Jenny Burman Jenny Burman
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from Echo Park

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Morton Ave. takes message cross town

Fancy new stone gates on Morton Ave.: This morning I drove past the three-building complex at the intersection of Academy, the ones that until recently were light blue and now are a muted tan. In the past 12 years, they have always been well-maintained: well-landscaped and quiet looking. The new stone gates look nice, but they speak their owners' not-nice intentions. I don't know when they went up -- I drive past the gates all of the time but never noticed until today when I was on the lookout for changes after reading Jessica Garrison's LA Times story that called Echo Park "ground zero for the gentrification sweeping Los Angeles." (Actually, I'm not sure exactly what "ground zero" means in this context, but it resonates nonetheless as a sort of gateway into the discussion, so I'll take it.)

The Times story reported tenants of the complex took a rented school bus to UCLA where they confronted their landlord, Eric Sussman, while he taught a class on real estate to business students. They gave Sussman a piggy bank -- trophy for winning "Greediest Landlord of the Year" distinction -- and put coins in it, in honor of the very un-cute fact that Sussman and partners bought the buildings about a year ago and then served the section 8 tenants with eviction notices. Not because they were bad neighbors or welchers but because their units could be rented to higher bidders. The tenants, meanwhile, have sued. Curbed LA and UCLA's Daily Bruin online reported the protest yesterday.

Preseumably in support of the tenants, Eric Garcetti told the Times reporter:

Echo Park is hanging on to being one of the last remaining mixed-income communities in Los Angeles.

As far as ground zero goes the practice of kicking lower-income residents out of rentals is not new news in Echo Park. It even is happening down the street in a different complex close to the Morton Ave. buildings, where some upstanding hipster types I know (who have not given permission to publicize details of their situation, on advice of legal counsel) are fighting their landlord's efforts to kick them out because they want richer tenants. (I'll also note that some of their landlord's tactics are extra-legal: minor harrassment in the form of tearing out landscaping and replacing it with nothing, refusal to make repairs -- it's all in the slumlording-for-dummies handbook).

For further reading, I recommend Dave Zanhniser's LA Weekly article on gentrification. Also, Nancy Cleeland did a piece on the purple building next to Chango. That Delta Ave. building still remains shuttered more than a year after residents were turned out.

Our moment of sarcasm: Sussman summed up the situation to his students with this brilliant gem -- "Being a landlord is very political these days." So maybe he should run for office.

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