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One of the best rental deals in LA quietly slips away

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A unit in this beachfront Santa Monica building last rented for $550 per month

Thanks to the remnants of some very tenant-friendly rent control laws, Santa Monica has become known as a city where, amid multi-million dollar homes and countless luxury apartment buildings, it’s still possible to find longtime residents living it up in, say, an $837-a-month apartment blocks from the Third Street Promenade.

Notorious mobster Whitey Bulger, in fact, was caught in 2011 hiding out in a two-bedroom unit going for just $1,145. It later returned to the rental market with a nearly $3,000 monthly rent.

But the days of such enviable deals are slowly slipping away, as landlords take advantage of the 1985 Ellis Act to mass evict tenants in rent controlled buildings. As the Santa Monica Lookout reports, the latest casualty is a pair of modest, early 20th Century beachfront apartment buildings that until recently offered some of the best rental deals in all of California.

The two buildings were constructed in 1909 and hold 10 units between them—two of which were last rented at under $1,000. The least expensive unit had a rental price of just $550 per month. According to the Lookout, that was formerly the lowest price on Palisades Beach Road, where many of the structures from the street’s Gold Coast heyday have been torn down and replaced with high-end condos.

Tenants were evicted from the units when the former owner of the buildings claimed to be taking the apartments off the rental market—a requirement for landlords taking advantage of the provisions of the Ellis Act. Later, however, the city’s rent board discovered the units were being secretly re-rented. Before the board could respond, the now-vacant units had been sold to a new owner.

On Friday, that owner received an occupancy permit allowing him to rent the apartments at significantly higher rates. Meanwhile, the number of Ellis Act evictions in Santa Monica continues to accelerate even as the city struggles to meet a mandate to construct more affordable housing.