Coalition to Preserve LA

Community Activists Fight Back and Sue City of Los Angeles Over Outrageous Hotel Conversion

In Archive by Patrick Range McDonald

Last week, community activists fought back and sued the city of Los Angeles for approving a highly controversial project in Hollywood that converts an apartment building at 1850 N. Cherokee Avenue into a boutique hotel. Activists were outraged that the L.A. City Council’s decision took more residential units off the market at a time when politicians give a lot of lip service to addressing the city’s affordable housing crisis — and now they’re going to court.

The lawsuit was brought forth by Hollywoodians Encouraging Rental Opportunities, and includes plaintiffs Max Blonde and Sylvie Shain, an activist who fought the hotel plan. The suit alleges that the city of L.A. violated state law and seeks a more detailed report on the environmental impacts of the project.

The Cherokee Avenue apartment building has long been embroiled in controversy.

First, developer David Lesser evicted longtime residents out of their affordable units through the state Ellis Act, with a plan to turn the rental building into a condominium complex. Then, Lesser changed his mind and decided to construct a boutique hotel on the site, which removes any kind of long-term housing.

Yet City Council members, who often talk about the need to build more housing in L.A., gave Lesser’s newest plan the green light.

Frank Angel, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement that the City Council’s approval is part of “an egregious pattern of wrongheaded decisions by city officials who welcome project after project destroying housing that serves low-income city residents.”

Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Times reported that “more than 20,000 rent-controlled units have been taken off the market since 2001, city records show.” The paper noted that L.A. property owners “are demolishing an increasing number of rent-controlled buildings to build pricey McMansions, condos and new rentals, leading to hundreds of evictions across the city.”

The Cherokee Avenue project is just one more sad example, but now activists and tenants will have their day in court.

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