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Re “Facing development, apartment residents unite,” March 12 issue
I first visited the Fairfax Gardens apartments, in Mid-Wilshire/Miracle Mile, at some point in 2009 when visiting two friends who had moved into a one-bedroom there. I remember liking the inner courtyard and landscaping but beyond that, didn’t think much of the building.
In 2013, when my partner and I moved into the complex, our security deposit was only $500. Considering our income level, the rent for a two-bedroom seemed a bit high, but we knew that since it was a rent-stabilized unit and that, as young professionals, we would eventually earn more, we could make do.
As many problems that our unit had over the years – termites, plumbing, low water pressure, dusty screens, water leaks, flooded walkways, mold in a closet and a busted water heater – the management company was responsive and complied with all the maintenance requests. Our unit was located right across from the on-site manager’s unit and well, that became convenient because we could just open our front door up and grab a maintenance request form from the managers’ door.
The owners rarely stopped by and the rent increases were always within the legal limits. Then, in April of 2019, the property was sold to developers. This is where the story becomes all too familiar for many renters in Los Angeles.
The two buildings on Fairfax Avenue and Eighth [Street] were built over 50 years ago and are located right next to Tom Bergin’s Irish Pub. In June 2019, Bergin’s, over the objections of its owner (but with an exemption of landmark status for the parking lot), was named a Los Angeles landmark by the L.A. City Council. It came as no surprise when in [last] July, the developers who purchased the Fairfax Gardens apartments purchased Tom Bergin’s. Soon after that, the redevelopment plans, which includes demolishing Fairfax Gardens to build a 200 unit complex, were made public.
By September, with the guidance of the Los Angeles Tenants Union, we had formed a tenants association and we were holding monthly meetings. Despite hearing the anxieties from tenants who have lived in the buildings for decades, it was encouraging getting to know our neighbors.
The relocation company that was hired by ownership had informed us that we would be receiving our Ellis Act eviction notices in March 2020. And then came the COVID-19 crisis, and the statewide eviction moratorium.
Through all of this, it’s been incredible to see our neighbors stepping up and taking on leadership roles in our association. We recently distributed care packs to our neighbors with masks, gloves, tenant rights pamphlets and Zoom call info for our meetings. Organizing a tenants association has truly been about building community.
For the thousands of Angelenos, who work in entertainment, hospitality, dining and other services industries, who are having to choose between paying rent, buying groceries and paying regular bills, it’s clear that we need more protections from our elected officials. We need a broader and longer ban on evictions so that Angelenos can stay safe, healthy, and housed. The vitality and health of our economy and our collective well-being rests in protecting renters, and it’s time that our City Council act in good faith.