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CES In The News
UCLA Daily Bruin
Wednesday May 16, 2007
Tenants Protest Against Lecturer
by  Joanne Hou, Bruin Contributor

Holding signs saying “shame on Sussman” and “people over money,” about 40 tenants from apartments owned by UCLA Anderson School of Management Lecturer Eric Sussman staged a protest outside his classroom on Tuesday.

Sussman, who partly owns properties in the Echo Park region in the northwest area of Los Angeles, is accused of illegally evicting low-income tenants, many of whom say they qualify for subsidized rent under Section 8 of the U.S. Housing Act.

Landlords cannot evict Section 8 tenants without good cause.

“Examples of good cause include serious or repeated violations of the lease, or criminal activity that threatens the health or safety of other residents,” according to the California Department of Consumer Affairs Web site.

But Sussman said “not a single Section 8 tenant has been evicted so far, and any assertion to the contrary is false.”

He added that he is only a partner in the ownership of the properties and is legally not the landlord. The protesters, mostly tenants at the apartment complex Morton Gardens, said Sussman repeatedly expressed to the tenants that he wanted them to move out, was negligent in repairs, and threatened to convert the apartment into condominiums.

“He has basically intimidated and threatened tenants to leave. He has been delaying repairs. ... He has driven people to the point that they’ve moved out,” said tenant Yun Hui, who asked to be identified by her first name only to avoid backlash from her landlord.

In addition, Sussman had remodeled some of the units and added a gate to the property in order to charge higher rent, Yun Hui said. Other tenants also said Sussman tried to evict them.

One tenant, Manuel, said Sussman has been attempting to throw him out of his apartment for one and a half to two years and offered to pay him $3,000, though Manuel, who also asked that only his first name be used, said he has not yet received the money.

Sussman did not want to discuss the details of the accusations.

“This (case) is in the court system, and that is the right venue for this. The courts will tell us what the law is in this area and whether landlords have the right to stop accepting Section 8 vouchers or not,” Sussman said.

Another tenant, Dulce Pena, said Sussman was trying to force Section 8 tenants out.

“He said he would no longer be accepting those (Section 8 rent subsidy) vouchers, which is illegal,” Pena said.

The protesters, who are members of the Coalition for Economic Survival, stood quietly in the hallway outside the classroom for most of the protest, but Sussman did appear momentarily, during which time he was presented a piggy bank with the words “the greediest landlord/professor of the year award” by the tenants.

Sussman did not speak to the protesters, but simply smiled.

The protesters also gave a representative of the dean of the Anderson School a letter addressed to Acting Chancellor Norman Abrams, asking the university to “conduct a complete review of the business practices of Eric Sussman,” according to the petition.

UCLA spokeswoman Allison Holmes said in a statement that while UCLA promotes tolerance, civility and respect, it does not endorse or inquire about the political views or business practices of faculty members as long as they do not advocate illegal activities or allow their ideology to inappropriately intrude in their teachings.

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