking her to come back to our meeting and listen to our demands in regards to eminent domain as she promised she would," said Concepcion.