Mayor Eric Garcetti and General Manager Rushmore Cervantes are penalizing landlords who are providing partial solutions to our great City’s homeless situation, and causing good tenants to become homeless. Homelessness has reached a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions.
35 years ago Mr. Mickey Milton Howard, a retired LA school teacher purchased a home at 2052 – 2054 Paramount Dr, Los Angeles. 27 years ago Mr. Howard rented 2052-B (the lower unit) to Mr. & Mrs. Sakers who still live there today with their minor son.
Unbeknownst to Mr. Howard, who is now 88 years old, the lower unit was never legalized by the previous owner. In 2018, the City of Los Angeles sent Mr. Howard a Notice of Violation and demanded the Sakers and their son move out immediately. The City is requiring Mr. Howard to pay approximately $14,000 for the Sakers’ relocation. Due to rent control, the Sakers would pay nearly twice as much rent for a comparable space. They may not qualify for an apartment in LA but they cannot move out of LA for a number of reasons. They are afraid of becoming homeless after their relocation money is spent on living in hotels.
On June 28, 2019 the LA Department of Housing and Community sent Mr. Howard and his tenants the following Notice of Hearing:
WHAT’S AT STAKE
Mr. Howard could be assessed ﬁnancial penalties, ﬁnes, hundreds of thousands in equity, plus his monthly retirement in- come. The Sakers could become homeless, and the tenants in the other two units – the Sigerdson and Allen families – would lose their home (see why below).
Mr. Howard contacted SKSI Plans & Permits to legalize the unit. SKSI informed Mr. Howard that since property is in an R-2 zone it is only eligible for 2 units. The City is not providing Mr. Howard and his three tenants any good solutions. Possible remedies include obtaining a variance, UDU conversion, recreation room or redesign the home to incorporate the expand- ed space into one or both of the other units. Mr. Howard could tear down the existing structure to build a McMansion that would make him millions. But Mr. Howard would rather keep his ten- ants, and they want to keep him.
SKSI attempted to obtain a variance, but the City Planning Department rejected it as having little or no chance of success because they did not feel there was a hardship. Turning 2052-
B into a Recreation Room still does not permit the Sakers to stay. SKSI looked into a “UDU” or Unpermitted Dwelling Unit (not to be confused with ADU – Accessory Dwelling Unit). However, a UDU forces Mr. Howard to commit his property to low income housing for 55 years which is totally ridiculous because the market shifts every couple of years.
A NEW PRECEDENT
Situations like this are extraordinarily common. A percentage of homeless people got there because the bureaucracy did not have a solution. Policing of unpermitted garage conversions and illegal units have become a higher priority than legalizing the units. SKSI Plans & Permits are experts at generating construction drawings, engineering, Title 24 and expediting permits, but the Planning Department will not clear the project to even reach Building and Safety. The result is substandard and unsafe illegal units. Rifkin estimates hundreds of home owners a day are searching Google to legalize their LA units.
On July 24 at 10:00 am, the MANAGER’S HEARING
on 2052 Paramount was an opportunity to set a new precedent. We hoped a shift in enforcement policy would force the Planning Department to adjudge their guidelines and ultimately lead to safer units and dramatically increase the inventory of aﬀordable housing in Los Angeles.
REPRESENTING THE LANDLORD AND TENANTS
Rich “Aryeh” Rifkin, Founder of SKSI Plans & Permits represented both the landlord and tenants. “I believe Mayor Garcetti and Manager Cervantes want to do the right thing. I don’t think they want to hurt Los Angelinos. They just need to be given the opportunity to do the right thing. We will know who they are by how they rule on July 24, 2019.”
The annual point-in-time count, delivered to the Board of Supervisors, put the number of homeless people just shy of 59,000 countywide. Within the city of Los Angeles, the number soared to more than 36,000, a 16% increase.
There’s something we can do to help the homeless problem here in Los Angeles.
We had an opportunity to set a new precedent of reduced enforceability and increased remedies for unpermitted unit violations. The impact could have lead to tens of thousands of 1-4 units becoming rapidly available.
In addition to increased housing inventory, units could become code compliant by the Department of Building and Safe- ty.
The day of the hearing Rifkin met with Mr. Howard and the Sakers. At the hearing, Rifkin spoke for both parties. Mrs. Saker chose to read a very emotional letter to the hearing board, but that was mostly ignored. The sickening truth of the matter is that the City really does not care. The hearing consists nothing more than a hearing oﬃcer receiving a recommendation from the enforcement oﬃcer. Needless to say, the case was recommended to the City Attorney’s oﬃce. There we would get a chance to make a diﬀerence.
In the end, the tenants wanted the money. They turned on their landlord, who had been so kind to them for 26 years, and made him pay them $21,000 to relocate. The City of Los Angeles scared these people into an adversarial relationship. Beaurocracy tearing people apart and causing homelessness.