Ever since Weezer released their hit song “Beverly Hills” in 2005 I would drive around in my car or listen to it in my home in Thousand Oaks and sing, nearly shouting the lyrics “Living in Beverly Hills – That’s where I want to be” with excitement that I one day could be living in Beverly Hills instead of just dreaming about it. It took a while as a single mom to make the decision to move and change my son’s school and make a high enough income that it made sense, but alas in 2009 we did it. Our dreams were coming true.
Our first year here we were awed by silver fire hydrants, glistening sidewalks, famous faces, outstanding architecture and grass that stays green all year long. I thought I had made the most stable, life-changing move I could do for my son. We found a great little apartment and it seemed as though no school district could come close to Beverly Hills. After all, my child went from floundering in 4th grade to consistently getting all A’s and B’s the last three years and so far continuing into our fourth year. All seems well, right?
I wrote in to the Beverly Hills Patch just under two years ago about my pain of being vacated from a soon to be demolished building that we had only resided in for a year and a half. My main concerns were the fact that the tenants of the 5 buildings that were vacated for demolition, including myself were not receiving any relocation fees. In Beverly Hills, buildings that vacate tenants for remodels must pay relocation fees. However, buildings that vacate for demolition do not require tenants to be paid relocation fees.
I was heart-broken to lose our home and in a frenzy to find another place to live in BH so that my son could continue going to school here. Back in July 2011, I believe, thanks to Mayor John Mirisch, he brought forth the issue to the council that tenants of demolished buildings do not get relocation fees; and proposed that both tenants of remodeled buildings and tenants of demolished buildings receive the same relocation fees if asked to vacate. Sadly, this was denied in a 4-1 council vote. Now, I want to ask the other members of the City Council why they would deny something that could only assist in the slow growth of our city and has absolutely no weight on city funds? It’s appalling to me; they have absolutely no reason not to protect the tenants of demolished buildings. It does seem to me that we are governed by a City Council that is for rapid growth and condo-ization of our city, and doesn’t care at all about preserving the sanctity of our city and all of the beautiful buildings we have here, nor do they care about protecting the tenants.
For as much attention as I have brought to the subject about the five buildings on S. Elm, built in 1926, 1937, 1957(2) and 1959, that were torn down, now S. Reeves is facing the same issue and by the way, both buildings being razed on S. Reeves were built in 1941. When is the council going to start to protect the south half of the city? Need I remind them that Beverly Hills is over 50% renters mainly residing on the south end of the city? Need I remind them we too spend our money in the city? Who do they think is supporting the ‘shop local’ campaign? We are. Need I remind them why our city is so beautiful and sought after? The pre-1960 buildings with ornate moldings and stained glass windows, wrapping staircases and large balconies, art deco fascias and Spanish tiles shaded by trees who have seen and shaded hundreds of renting residents through-out the south side streets of Beverly Hills.
So in addition to my loathing our council’s decision not to award relocation fees to tenants and watching this happen yet again to more tenants and more buildings on S. Reeves. I too will need to move again. Why you ask? Couldn’t be another demolished building could it? No, we have to move again because after living in my building for two years the rent has been raised higher than my annual increases at my job. Residing in a city that allows landlord’s to raise its tenant’s rents up to 10% once a year has priced us out of our home. Not only are they allowed to raise the rent 10%, they are allowed to do so with only a 30 day notice and they are allowed to make us sign a year lease again year after year. In Beverly Hills, some buildings will raise your rent up to 10% and some will make you sign for another year and never give you a month-to-month option. Do you know how little time that is in our city to find another home? No time!
So here are my issues with our perfect city:
1. The City Council doesn’t appear to care about the south side residents. Some of our alleys have potholes large enough to bend a rim. Check out the 100 block of S. Oakhurst’s alley!
2. I have had to move every 1.5 to 2 years just to beat the rent increases and condo-ization.
3. The beautiful buildings in our city aren’t being preserved; these eclectic structures are what differentiate us from say, Sherman Oaks. Come to find out the apartment we are looking at renting on Oakhurst is in a building that is listed for sale. You know what that means… get ready to hear bulldozers on Palm, Oakhurst and Doheny and prepare to see yet another building in Beverly Hills razed. It was built in 1930 in case anyone cares.
4. There are no tenant rights in Beverly Hills.
The tenants of demolished buildings aren’t being protected. What would it hurt to make building owners pay this fee? If the City Council don’t change this you are proving you are for rapid growth. I’m sure there are many south and north side residents that will not re-elect council members that are for rapid growth.
Why would any family move to BH and put their kids in the schools if they rent? We can quickly lose our homes within 60 days due to demolition and within 30 days due to rent increases and soon we will have streets filled with one 1940 building next to one 2013 building next to one 1970 building next to one 1980 building and this will go on until every street looks like Dickens in Sherman Oaks. That was once a highly regarded area and street as well.
Ideally, what should happen in BH: We should stop worrying about whether Little Santa Monica’s name should be changed to Burton Way (do you know what the costs are to change street signage and maps etc?!) and stop spending money on $40M parking structures being built for the Annenberg; and start focusing on our residents who live here and still want Beverly Hills to be safe, beautiful and special. Shouldn’t the residents be a primary focus long before we change street names for fun and repair lily ponds? Lower the maximum rent increase to 4% and allow tenants to go month to month in every building after they have fulfilled their first year. Make building owners that demolish our beautiful buildings pay these families to move. And please stop, stop ripping down our city. We are losing the charm… one block at a time. All you have to do is increase the dates of the Historical Preservation Act to include pre-1960’s buildings or change the zoning and not allow applications to override the zoning. I guarantee a lot of buildings will not be torn down for condos if the buyers of the buildings see a zoning that will not allow for more units within that land. For instance Oakhurst is zoned for 5 plus units. It currently has 6 units. Rezone it for a maximum of six units and under no circumstances allow the zoning to be changed. Now why would someone buy that property to redevelop? Most likely they may remodel interiors and that’s it. Why not implement small changes such as this to advocate small growth and limit condo-ization?
Things to do check list:
Implement slower growth policies to prevent condo-ization.
Add all pre-1960’s buildings to the Historic Preservation Act to limit defacing the city’s beauty and charm, include retail land so we don’t lose more spaces like the Brown Derby.
Lower the rent increase rate to a maximum of 4% once a year.
Make building owners pay tenants of demolished buildings the same relocation fees that tenants of remodeled buildings get.
Please stop using our taxes for silly things like renaming streets when there are potholes that need to be fixed and buildings that need to be preserved, among many other serious issues.
Please stop using council discussion/meeting time to discuss matters that can wait and start protecting your residents and the historical value of our city.
The City of Beverly Hills is the diamond of Los Angeles County and from corner to corner it should be treated as such. In addition, the residents who pay to live in this diamond of a city should be protected on all levels.BH Resident - Jennifer Brugger