To: The Honorable Mayor Karen Bass and Members of the Los Angeles City Council,
The Sierra Club has recently learned about the pending evictions of 558 households in the Barrington Plaza apartment complex. We are very concerned that allowing this eviction would be an unjust contribution to the homelessness crisis, and move us backwards on our efforts to address climate emissions.
Douglas Emmett Inc submitted an application to the city of LA this spring to use the Ellis Act to evict 558 households from rent controlled apartments in west LA. The city promptly approved the application, despite the fact that the reason given on the application was ‘TBD’. Now, the residents are stuck in a legal battle that wouldn’t be happening if the city had exercised its duty to regulate housing providers in the interest of the general welfare.
The Sierra Club is the nation’s largest and oldest environmental organization, with over 35,000 members in LA and Orange Counties. We are committed to combating the climate crisis by drastically reducing emissions and dismantling the unjust structures which result in those who have contributed the least to the crisis to bear the greatest burden. The Sierra Club would like to raise the following environmental concerns with the city, and advise you to direct the Los Angeles Housing Department to prevent this eviction from occurring.
1) The largest single source of climate change emissions from LA County is from personal vehicles. While vehicle electrification and mass transit are helpful tools to limit these emissions, we must also aggressively pursue policies to limit the distance that people need to travel on a daily basis. The Sierra Club infill housing policy calls for the construction and preservation of housing in the places where it is most needed.
Barrington Plaza residents are largely working class people who live nearby their jobs. Their commutes contribute very little if any to our city’s emissions. This sort of affordable, infill housing near job centers is exactly the sort of housing we should be encouraging and preserving. By allowing the land-owner to evict these tenants, we are needlessly pushing more people either into living on the streets, or commuting much longer distances to work.
2) We are aggressively pursuing building decarbonization in Los Angeles and other cities. Climate emissions from buildings are the second largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in Los Angeles, and we have worked with the city to create laws requiring new buildings to eliminate gas-burning appliances. We are working with environmental justice organizations and Council Member Raman’s office to create policy that would protect existing residents from evictions and cost increases as older buildings are retrofitted.
One major concern is that decarbonization requirements of existing buildings could give landlords an excuse to evict tenants from an entire building, conduct a retrofit, and then rent the building at far higher prices. We cannot let this happen, if only because it would tarnish building decarbonization as a ruthless driver of gentrification and inequality. Our climate solutions must protect and benefit those who have contributed least to the problems, not fuel injustice.
The Ellis Act cannot be allowed to justify evictions on the basis of building improvements. It is up to the city to ensure the law is enforced. By simply granting approval for this project, the city is ignoring its duty.
The Barrington Plaza apartments are a large project with many homes, but they are a tiny fraction of the buildings currently under rent control in Los Angeles. New infill projects that create dense, walkable, and affordable communities are essential, but not at the cost of displacing existing affordable housing and the people who live there. By allowing the evictions to proceed, the city is setting a dangerous precedent that it will do nothing to prevent other landlords from following suit. Given the direct climate and justice implications of this policy, we are asking that the city intervene to protect the residents of Barrington Plaza from eviction, and make it clear that climate justice is more important than corporate greed.
If you would like to support this campaign, please contact Angeles Chapter staff or support the campaign directly here: https://www.bptenants.org/