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Mapping Shows Pico Neighborhood Ground Zero for Skyrocketing Evictions in Santa Monica

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

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

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

August 27, 2015 -- The Pico Neighborhood was hit with a skyrocketing number of rental evictions last year, a sign that Santa Monica’s last affordable neighborhood is being gentrified with the coming of light rail, an eviction-monitoring research group has concluded.

Citywide, evictions under California’s Ellis Act -- which allows landlords of rent control building to remove their properties from the rental market --  jumped 75 percent between 2013 and 2014, an analyst for the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, based in San Francisco, said in posting the data online at

Erin Mcel, co-director of the mapping project, said the evictions were clustered in the Pico Neighborhood, an area long characterized by families who are low-income, working-class and immigrants.

Mcel said statistics are not yet available for this year, although increases are anticipated.

The debut of light rail, due to arrive in Santa Monica early next year, is pushing up real estate values in the Pico neighborhood, she said, making it ripe for gentrification. The Bergamot station, one of three in the bayside city, will serve the Pico area.

“The pressures of gentrification along the designated transit corridor….has already pushed many low-income families out of their rental units,” Mcel said. “Unfortunately, with the increase in property values and market pressures in Santa Monica along with TOD (Transit Oriented Development), we expect there will be an increase in evictions and resident displacement.

“We are beginning to experience the negative impact of TOD and over-development on renters, in particular low-income communities alongside the transit corridors,” she added. “The result of the displacement of low-income households undermines the goal of reducing automobile use and creates an unintended consequence of pushing out low-income families that are the most reliable users of public transportation.”

Ellis Act evictions jumped 75 percent between 2013 and 2014, the website shows, with evictions rising from 29 in 2013, involving nine properties, to 85 last year, involving 16 properties, the website shows.

In all, Ellis Act evictions have displaced 2,172 rent-control units since the law was enacted in 1986. Santa Monica has approximately 28,000 rent-controlled units.

The mapping project was created by the Pico Neighborhood Association in partnership with Santa Monica’s Rent Control Board, which has also warned of the city’s perishing number of affordable housing units.

The Ellis Act clears the way for landlords to remove tenants if the property is being taken off the rental market, usually either for conversion to condominiums or extensive remodeling.

Another pressure point has been the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act of 1999, which allows landlords to raise rents when tenants relocate or are evicted for non-payment. Some two-thirds of Santa Monica’s rent control units now fetch market rates.

“Affordable housing is under constant threat” in increasingly upscale Santa Monica, Mcel said.

Another big problem is that the City of Santa Monica lost nearly all the revenue it used to build affordable housing after the state of California abolished redevelopment agencies in 2012.

The City is now scrambling to find other sources to restart construction of affordable housing.

The shortage of affordable housing has emerged as one of the City Council’s top priorities, and on Tuesday the City Council voted to lend its support a resolution calling on state lawmakers to freeze Ellis Act evictions.

Local lawmakers also want the state to enact a freeze on the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act.

Both pieces of legislation have been “a major factor in creating the affordable housing crisis,” Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown said at the meeting.

He added that 500 units a year are being removed from rent control due to Costa-Hawkins.

The Pico Neighborhood is the is only affordable area left in Santa Monica, said Oscar de la Torre, a Pico community leader and local school board member. Watching the evictions unfold and the neighborhood change is like seeing “gentrification on steroids,” he said.

Mcel said the project’s Santa Monica-based website is part of the Pico Neighborhood Association’s “Better Neighborhoods, Same Neighbors” anti-displacement campaign.

She said the website and map are meant to monitor evictions, and are part of a broader campaign by residents to push back against the evictions and big new development projects they fear will destroy the city’s “character and diversity.”

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