Will LA City Hall Hold Developer Accountable for Shocking Demolition?

Hollywood residents are outraged over possible illegal tear down of a historic building, where tenants were evicted under shady circumstances

Hollywood residents are outraged over the possible illegal demolition of a historic apartment building at 1344 N. Formosa Avenue, where tenants were evicted from their affordable units under questionable circumstances. They are now asking if LA City Hall will take action against the developer, Wiseman Residential

The demolition took place on Saturday morning, even though LA officials twice tried to stop it the previous day. Residents say the city is looking into whether Wiseman Residential illegally evicted the tenants at 1344 N. Formosa in 2016 -- and the developer was not supposed to tear down the building to make way for a new project until the investigation was completed.

Wiseman Residential has a history of evicting tenants from affordable units, according to the Los Angeles Times. In April 2016, the paper found that "over the last decade, Wiseman has evicted at least 237 tenants from rent-controlled properties in Los Angeles."

In an email to LA City Council members Mitch O'Farrell and David Ryu and Mayor Eric Garcetti, Hollywood activist Ed Hunt noted that a "crew started the demolition without a permit from the Department of Building and Safety (LADBS). Concerned neighbors contacted Council member David Ryu's office, and staff member Catherine Landers called the Housing and Community Investment Department (HCID)." 

At that point, Hunt wrote, an HCID staff member went to 1344 N. Formosa Avenue and issued a stop work order.

"The crew left, and the neighbors left," wrote Hunt. "But a few hours later the crew returned and continued the destruction of the building. LADBS came back to the site, stopped the crew a second time, having revoked the permit, and posted stop work orders all over the site."

But that didn't stop Wiseman Residential from sending out a demolition crew on Saturday morning with a bulldozer, Hunt explained. The once-charming apartment building that provided affordable homes was smashed to pieces.

Hunt asked Garcetti, O'Farrell and Ryu: "Will Wiseman and the demolition contractor face any real consequences for their actions?  If so, exactly what consequences?"

Another group of neighborhood activists also released a statement asking if Wiseman Residential "will face any real consequences for their actions?"

Carol Cetrone, a member of the Silver Lake Heritage Trust, says, "It's indicative of this attitude that some developers have -- that they are above the law, and they can thumb their noses at laws."

It's also another example of developers demolishing affordable units while looking to build expensive housing in their place.

As the LA Times noted in April 2016, "Looking to cash in on a booming real estate market, Los Angeles property owners are demolishing an increasing number of rent-controlled buildings to build pricey McMansions, condos and new rentals, leading to hundreds of evictions across the city."

The paper found that across Los Angeles, "more than 20,000 rent-controlled units have been taken off the market since 2001," according to city records.

It's why many neighborhood activists and civic leaders believe LA City Hall's planning and land-use system is rigged and broken -- and unfairly favors developers over the needs of longtime residents who need affordable housing, not luxury.

And it's why residents across LA believe that system desperately needs reform, which is why they support Measure S. It takes power away from developers and returns it back to communities.

Vote Yes on S on March 7.


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