Jim Smith

Lincoln Place Lives!

Final agreement signed: 83 evicted families will return, all buildings will be preserved, a total of 795 apartments will be occupied.

By Jim Smith

How do you spell victory?   L-i-n-c-o-l-n   P-l a-c-e is as good a way as any. There was  jubilation among tenants when the last of three agreements was approved by the L.A. City Council on May 26.

It had been a long struggle for those who had lived at Lincoln Place for 20 years or more. Chief among them is Sheila Bernard, the president of the Lincoln Place Tenant Association. She and other veterans were joined over the years by hundreds of activists and thousands of well wishers from Venice who all contributed in small and large ways to the final settlement.

It was also a victory for the corporate owner, AIMCO, who instead of carrying a large liability on its books will ultimately receive up to $1.5 million per month in rents. In addition, AIMCO will be allowed to build an additional 99 units on land where apartments had been bulldozed by the previous owner. However the new buildings cannot be taller than 30 feet.

Meanwhile, all those who were evicted five years ago will be paying 2005 rents, and every existing apartment will fall under current rent control laws.

In a celebration May 29, tenants and community supporters were lavish in their praise for Amanda Seward, who won historical status for Lincoln Place, for Laura Burns and Jan Book, who did much of the legal research, and for all the tenants, whose tenacity ultimately won the day.

In addition, Venice residents – many of whom had once lived at Lincoln Place – came to the aid of the tenants time after time. In all, 10,000 families have lived in the complex since it was built in the late 1940s.

A turning point in the long struggle that was cited by many was Dec. 6, 2005, the day of the most evictions in Los Angeles history. While it was a dark day for the 52 families who were summarily removed from their homes by more than 100 police, it also served to turn public opinion against AIMCO.

After that, there were mass meetings and rallies, the intervention on the side of the tenants of City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, fundraising to cover legal expenses, and a variety of lawsuits that kept tenants in court day after day.

There were three settlement agreements: AIMCO and Amanda Seward, to preserve the historical status; AIMCO and the Lincoln Place Tenants Association, to preserve the rights of the evicted renters and to allow their return; and AIMCO and the city of Los Angeles, which protects the buildings and calls for rehabilitation of the historic apartments.

It is unclear how long it will take for the 83 evicted families to return to newly renovated homes. Currently, there are only 11 disabled and senior residents and families living at Lincoln Place. Under the agreement, all 83 families will be relocated in the buildings close to the Ross store. This will provide for easy access to Ralphs and Rite Aid.

After that, up to 500 union construction workers will begin replacing the electrical and plumbing in all units.

In the end, there will be nearly-new rent controlled apartments for up to 3,000 people. In addition, there will be 99 more units which will not be under rent control since current state law specifies that buildings must have been constructed in 1978 or earlier to qualify under a city’s ordinance.

The fight to save Lincoln Place has been won. At one time, the landlord’s plan was to bulldoze all the beautiful garden apartments after tossing out their occupants who were never to return. In their place, would have been 1,000 high rise apartments or condominiums which would have forever changed the character of Venice.

That is one future we don’t have to worry about thanks to the heroic tenants of Lincoln Place.

The entire settlement agreement between the City and AIMCO can be read at http://www.freevenice.org/City-AIMCO-Agreement.

pdf. A summary of the agreement between the tenants union and AIMCO is at: http://www.lincolnplace.net/pr090813.html.