Several West Hollywood residents who live at the Palm View apartments are speaking out about their fears that impending construction during the COVID-19 pandemic will adversely impact their health. The Actors Fund-owned, 40-unit apartment complex, which provides homes to low-income people with special needs, was in the midst of renovations when the pandemic forced a temporary halt to those plans. However, renovations are set to resume this month.
Following publication of an article by the Hollywood Reporter on Aug. 20 that several special needs actors at the apartment complex were planning a demonstration for Sept. 14 to prevent the planned renovations from continuing, residents say they are being threatened with eviction.
Actor Kevin Ross, who has lived at the property since 2005, said he and others who were planning the protest to block construction workers from entering the premises are now uncertain whether they will continue to protest.
“We’d like to, but we’re scared,” he said.
According to the Actors Fund website, to qualify to live at Palm View, residents must have a diagnosis of a permanent disability and meet specific annual income criteria established by the federal government. In addition, to be eligible for an apartment, most residents must have a professional history in the arts.
“Many COVID-19 high-risk residents of Palm View apartments in West Hollywood are upset that the Actors Fund of America, who owns the building, are demanding them – sick, disabled and mobility-challenged residents – to vacate their homes and live in a hotel or with friends and family for six nights, or stay in their homes or an unoccupied unit from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. without being allowed to leave in order for the Actors Fund to resume construction recently halted due to the coronavirus pandemic,” Ross said. “They are choosing financial obligations over the health and safety of 50 special-needs residents in a 40-unit building geared towards independent living for low-income, permanently disabled entertainment professionals.”
This week, Ross said he signed a document indicating his choice with the annotation that he was doing so “under duress.” Throughout the renovation process, he said he had agreed to stay inside one of the apartment complex’s vacant units between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. while workers are inside his unit and others in the complex. Residents had been given four relocation options during the five-day process, including the option to stay with family or friends and receive a $450 stipend.
A notification sent last week to residents of the Palm View apartment complex, which is managed Levine Management Group Inc., stated “Anyone who refuses to participate will be subject to the filing of eviction paperwork as soon as practicable and as permitted by law.”
The city of West Hollywood currently has an eviction moratorium in place through the end of September. Peter Noonan, the city’s manager of rent stabilization and housing, did not respond to a request for comment before the press deadline.
“The Actors Fund will apply the health and safety precautions and guidance available to us through the city of West Hollywood and others so as to allow for as little risk as possible, much as people are doing in every segment of society, but we must proceed,” said Keith McNutt, director of the Western Region of the Actors Fund, in an email sent to residents.
While representatives from the Actors Fund did not respond to a request for comment by press time, McNutt’s email to residents provided insight into the organization’s urgency related to the need to continue amidst the pandemic.
“As you know, we must move forward on the final stage of the renovation and complete it by the end of October. We do not have an option. This is the legal commitment we made to the city, county and lending partners who are making possible both the financing of the rehabilitation itself and the longer-term, project-based Section 8 contract that will permanently subsidize the rents of the majority of residents to a third of your income,” he wrote.