By the power vested in me: Councilman wants to force landlords to sell their buildings to control rents

Gil Cedillo proposing city use eminent domain at Chinatown property

Councilman Gil Cedillo (Credit: Getty Images)
Councilman Gil Cedillo (Credit: Getty Images)

Los Angeles city officials are considering a plan to force landlords to sell their buildings in an effort to keep rents low in key neighborhoods.

Councilman Gil Cedillo last week said he was asking the Board of Public Works to consider using its eminent domain power to take over a 124-unit Chinatown apartment building from a landlord who wants to convert the building into market-rate.

“We will use all of the resources of the city, both legal and fiscal, to protect these tenants,” Cedillo told the Los Angeles Times. “The city is in crisis … with respect to housing and affordability.”

The landlord, Thomas Botz, said that the owners would never have agreed to make the units affordable had they known the city would do an about-face.

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“If the city goes and expropriates buildings from private developers like us — who have made their 30-year deal and kept their end of the deal — just to have the building taken away at the end, no private developer would build another unit of housing in cooperation with the city of L.A. ever again,” Botz told the newspaper.

The property, dubbed Hillside Villa, was built in 1986 with $5.45 million in loans from the city, in exchange for a commitment from the landlord to keep the units affordable for 30 years. Since that agreement lapsed in 2018, Botz is legally permitted to raise the rents to market rates.

But Cedillo wants the city to intervene to keep 59 units of affordable housing inside the building after attempts to reach a deal with Botz’s company, NHP LLC, failed. Residents were informed that the rents would go by an average of 50 percent starting in September. Rent in one three-bedroom unit is set to jump from $889 to $2,500. [LAT]Tina Daunt