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City Council hopes to postpone eviction of LA seniors

Councilmember Paul Koretz, 5th district, indtroduces his motion to review the legal standing of a mass eviction of LA seniors at Tuesday's city council meeting. Koretz said he imposed a special rule to accelerate the vote on his motion.
Councilmember Paul Koretz, 5th district, indtroduces his motion to review the legal standing of a mass eviction of LA seniors at Tuesday's city council meeting. Koretz said he imposed a special rule to accelerate the vote on his motion.
Courtesy of Paul Koretz

In an effort to slow the eviction of at least 150 senior citizens, including World War II veterans, dementia patients and three holocaust survivors, a city councilman is pushing back against proposed renovations at their Westwood retirement community, citing possible violations of the Ellis Act.

Last week, Watermark Retirement Communities ordered residents of the Vintage Westwood Horizons senior living center to vacate "on or before March 28, 2017," to make way for renovations, according to a CBS News report.

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz said the short-notice evictions represent a "disgusting" and "embarrassing" treatment of L.A.'s senior citizens, who have limited housing options.

On Tuesday, Koretz called for a multi-departmental review of Watermark's renovation plans. The council approved his motion unanimously.

Koretz said he was also seeking a meeting with Watermark's CEO to try and convince the company to change its renovation strategy. If the residential developer, which operates dozens of senior living facilities around the country, agrees to slow down its renovation plans, many of the building's current residents should be able to stay, Koretz said.

"We just recently found out how serious this problem was, and we’re doing everything we can to keep this problem in place," Koretz told KPCC.

A Watermark spokesperson could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon, but the company told CBS in a statement that the "vast majority of residents will be eligible for extensions, allowing up to 1 year before relocating."

"We recognize the fact that this news has a great impact on residents, families and associates and pledge to support them throughout the process," Watermark told CBS.

Koretz contends that the Ellis Act, which allows "mom and pop" landlords to shut down and get out of the rental business, is now being used by developers like Watermark to buy larger properties and kick out tenants, all in order to increase rents.

"This now sets a new record for things that could be done with the Ellis Act," he said.

Koretz said he has a meeting planned Friday with representatives of the L.A. City Attorney's Office, the Planning Department, the Department of Building and Safety and the Housing and Community Investment Department to plan his review into Watermark's proposed renovations. If successful, his review could give residents up to a year to find a new home, he said.

According to Koretz's motion, if Watermark's plans are found not to violate the Ellis Act, the renovations and evictions will continue as scheduled.