I was saddened, but not really surprised, to hear that the Villa Carlotta had been bought by a developer that wanted to turn it into an extended stay hotel. This kind of thing is going on all over Hollywood these days. Developers and real estate interests with tons of cash buying up older buildings, kicking out the tenants, and reinventing the place as a playground for the upscale crowd.
It’s especially sad with the Villa Carlotta, though, because of the community that had grown inside those walls. Take a look at this article from Vanity Fair, written by a tenant, to get a sense of what’s being lost as these people are forced out by the owner.
Here’s another article from the LA Times.
There are larger issues, too. Not only are these people losing their homes, but they’ll have a hard time finding anything else that they can afford. Rents are going up all over LA. Owners of older apartments are jacking up rents, and units in many of the new buildings start at around $2,000 a month.
It’s well known that LA is in an affordable housing crisis, and taking the 50 units in the Villa Carlotta off the market is just one more turn of the screw. Hopefully SB 2222 will put a stop to this. It was recently signed into law by Governor Brown, and requires that developers who acquire a rent-controlled property maintain the same number of affordable units regardless of what they plan to do with the property. But LA has lost thousands of affordable units in recent years. The new law may be too little too late.
In The Times piece the writer describes the meeting the developer had with the tenants to let them know they were being evicted. The way they were spinning it was that the tenants should be glad, because the developer was going to spend a lot of money refurbishing the building. This just shows how clueless they are. These people aren’t just losing their home, they’re losing a place where they made friends and partied, a place where they shared food, stories, art and music. For these people it wasn’t just a place to live, it was a community. The Villa Carlotta is a lovely relic of old Hollywood, but even more special than the building are the people who lived there.
Of course, the new owners don’t care about the people. All they care about is money.