June 20, 2017 (Los Angeles) – Ending a 7-month fight, seniors in Westwood have beaten back the threat of eviction after the City of Los Angeles found that the Watermark at Westwood Village will not be permitted to evict residents and convert hundreds of rent-controlled units into a luxury assisted living community. Residents were just informed the victory at a meeting last night.
This marks a major victory for the building’s elderly residents – many of them disabled – who have fought eviction from the Watermark over the last year. The City’s Housing and Community Investment Department (HCIDLA) affirmed that the Watermark is a type of building known as a residential hotel, which will prevent the building’s owners from forcing tenants to leave under the Ellis Act.
Dozens of current and former tenants are represented by Bet Tzedek, one of the country’s largest providers of free legal aid. Bet Tzedek worked with Councilmember Paul Koretz in February to urge HCIDLA to clarify that this building is governed by the increased protections that come with a residential hotel designation.
“No senior in our community should be forced to leave their home, especially longtime residents living in affordable units. That’s not right and in this building at least it’s not legal,” said Bet Tzedek CEO Jessie Kornberg. “The City’s confirmation will ensure the long-term affordability and availability of these units for elderly residents and the broader community. We’re so pleased that the city has found what we’ve known all along – there is simply no legal justification for these attempted evictions.”
Residents were served with eviction notices last December after Watermark Retirement Communities assumed management of the property. Residents were told they had a matter of months to leave the building to accommodate renovations, shocking many of the longtime community members.
“This has been my home for years, and for many of my friends and neighbors here the prospect of moving is life-threatening. I couldn’t bear the thought of being forced to leave,” said Flossy Leibman, 96, a Watermark resident. “I am so grateful that we’ll be able to stay in our homes.”
Bet Tzedek remains committed to fighting any attempts to appeal this lawful designation.
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Founded in 1974, Bet Tzedek provides free comprehensive legal assistance and representation, volunteer and courtbased self-help services and legal education to more than 20,000 people each year regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, immigration status or gender identity. Our areas of practice include: aging with dignity, kids in need, economic justice, Holocaust survivor services, and Rapid Response. More information can be found at www.bettzedek.org