Don’t stand idly by while seniors are evicted — you may be next

By Louise Sevilla

The author is a licensed clinical social worker and Venice resident.

Recent news reports about more than 150 seniors ages 70 to 105 being evicted from their homes in the Westwood Horizons building in Westwood Village have served as a potent reminder of the threat too many elderly people face. If you’re elderly — or even if you’re not — you don’t have to be the one being evicted this time to know you could be next.

When you’re evicted, the first challenge is to find a place to move to, and these days in L.A., no matter what part of town you look in the rents can be way higher than what they were where you lived before.  That’s the case even with rent control because of vacancy decontrol of controlled rents, which is required by state law.

Society is several years into the era of retiring Baby Boomers. That means retirees and slightly younger folks are going to more and more need-appropriate places to live, especially ones that they can afford.  It’s fair to say that our city doesn’t have enough senior housing to accommodate the coming onslaught of people who need it.

It’s also fair to say that senior housing at levels of density high enough to begin to accommodate this need is going to get caught up in the battles raging over development density, project design and neighborhood character we see in Venice, Santa Monica and many other L.A.-area neighborhoods.

Some folks are more tolerant of senior housing because it tends to generate less traffic than housing open to others, but others just react as if it’s all the same big bad development. So meeting the increasing demand probably is going to be a daunting task, and that’s a shame. Perhaps we all should try to think about it as if the people who need the housing are our parents, or even us, before we react knee-jerk to such projects. We’re probably going to need a lot of them in the near future.

Most of the seniors in the Westwood building are not low-income, but the ongoing shortage of alternatives will make it hard for them to find new places to live that are anywhere near their families and support systems, if they even have them. It will also make it hard for the little community they have created in the building to avoid being destroyed.  Small wonder they are fighting back, enlisting the support of L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz and others to try to do something about the evictions proposed by the building’s new owner, an Arizona company called Watermark Retirement Communities.

What will happen at the Westwood Horizons remains to be seen, but it’s a tableau that many of us could face in the not-too-distant future.  Anyone who believes “we’re all in this together” should care about this situation and think about what we all can do to make seniors’ golden years more secure. We’ll be doing ourselves a favor in the process.