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Dozens Of Highland Park Apartment Tenants Facing Mass Eviction

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The Marmion Royal apartment building sits almost directly across the street from the Highland Park Gold Line station. Because the large, 60-unit building was built in 1987, it is not subject to the city of Los Angeles' rent stabilization ordinance (which only applies to buildings completed before 1978). Back in May, a Tarzana based investment firm, Skya Ventures, purchased the complex from its previous hands-off owner, Azuza Pacific University, for $14.3 million.

Combine those facts with the red-hot Highland Park rental market and you've got a big problem (cough, gentrification) for the tenants who live in the building. Back in July, KPCC reported that the building's new owners had notified tenants that their rent would be increasing by $1,000. Now, the L.A. Times reports the the lion's share of the building's predominantly working-class and Latino tenants are facing eviction, a direct consequence of an organized rent-strike. In June, tenants in up to 51 of the building's 60 units decided to withhold paying rent as protest until the building's new owners agreed to provide tenants with new long-term leases with limited rent increases—de-facto rent control.

At the same time, withholding rent means that the tenants are violating the terms of the lease signed with the landlord. After the protest began, several tenants were served with 60-day eviction notices. From the perspective of the majority tenants the proposed rent increases are simply infeasible.

The Times notes the case of Rudy Rosales, a cook who works in West Hollywood. Rosales lives with three young children in a 1-bedroom unit he pays $1,000 monthly for. A 50-percent increase, which would make his rent $1,500-per-month, is as good as an eviction notice.

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When Galena Skya-Wasserman, the proprietor of Marmion Royal's new investment-oriented owners, visited the property, she was met with a barrage of concerned tenants who were worried that they were going to be forced to move.

"I respect where you are coming from," said Skya-Wasserman to the tenants. "I respect your needs. To whatever extent I can get it, I get it."

We're sure she really gets it. Highland Park is considered the newest hipster haven in Los Angeles. While Silver Lake and Echo Park steadily shift from gentrification to 'Brentwood-ification', those less monied (though still comparably affluent) folks who want to live in a trendy neighborhood have sprawled out throughout Northeast Los Angeles.

Highland Park is ground-zero for an organized anti-gentrification movement, and has seen multiple protests and demonstrations of solidarity on behalf of the neighborhood's working class residents.

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