Santa Monica Lookout
|Former Santa Monica Mayor Faces Eviction||
| By Jonathan Friedman
July 22, 2016 -- The long-standing feud between former Santa Monica mayor Mike Feinstein and his landlords has taken a new turn that could conclude with Feinstein being evicted from the rent-controlled, four-bedroom house where he has lived for more than 30 years.
The owners of Feinstein’s house, located just a short walk from the beach on Hollister Avenue, recently filed a notice with the Rent Control Board to evict Feinstein and the residents of two bachelor apartment units on the property.
They are applying for the eviction based on the Ellis Act, a State law in effect since the 1980s that allows landlords to get out of the rental business.
Feinstein, who served on the City Council from 1996 to 2004 with a two-year stint as mayor, has limited options to fight the eviction. He would have to go through the court system to do it.
He did not respond to The Lookout’s interview request prior to the publication deadline.
No reason for wanting to leave the rental business is stated on the notice, but the owners (four are listed) have had contentious disagreements with Feinstein that date back many years.
Feinstein and the owners took their feud to the Planning Commission last fall, with the panel taking several hours over the course of two meetings to decide on a proposal several years in the making for remodeling the back of the house’s second floor (“Santa Monica Commission Rejects Remodeling Plan for Former Mayor’s Home,” October 13, 2015).
These were lively sessions in which Feinstein called the owners’ plan “a joke” and “in bad taste.”
He accused the owners of punishing him for drying his clothes outside and alleged they had done illegal work on the house.
One of the owners, Margaret Maclean, said she was exhausted by the conflict and that Feinstein’s knowledge of City Hall's inner-workings gave him a great advantage in the dispute.
The commission voted 5-0 in Feinstein’s favor.
Interestingly at that meeting, Maclean said “we’re not taking [the house] off the market,” adding that Feinstein should “reflect on the fact that he lives a half-block from the ocean in a four-bedroom house that’s rent-controlled.”
Feinstein's maximum allowable monthly rent is $1,907, according to the rent board’s website.
Whether he could afford the much-higher rent that would be charged for a similar house without 30 years of same-tenant rent control attached to it is unknown.
He was able to spend at least $74,000 of his own money on a failed campaign for City Council two years ago.
A tenant is required 120 days notice for an eviction through the Ellis Act. Feinstein’s landlords filed the notice on June 8. If Feinstein can prove a disability, he can have up to a year before being forced to leave.
Also, according to the Rent Control Board’s website, if a tenant of at least five years is older than 62 (which Feinstein isn’t) or disabled and the property owner does not also meet those standards, the person cannot be evicted.
The Ellis Act is frequently blamed for drastically reducing the size of Santa Monica’s rental market.
Since its passage, the law has been used to remove a net total of more than 2,000 units from Santa Monica’s rent-controlled stock, according to a report from the rent board that covers conditions through the end of last year.
Ellis Act evictions have been on the rise since 2013, according to the report.
The rent board passed a resolution last week asking the council to call for a study to determine if there are specific factors that lead to Ellis Act evictions (“Santa Monica Rent Board Demands Ellis Act Study,” July 15, 2016).
This resolution states that if these factors are identified, City policies “might be amended to address those factors, and thereby reduce the loss of controlled housing.”
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