$1 million settlement from Alexandria Hotel owners, City and CRA to current and former tenants
Low-income tenants at the century-old Alexandria Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, who were subjected to unlawful displacement, shutoffs of heat, water and elevator service, have negotiated a broad-sweeping case settlement in their lawsuit filed in December, 2007. This victory comes after more than three years of tenant organizing to protect their homes, including dozens of LA CAN members. The settlement sets numerous new policies and also provides compensation to the 10 most harmed tenants as well as more than 100 tenants who were wrongfully displaced.
The case of the Alexandria Hotel is much more than the classic “landlord preys on weak and vulnerable tenants” narrative. Those cases are usually characterized by slumlords, in isolation, failing to provide basic services and habitable environments for tenants who are usually poor. In the case of the Alexandria Hotel, the City of Los Angeles and the Community Redevelopment Agency were aware of the problems almost immediately after Amerland Group took control of the property. Tenants consistently raised their voices to City officials and City Councilmembers about the violations of their housing and human rights, yet the City and CRA failed to remedy those situations. But a strong group of organized low-income tenants would not give up, we continued to stand up to the political and developer interests in creating a “new downtown” and, finally, have achieved victory.
The publicly-funded project at the Alexandria, as originally approved by the CRA, was intended to revitalize the property for the benefit of current tenants. However, it became clear pretty quickly that “improving” the property involved more than new paint and kitchenettes—it also meant getting rid of the original tenants, mostly African American, extremely poor people. In response, tenants made numerous visits to Councilmember Huizar and his staff, testified publicly at the CRA Commission (because it was the local funding agency) and City Council, contacted the Mayor’s Office on multiple occasions, collected evidence to support their claims, and educated and organized dozens of tenants to fight against the mass displacement.
Instead of help from City officials, tenants and organizers were routinely ignored, targeted and/or slandered by both the developer and city officials. For example:
Þ There were emails between the developer and City officials accusing tenants and LA CAN staff of lying, drug dealing, and other things to discredit the testimony of poor people
Þ After the problems at the Alexandria were well-documented and shared, letters of support from local and state elected officials, including the Mayor and Councilmember Perry, were provided for a second project by the developer
Þ High ranking LAPD officers attended extended CRA board meetings to provide public support for the developer to off-set complaints made by tenants
Þ Multiple LAPD officers attended eviction court to testify against current tenants, although there were no convictions to report
Again, tenants did not give up in the face of adversity. LA CAN members continued to document the problems and worked with our legal partners at LAFLA to put together an amazing legal team to support the efforts of tenants. This settlement provides some long-deserved justification and compensation for tenants who stood up for their rights, faced eviction, endured humiliation and name calling by Councilmember Cardenas and others, but finally won their David and Goliath story. It also includes policy changes at the Alexandria and the CRA that will prevent similar situations from occurring in the future. LA CAN is proud of all of our members who participated in this fight, especially those who lived at the Alexandria.
Links to some media coverage: