Could changes to the Ellis Act be on the way? Under the terms of the 1985 Ellis Act, property owners may evict all of their rent-controlled tenants with only four months notice and money for relocation, so long as they convert the building to another use. It was originally put in place to give property owners a way to exit the rental market, but decades later it has become an engine of gentrification and is being used more and more frequently in Los Angeles, even as the city struggles with a dire housing crisis.
Some landlords have been using Ellis to duck rent control provisions or cash in with a sale to hungry developers. In Fairfax, evicted tenants are suing after finding their units on Airbnb weeks after being Ellis evicted. In Hollywood, developers Ellised all the renters at the historic Villa Carlotta with plans to convert the building to a hotel, but without the necessary zoning exemptions that would actually allow that.
City Councilmember Paul Koretz has been pushing to investigate how the 31-year-old act is affecting LA's housing market—he believes the act has turned from a method for property owners to legitimately leave the rental business into a tool for "rampant speculation." The city's Housing Department is now compiling a report on the Ellis Act that they expect to release this year.
With the future of city planning probably headed towards the ballot box, a potential regulation of the Ellis Act adds another complicated avenue to an already convoluted map.
1,075 Ellis Act applications were filed with the city between 2006 and 2015.
In 2015, 221 Ellis Act applications were filed. Since then, a total of 2,287 rent-controlled units have been removed from the rental market.
The 2,287 affordable units that vanished off the market in the past two years represent a sharp increase in Ellis Act applications since the start of the decade. In 2010, just 28 Ellis Act applications were filed with the city.
There have been spikes in evictions in the past. Right before the housing market crashed in 2008, speculation saw landlords ramping up Ellis Act evictions in an attempt to cash in on a booming market. 188 applications were filed in 2007, up from 104 the previous year. When the bubble burst, however, the evictions dropped significantly. Only 14 Ellis Act Applications were filed with the city in 2009.
Ellis Act information can shed some light on which neighborhoods are primed for redevelopment. In 2015, the 90006 zip code saw the highest number of Ellis Act applications. Parts of Koreatown, Harvard Heights, and Pico-Union all fall within that zip code. Venice and West Hollywood also saw increased Ellis Act applications in 2015.
Overall, though, the most Ellis Act applications in the past decade—73—were filed in the 90025 zip code, which covers parts of West LA, Sawtelle, and Century City. The past few years have seen a small explosion in new apartments in Sawtelle that may be contributing to that number.
Not far behind was the 90291 zip code, with 71 Ellis Act applications since 2006. The Venice area has seen evictions skyrocket amid high profile tech companies like Google and Snapchat moving in to the neighborhood. It's also glutted with Airbnb units.