Determined to stay in their homes long after their neighbors have moved on, the remaining tenants of the Lincoln Place apartment complex in Venice finally got the news they were waiting for.
The 12 remaining households at the 38-acre property, bounded by Penmar Avenue and Lake and Frederick Streets, learned September 19th that they can stay put after a state appeals court ordered an immediate halt to the evictions by property owner Apartment Investment and Management Company (AIMCO) Venezia, LLC.
“I’m ecstatic — this is like a rebirth of some kind,” Ingrid Mueller, a remaining tenant of Lincoln Place who has lived there since 1988, said of the appeals court ruling. “This was our hope and we’re very grateful.”
The three-judge panel of the Second District Court of Appeal ruled that the evictions were unlawful and violated the terms of conditions imposed under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Denver-based AIMCO, which plans to redevelop the garden-style complex, built in 1951, had pledged that no tenants of the complex would be involuntarily evicted, according to the Lincoln Place Tenants Association. But the property owner ignored that pledge when it evicted tenants under the Ellis Act, a state law that allows landlords to go out of the rental business, the tenants association alleges.
AIMCO applied the Ellis Act in December 2005, when it moved to evict 86 of the Lincoln Place residents from their apartments in what is considered the largest eviction lockout in a single day in Los Angeles history.
Tenants are also challenging in a separate litigation involving whether AIMCO actually intends on leaving the rental business at Lincoln Place.
The residents who remain at the complex, all of whom are either elderly or disabled, have been fighting to stay in their apartments ever since their neighbors have either been evicted or relocated. They hailed the news that the court has given them approval to stay.
“This is the fruition of a lot of work,” said Lincoln Place Tenants Association president Sheila Bernard, who remains at the complex. “It’s good for us who are still there and it’s better for our city.”
The ruling was also seen as a victory for former Lincoln Place tenants.
“This is a real David and Goliath,” former tenant Laura Burns said of the court ruling. “We’re completely vindicated.”
AIMCO senior vice president Patti Shwayder considered the latest court decision to be “another episode in the long saga of Lincoln Place.”
“We believe that the court of appeal’s opinion is erroneous in numerous respects,” Shwayder said.
But John Murdock, attorney for the tenants, countered, saying that the court ruled that AIMCO failed to abide by mitigation measures that said tenants would not be evicted.
“The court did a thorough analysis of every issue and gave a well-reasoned opinion to explain that the city has the duty under state law to enforce the mitigation measures,” Murdock said.
While Shwayder said AIMCO is considering all of its legal options, she expects the company to appeal the latest court decision.
In addition to the remaining tenants who have been saved from eviction, Murdock said the ruling should also lead to former tenants being invited back to their homes and given damages.
For the 12 households that have stayed at the once-795-unit complex while their neighbors have left, it has been a difficult time being in a mostly vacant complex.
Some have expressed feelings of loneliness without the neighbors around, but throughout it all, the tenants say they have stuck together in the fight to keep their apartments.
“We’ve worked really hard to support one another and stay with it,” Bernard said. “It’s been hard because people lose faith after all this time.
“This will restore everyone’s faith.”