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Santa Monica Rent Board Demands Ellis Act Study
Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
Roque & Mark Real Estate
2802 Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90404
(310)828-7525 -

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica


By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

July 15, 2016 -- Could certain factors lead Santa Monica landlords to get out of the rental business and evict tenants as allowed by California’s Ellis Act? Rent Control Board members want to know and have asked the City Council to call for a study.

On Thursday night, the Rent Board passed a resolution calling for the council to take action. Chair Nicole Phillis, who proposed the resolution, said her purpose was not to bring an end to Ellis activity.

“The purpose of this resolution is to understand, and that understanding will hopefully facilitate ways in which we can support our landlords in preserving rent-controlled housing stock,” she said.

Since the Ellis Act was enacted three decades ago, more than 2,000 rent-controlled units have been removed from the Santa Monica market, according to a report from the rent board released earlier this year.

“A public purpose would be served by a better understanding, based on firm data, of what leads some landlords to withdraw a property from the rental market under the Ellis Act while their neighboring landlords do not,” the rent board’s resolution states.

It continues, “Specifically, the board believes that, if factors making the withdrawal of properties more attractive, or more likely, could be identified, city policies -- planning and zoning policies in particular -- might be amended to address those factors, and thereby reduce the loss of controlled housing.”

Nobody spoke against the resolution, although the board received an opposition letter from attorney William Johnson, who said he represents a 103-year-old Santa Monica landlord.

“Understanding why owners go out of the rental business so that the City [may] take steps to make it more difficult for owners to exercise their statutory rights to Ellis their properties has already been tried by the City and declared unlawful by the courts,” Johnson wrote.

He referenced a court case from the 1980s in which the City unsuccessfully challenged landlord Henry Yarmark’s use of the Ellis Act to evict more than 30 tenants.

“The City has fought that fight and lost,” Johnson wrote. “The City should not spend time or taxpayer money investigating, scheming and conspiring to violate the law again.”

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