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Westlake apartments where tenants launched rent strike sell for $48.3M

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Facing a new round of rent increases, tenants are trying to figure out how Assembly Bill 1482 might help them—if it becomes law

The colorful buildings at 131, 143 and 171 South Burlington Avenue hold 192 units. A rent strike was a combined effort from some tenants of all three buildings.
Courtesy of Transwestern Commercial Services

Three Westlake area apartment buildings involved in a high-profile rent strike last year have sold for $48.25 million to a private real estate investor.

The orange and yellow complexes that hold a combined 192 units were purchased by 29th Street Capital, a real estate investment company based out of Chicago, in a deal brokered by Transwestern Commercial Services.

A spokesperson for Transwestern declined to name the buyer, but public records show the new owner is “29SC Burlington LP,” a limited partnership company registered by 29th Street Capital in September.

“This is 29SC’s first acquisition in the greater Los Angeles-area,” says the company’s online portfolio under a photo of the Burlington buildings.

Jason De Guzman, the company’s project acquisition manager, did not respond to requests for comment.

29th Street Capital has contracted the help of Sunrise Management, a building management company based out of San Diego that also oversees the 22-story 8th and Hope apartment building in Downtown Los Angeles.

The transaction came as a surprise to the tenants of 131, 143 and 171 Burlington Avenue, who have still not been formally told the buildings have been sold, according to multiple tenants. Still dealing with lawsuits from their 2018 rent strike, the move has launched them into a further state of uncertainty as the new building managers slowly unroll new details.

On Tuesday, all tenants of 143 Burlington Avnuee were informed that some units would undergo a remodel and were given a 30 to 60-day notice to either move out of the apartment, or find other accommodations and come back once the remodel is made, according to memos posted on their doors.

“I spoke to the new manager and she told me there was going to be changes and that they were going to fix all of the buildings,” Burlington tenant Luis Herrera said, speaking in Spanish. “She said they are going to paint them, install grills for cooking outside, and a bunch of other fixes.”

Herrera, who pays $1,300 for a one bedroom, says he was told his rent would be raised to $1,900 after the remodel and the rent for two-bedroom apartments would increase to around $2,400.

Many tenants who are now representing themselves in court are expecting to learn their fate at a hearing scheduled for October 10 as part of an ongoing legal battle with the previous managers, FML Management.

Sunrise Management, Lisa Ehrlich, the former owner of the Burlington complex, and representatives of FML Management did not respond to requests for comment.

The tenants, known as the Burlington Unidos, formed a rent strike in the spring of 2018 with the help of the Los Angeles Tenants Union after claiming they were living in mold and rodent infested buildings. Videos taken by the tenants showed leaking sewage pipes and mold growing on walls. While juries in some of the cases decided in favor of the tenants-turned-activists, others lost their case, and close to half of the Burlington Unidos left the apartment complex.

Those remaining are now in talks to reorganize and stage another rent strike.

“They want to fight this,” says Trinidad Ruiz, an organizer with LATU who has been working with the tenants for more than a year. “ They want some sort of legal advice and that’s what we’re trying to find them.”

Ruiz said they might have a fighting chance if Gov. Gavin Newsom signs Assembly Bill 1482, which would regulate rent increases, and if the tenants find a lawyer who can use the bill to their advantage.

“There is some language in the law to maybe fight back with, and we’re looking at some of that language,” Ruiz says.