Where Has All the (affordable) Housing Gone?
in search of lost rent-control housing in Venice




“Where Has All The (affordable) Housing Gone?” is a participatory, community-based art project that explores the loss of affordable rent-controlled housing in Venice - through a series of workshops, research, photography and writing, an exhibition, and a series of readings and events with community participants, writers, artists, activists, and scholars. Organized by Judy Branfman in partnership with Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center. Support provided by California Humanities, California Arts Council, LA Dept of Cultural Affairs, and Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Thanks to partner organizations Venice Arts Council, Venice Community Housing, Westside Local-LA Tenants Union, Veterans For Peace-LA, Center for the Study of Political Graphics, Keep Neighborhoods First, KPFK, and the Venice Beachhead.

Workshops February - April, 2023
Exhibit Preview: September 27, 2023
Exhibit Opening: October 8, 2023
Tours of the exhibit: October – November 5, 2023
Exhibit Closing: November 4, 2023

All photos below by Judy Branfman unless otherwise indicated.




SECTIONS: INTRODUCTION / ELLIS EVICTION MAP & LEGEND / LEGEND /

WORKSHOPS / EXHIBITION / THE GALLERY /

STORIES & MEDIA COVERAGE / RESOURCES FOR TENANTS / CREDITS /

EVENTS



INTRODUCTION
September 2023

“Where Has All The (affordable) Housing Gone?” grew out of a story familiar to many… When my landlord died, a group of owner/investors bought the four-unit building on 3rd Street. They evicted us all using the Ellis Act (a statewide policy allowing landlords to evict tenants if they claim they are going out of the rental business).

Within six months they had emptied us all out of the building and sold it – and soon the next owner was renting two units at market rates despite Ellis rules that units be offered first to evicted tenants at the same rent if re-rented within the first two or three years after an Ellis eviction.

The city of LA, which oversees the Ellis Act implementation, has done nothing about the constant abuse of the Ellis Act over 22 years. This despite tenants’ inability to pay higher rents, and the massive, not-unrelated increase of people living on the streets and in their cars.

Since 1999 almost 1400 units of affordable, rent-controlled housing have been removed from Venice’s housing stock using California’s Ellis Act. Developers, investors, and wealthy individuals usually target low-rent buildings for purchase, evict tenants with the Ellis Act, and then turn around and, very often before the legally-mandated waiting period is over, re-rent at market rates. Over 28,300 units of affordable, rent-control housing have been stolen in this way across the city of LA. Tenants rarely know their rights and the city doesn’t care.

“Where Has All The (affordable) Housing Gone?” grew out of my experience – and evolved into a participatory art project exploring the loss of affordable, rent-control housing in Venice, in partnership with Beyond Baroque, community members, and partner organizations. During early 2023, twenty-plus community members, most of us new to each other, photographed and wrote about the hundreds of properties where people were evicted using the Ellis Act. We looked at this situation from the point-of-view of lifelong Venetians, new Venetians, evicted Venetians, newly housed Venetians, and unhoused Venetians - and folks from outside Venice with the same experiences.

We quickly realized there are other ways, some far more widespread than the Ellis Act, that affordable, rent-controlled units are eliminated and replaced with market-rate rent-controlled units, single-family mansions, condos, and hotel rooms and other types of short-term rentals (STRs). Venice’s 279 Ellis-evicted properties have been enabled by the Ellis Act, but tenant harassment is an art form completely overlooked by the LA Housing Department. Over 6000 complaints were filed between 2021 and early 2023 under the new Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance, and not one was forwarded to the City Attorney for legal attention. In addition, Venice’s famed Ocean Front Walk has seen the illegal conversion of over 220 affordable, rent-stabilized apartments and singles into hotel rooms and short-term rentals.

We hope this project conveys the magnitude of these issues and the personal and community toll – and moves you to take a stand in support of tenants’ rights, truly affordable and rent-controlled housing, and enforcement of the laws we already have that support tenants and the development of new ones.

Judy Branfman

With Aanti Sumaiyya Evans, Kelly Kuvo, Marilyn Ramirez, Maya Wali Richardson, Michael Lindley, Mike Suhd, Naomi Nightingale, Paige Parsons, Pat Raphael, Steven Bowers, Suzanne Thompson, Tom Laichas, Nicole Karsin, Brian Sonia Wallace, Grant Lu

Contact: Judy Branfman
wherehasallthehousinggone@gmail.com

Watch the growth of the Ellis Act in LA
http://www.antievictionmappingproject.net/losangeles.html


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ELLIS EVICTION MAP & LEGEND

Our map contains photos of all 279 properties (with almost 1400 units) in Venice taken off the affordable, rent-controlled housing market using the Ellis Act. It also includes fragments of poems and text written by participants in the workshops.


click image to enlarge and open in new window


photo: Cindy Bendat

photo: Cindy Bendat


LEGEND FOR THE MAP

  • Each cream-colored dot on the photos has the number of rent-controlled (rent-Stabilized) (RSO) units on this property that were taken off the market using the Ellis Act.
The Ellis Act (California Government Code Chapter 12.75) is a 1985 state law that allows landlords to evict residential tenants to "go out of the rental business." It is implemented at the local city level. The LA Housing Dept website says “Displaced tenants have a right of first refusal on the unit from which they were displaced for a period of 10 years after the withdrawal of that unit from the market” and “If a withdrawn rental unit is returned to the market within two years of the date of withdrawal, the landlord is liable through a civil action for both actual and exemplary damages to any tenant displaced from that unit. In addition, the City may also initiate civil proceedings for exemplary damages.” The City does not enforce these regulations.

Since 2001 there have been 1395 units on 279 properties in Venice removed from the affordable, rent control market using the Ellis Act.

Of the 279 properties that were Ellised in Venice since 1999:
71 (25%) of them are now owned by an entity that owns 10 or more properties in LA County;
14 (5%) are owned by an entity that owns 50 or more properties in LA County;
and 8 (almost 3%) are owned by an entity that owns 100 or more properties in LA County.

  • Each brown dot has the number of properties owned by this owner in LA County.

  • Each red dot has the number of rent-controlled units in this building illegally taken off the market and used as hotel rooms and/or short-term rentals (STRs). These are all on Ocean Front Walk or adjacent and total about 220.

  • The one gold dot represents a property that falls under the Residential Hotel Ordinance. In 2008 the City of Los Angeles established the Residential Hotel Unit Conversion and Demolition Ordinance (RHO) to preserve housing for low-income Angelenos in longterm, large lower-income buildings; it is unlawful to convert or demolish residential units in a residential hotel without first obtaining proper clearance from the Los Angeles Housing Department (LAHD), but the city has not been enforcing the law (see Capital & Main).

1008 (of 1395) units that were lost using the Ellis Act in Venice are currently identified by the City as rent-stabilized units in their new forms. But are these units affordable? With vacancy decontrol, established by the Costa Hawkins Act in 1995, each apartment can be raised to market rent when a previous tenant moves out. Removing apartments using the Ellis Act speeds up the process of moving units to unaffordable levels. (September 2023)

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WORKSHOPS

Between February and April 2023, we had a series of seven workshops where we explored our personal housing experiences and housing policy in LA, interviewed community members and experts, wrote poetry, took photos, and thought about how to turn it all into an exhibition. We also visited various sites where important Venice housing activism has taken place: Lincoln Place where over 700 units of rent-controlled housing were preserved through years of activism; the First Baptist Church of Venice, now being developed into a community center and low-income housing; and Ocean Front Walk, where over 220 units of affordable rent-controlled housing have been illegally converted into hotel rooms and short-term rentals.


photo: Pangea

photo: Pat Raphael

photo: Suzanne Thompson

photo: Suzanne Thompson

photo: Marilyn Ramirez


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EXHIBITION
September 17 – November 5, 2023

Why We Don’t Want to Talk About It

Project participants really wanted to gather narratives of eviction and displacement. We were sure many people would want to share their stories, but that wasn’t the case at all. This ‘poem’ was assembled from snatches of conversations with tenants about why they don’t want to share their eviction stories, then written onto a piece of painters’ plastic, evoking empty buildings and difficult memories. This fragment of the poem illustrates the pain and anger that inspired this project:

My neighbor was devastated and stopped communicating with the entire community the day he moved out.
My neighbors think it’s useless to fight back.

I don’t want to think about it anymore.
I don’t want to be seen as a victim.
I’ve known the family forever so I didn’t want to cause problems.

It all worked out for the best… but I hated it when the landlords treated me like I was living in their house and not my home...
I can’t really talk about it publicly- I can sing you the song I wrote though.
I don’t think you’re going to tell it right.



The Annotated Ellis Act by Tom Laichas and friends
A wall-size annotation of LA’s Ellis Act and Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance, highlighting tenant protection provisions that the City has failed to enforce.



Aanti Sumaiyya’s “Dignity Village”
This installation features Sumaiyya Evans’ paintings, hand-crafted dolls, and writings, her creative anchors as she transitioned from being unhoused on Ocean Front Walk into permanent housing in Venice.

“These paintings and dignity dolls are reflections of my personal survival stories being a chronically homeless girl and woman who is now in supportive housing. Seemingly elementary, they are anything but. I share them and my book with you in hopes to open the minds and hearts of others about what we homeless women and girls experience daily and nightly: fear, frustration, bewilderment, despair. I can’t thank Venice enough for helping me.”



Air BnB and Short-Term Rental Maps
Every apartment unit and house listed on Air BNB, VRBO, and similar Short Term Rental (STR) services reduces the housing available for long-term residents. While the map in the exhibit identifies the 330 short term rental properties registered with the city of Los Angeles as of July 2023, InsideAirBNB.com lists over 1,600 properties available for rent as STRs. Despite enacting a Home Sharing Ordinance, the city has failed to address illegal rentals and their contribution to our housing and homelessness crises.



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THE GALLERY

The gallery included the timeline and three story panels described below, a video, and a poetry panel combining photos of people who shared their eviction stories and poems we wrote about and for each other, in pairs, during the first workshop.



Venice Census & Housing Activism Timeline
A sixty-year time line (1960-2020) of Venice housing activism (bottom) and Venice census data (top). [Census top to bottom: white population; tenant population; owner-occupied population; Latino population (orange); population paying 35-49% of income on rent; population paying over 50% of income on rent; Black population; Asian population].



Story #1
Documents revealed through a public record request tell the story of one Venetian artist who filed complaints thru the Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance (TAHO) detailing over two years of endless harassment by landlords.


photo: Cindy Bendat


Story #2 & Story #3
Two panels tell the stories of a tenant evicted from Venice using the Ellis Act despite lies told by the City Attorney – and a tenant who has been harassed by her landlord off and on for seven years, including use of AppFolio.


photo: Cindy Bendat


Infinite Reality
Infinite Reality #44, Pat Raphael: a conversational culmination exploring the never-ending source that can be tapped through the process of creating, versus the finite scarcity that characterizes modern capitalism. Oil, acrylic, marker on canvas.


photo: Cindy Bendat

photo: Cindy Bendat


Rental Flyer
Made in Venice by Pangea



A series of photos from the project in order going down the page
  • Developing and installing the exhibition;
  • Receiving a Certificate of Recognition from California Assembly member Tina McKinnor;
  • Activity in the gallery spaces;
  • Members of the LA Tenants Union talking about the first courtroom victory against the Ellis Act;
  • Panel at exhibition closing with activists from the LA Poverty Department, Corbett-Clemson Housing, First Baptist Church in Venice, United to House LA, and the CD11 Coalition For Human Rights;
  • People at the map;
  • A timeline of a Venice property from 2015 – 2023 by Maya Wali-Richardson;

photo: Suzanne Thompson

photo: Cindy Bendat

photo: Ivan Salinas

photo: Cindy Bendat

Photos: Googlemaps and Maya Wali-Richardson (on right)


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STORIES & MEDIA COVERAGE








photo by Stephon Litwinczuk

photo by Stephon Litwinczuk



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RESOURCES FOR TENANTS

StayHousedLA: www.stayhousedla.org

Tenant Power Toolkit: tenantpowertoolkit.org

LA Tenants Union: latenantsunion.org

Eviction Defense Network: edn.la

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CREDITS

Thanks to:

Beyond Baroque: Quentin Ring, Eric Ahlberg, Ivan Salinas, Jimmy Vega, Dan McNay, Genesis Perez, Michele Raphael, Katherine King, Conner Wilson, Stevie Greco, Nicholas Forman, Jody Zellen.

Funders: California Arts Council, California Humanities, Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, The County of Los Angeles.

Participants/photographers: Pat Raphael, Maya Wali Richardson, Tom Laichas, Nicole Karsin, Aanti Sumaiyya, Suzanne Thompson, Mike Suhd, Brian Sonia Wallace, Kelly Kuvo Richardson, Grant Lu, Marilyn Ramirez, Cindy Bendat, Pangea, Steven Bowers, Noreen Ahmed, Paige Parsons, Raman, Michael Lindley, Jon Wolff, Laddie Williams, Naomi Nightingale, Chris Giamarino, Erin Aubrey Kaplan, Eileen Archibald, Alejandro Arroyo, Dexter O’Connell, Yatin Parkhani.

Community Partners: Venice Arts Council, Venice Community Housing, Veterans For Peace – Los Angeles, Westside Local-LA Tenants Union, Keep Neighborhoods First, The Venice Beachhead, Jane Taguchi Graphic Design, KPFK.

Many thanks: John Urquiza, Madi Hamilton, Brendan Leech, Esteban Pulido, Jerolyn Crute, Luis Garcia Chavez, MB Boissonnault, Ingrid Mueller, Becky Dennison, Judy Goldman, Dennis Hathaway, Laura Silagi, John Raphling, Jack Ross, Christopher Hawley, Sheila Bernard, Amanda Seward, Michael Shaw, Barbara Hope, Doug Eisenstark, Tony Murphy, Hunter Deckelman, Kyle Nelson, Stephon Litwinczuk, Nick Aldridge, Bill Megalos, John Malpede, Jose Lopez, Joe Donlin, C.C. deVere, Gilda Haas, Ron Rouda, Pete Savino, Mia Amuri, Chelo Alvarez-Stehle, Jenna Couch, Marie Kennedy, Monona Wali, Carol Wells, SAJE – Strategic Actions For A Just Economy, Center for the Study of Political Graphics, Better Neighborhoods LA, KPFK Poets Café, Samy’s Camera.

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EVENTS

May 18, 2024
At Home in Venice: Houselessness & The Human Right To Housing In Los Angeles




Exhibit opening & reception, reading by Aanti Sumaiya and Naomi Nightingale, and highlights from a report by John Raphling, senior researcher with Human Rights Watch, on the criminalization of unhoused people and the human right to housing in Los Angeles & Venice.

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