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Los Feliz Ledger

Thursday May 14, 2015

Candidates Pledge to Oppose Changes for Villa Carlotta

By Bridgette Webb, Ledger Contributing Writer

Los Angeles City Council candidate David Ryu poses with demonstrators April 21 at the Villa Carlotta apartments on Frankin Avenue near Beachwood Canyon.FRANKLIN AVENUE–Los Angeles City Council candidates for District 4, Carolyn Ramsay and David Ryu, have both signed pledges opposing any zone changes or conversions to the Franklin Avenue residential building Villa Carlotta.

FRANKLIN AVENUE–Los Angeles City Council candidates for District 4, Carolyn Ramsay and David Ryu, have both signed pledges opposing any zone changes or conversions to the Franklin Avenue residential building Villa Carlotta.

The two are vying for soon-to-be termed out City Councilmember Tom LaBonge's seat in a primary election next Tuesday.

Tenants of Villa Carlotta have been in a battle since last December with the building's owner CGI Strategies, which bought the building last August and has proposed converting it into a hotel.

Tenants were informed three days before Christmas they had until May 22nd to vacate the premises. CGI had invoked the Ellis Act that allows multi-unit property owners to evict tenants if they no longer want to be in the rental business. Owners can also use the Act to remove tenants for long-term building renovations, conversions to condos or for their private use, say for a duplex, for example.

Under the 1985 law, property owners must wait five years to rent the units again. If the apartments return to the market before that—in violation of the Act—they must be offered at their previous rents and to the same former tenants.

The tenants of the building, who are in part lead by fellow tenant Sylvie Shain, created the pledge after attending numerous candidate debates throughout District 4 in advance of the March 3rd primary, which saw 14 candidates running for LaBonge's seat. Ramsay and Ryu were the two top vote getters in that election and now face each in a runoff next Tuesday.

"The topic of Villa Carlotta came up at a debate in February and many candidates publicly said they would not support the conversion of the building," said Shain. After Ramsay and Ryu won in the primary, tenants wanted to make sure to hold the candidates to their promise, no matter who wins.

"We wanted the candidates to put their signatures where their mouths were, so we can hold them accountable," Shain said.

Ramsay and Ryu have both publicly supported the tenants of the building. Ryu had attended the "Hug the Carlotta" on April 21. And Ramsay has stated previously that she would oppose any zoning changes to the building. She also visited the Villa Carlotta and toured the "historic" building the day of the demonstration, but could not stay for the actual event.

The candidates' pledges came shortly after the discovery that Ramsay received a campaign donation by CGI Strategies of $700 on April 24th. Larry Gross, the executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival–a Los Angeles based organization that helps those living in low income households–discovered the donation on the city's Ethics Commission website which reports donations made to candidates. Recently, Ramsay returned the donation, which her campaign said was unsolicited.

According to campaign strategist Doug Herman, Ramsay has consistently stood with the tenants and neighbors against that development project during her campaign.

"She opposes the developer's zoning change request and supports both short-term efforts to help tenants remain in their apartments and long-term efforts to preserve RSO apartments in our neighborhoods," Herman said in an email today. "Carolyn Ramsay continues to receive a majority of her contributions from people who live and work in the council district communities because she has more than 15 years of experience working with them on neighborhood improvements."

Gross said he would like to see the City Council rein in Ellis Act evictions in Los Angeles and have California politicians change the law completely. Some landowners, he said, have used Ellis to avoid rental control.

"We are extremely pleased to see the return of the donation by Ramsay and the pledges of support by both candidates," said Gross. "But a lot more needs to be done."

According to Gross, Ramsay reached out to him recently to express her interest in working together on the issue.

"City Council members have enormous power in deciding what gets built in their districts," said Gross. "We would like councilmembers to help preserve the amount of affordable housing in L.A. Once those 50 rent stabilized units at [Villa Carlotta] are gone, they are gone for good."

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