Ellis Act Stories, Chapter 2: Three Buildings on Sunset Boulevard

C.C. de Vere

C.C. de Vere

· 4 min read
Screenshot from property listing boasting that tenants were Ellis Act evicted more than 5 years ago. Sickening, isn't it?

East Hollywood has been gentrifying for years - so much so that one of the local rags has been trying to make "EaHo" a thing.

Cringe-inducing nicknames aside, gentrification can attract real estate speculators who think absolutely nothing of displacing tenants for profit. Lately, I've seen more multifamily properties in East Hollywood marketed in this way, mentioning rental upside, zoning (for the redevelopers), and which trendy bars and restaurants are closest.

I've said it before and I'll say it louder for the people in the back: making money, in and of itself, isn't wrong, but making money in a way that hurts someone else sure as hell is.

With that in mind, I'd like to pull everyone's sleeves over to a property that was Ellis Acted in 2016.

Legally, property owners can do certain things with their properties. But legality and ethics aren't always the same thing. Where are the evicted tenants? With the shrinking supply of affordable rental units, it begs the question of where they can realistically still find a place to live (or run a small business).

5314 West Sunset Boulevard's listing bragged "Unique Development Opportunity" and "100% Vacant; Over 5 years since Ellis eviction meaning zero rent-control requirements for new project". I've mentioned previously that completely empty properties are often easier to sell and could even fetch a premium from buyers.

I have to question the ethics of displacing existing tenants and leaving multiple buildings empty for years on end.

Can a property owner ethically Ellis Act their tenants, especially when the need for existing affordable housing far outstrips the dwindling supply? I don't believe so.

Three buildings occupy the lot, built in 1931, 1949, and 1954. The property includes a mix of commercial and residential units (including a motel), but the rental unit count is no longer listed. I did find records of fourteen tenants on the site before it was emptied out.

"Bbbbbuuutttt HOUSING!" the development-at-any-cost nuts will whine. What housing? 5314 Sunset's existing buildings are slated to be replaced with a 3-story commercial building.

Here's where things get weird: the seller bought the property for $5 million in 2018. The new owner bought it this February for $4,590,000. Old listings show that the original asking price was reduced.

That means the first seller most likely evicted fourteen low-income tenants to engage in real estate speculation, the second seller most likely bought it for the same reason - and the second seller wound up losing money instead of making money. Speculation is always risky, but good luck convincing speculators of that.

I want to be very clear on one thing: the nonprofit group that currently owns 5314 W. Sunset Boulevard had no hand in Ellis Acting the property in 2016 and leaving it empty. I wish them the best. Also, the project planned for the parcel will provide services and support to a marginalized community.

I'm annoyed with the two previous owners, not the new ones. Please do not criticize or condemn the nonprofit over the previous owner's choices.

In any case, it's always a bit of a letdown when a planned new building won't also replace lost housing, and a little piece of me dies each time I find out about a developed property that has been left completely unoccupied for years on end.

C.C. de Vere

About C.C. de Vere

C.C. is a fourth-generation Angeleno and is horrified at what greed and hubris are doing to Los Angeles.

This website was built by her preservation pals at Esotouric.

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