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Mass Rent-Control Evictions Are on the Rise in Santa Monica

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Los Angeles and San Francisco have some some positive things in common: great burritos, a dense urban core. Now it looks like they're about to have some very negative things in common too: an influx of technorati, skyrocketing rents, and rampant abuse of the Ellis Act, which makes it a lot easier for landlords to evict their tenants (those three may all have something to do with one another). Landlords have been using the 1986 Ellis legislation to boot renters from a rapidly disappearing stock of rent-controlled units for a while now, and according to the Santa Monica Rent Control Board's Consolidated Annual Report, things are getting worse.

The report, published this week, takes a broad view of the rental market in desirable, density-averse Santa Monica. What's left of the rent-controlled stock is concentrated in the north and east of the city, with more than 40 percent north of Colorado and east of Lincoln. Downtown Santa Monica accounts for a measly four percent of rent-controlled units.

The statewide Ellis Act lets landlords kick out all of their tenants so long as they're taking the property off the rental market (e.g., for a conversion to condos or an extensive remodel). In San Francisco, it's been used thousands of times and become one of the most significant methods by which the city has hypergentrified over the past decade.

The practice has just recently started taking off in Los Angeles, and in Santa Monica, Ellis use was way up in 2014. Landlord filings to withdraw their buildings from the rental market were up 75 percent and the number of units evicted nearly tripled over 2013. In absolute numbers, the jump was small—29 units to 85—but the trend is real. What's worse: "Early indications for 2015 show that the improving economy is likely to result in significantly increased Ellis activity going forward."

Santa Monica has made a big commitment to providing affordable housing (even if some of those developments fail to launch), but the middle class is being squeezed out of the city, unable to afford the luxe upmarket stuff, and unable to qualify for public assistance programs. The report concludes that their disappearance from Santa Monica is "[likely to] continue without a concerted effort toward rectifying the problem." Ian Grant
· 2014 Consolidated Annual Report [Santa Monica]
· LA Landlords Pushing Out All the Rent-Controlled Apartments [Curbed LA]
· LA Landlords Fighting to Keep Their Freedom to Evict Tenants Whenever They Want [Curbed LA]