Councilman Hal Bernson has introduced legislation designed to help eliminate a pocket of crime and poverty in his West Valley district by forcing out the mainly low-income Latinos who live there and turning the neighborhood apartments into a gated senior citizens' community.
In proposing Wednesday that the city's rent-control law be changed to make it easier for landlords to evict tenants, Bernson took his first step toward carrying out the plan made public last October. It calls for the owners of 650 apartment units in the Bryant Street-Vanalden Avenue area of Northridge to convert their mostly rundown buildings into housing for the elderly.
Apartment renovation can now be legal grounds for eviction if the landlord spends $10,000 per unit to fix up the apartments. Bernson proposed lowering that figure to $7,500 per unit.
Expanding Kinds of Changes
He also proposed expanding the kinds of improvements under which evictions are permitted in apartment buildings with 300 or more units. Whereas only improvements to the inside of units can now be the basis for evictions, his measure would include "improvements to common areas adjacent to the property . . . which enhance security . . . and enjoyment of the units."
Although his proposal would apply citywide, Bernson said it is aimed at the Bryant-Vanalden area.
Bernson on Wednesday also proposed that landlords be required to pay tenants evicted because of renovations $1,000, or three times the current rent, whichever is greater, to cover the cost of moving and possibly higher rent for another apartment. There is now no requirement for landlords to pay relocation benefits if they evict tenants in order to renovate units.
Change of Mind
In talking about the neighborhood conversion plan last October, Bernson said he did not believe that relocation benefits were necessary because many of the area's residents move frequently, anyway. A city staff member who helped draft the measure for Bernson, who asked not to be named, said the relocation benefits had been added to neutralize opposition to the proposal.
When Bernson announced the plan to change the character of the Northridge community, it drew criticism both from residents of the neighborhood and some of Bernson's council colleagues, who claimed it would simply move the community's problems to another area. But residents interviewed at the time said they would move if they were paid.
Bernson's proposal was sent to the council's Governmental Operations Committee, which will hold a public hearing on the measure before sending it, along with a recommendation, to the full council.
Earlier Effort Rejected
A previous effort to lower the amount that landlords have to spend on improvements to evict tenants was rejected by the council, after members said it might be used to circumvent the rent-control law. Once a unit is vacated, a landlord can raise rents.