410 N. Rossmore residents feel pressure of ‘buy-out’

| July 29, 2020 | 0 Comments

CONFUSION at a rent-controlled building at 410 N. Rossmore Ave. as some tenants decline “buy-out” offer.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to plague the City of Los Angeles, a group of Hancock Park residents in a rent-controlled apartment building say that they feel pressured from their new landlord to take a buy-out offer, with no other information available to them. To learn more, the Chronicle joined a group of six residents last month over Zoom to discuss their recent experiences.

“They want us to make a decision without any information. I haven’t worked since March! We are in a situation where we don’t know if we’re going to still have a job.

“In a way, it’s abusive,” says resident Cinzia Zanetti.

The five-story building, located at 410 N. Rossmore Ave., whose construction originally started in 1930 (see Larchmont Chronicle story, Feb., 2020, Section 2, page 2) was purchased in January by Atlanta-based Domos Co-Living. Domos specializes in housing that provides affordable options in expensive areas. Speaking to the Chronicle last January, Domos Construction Manager Richard Loring confirmed that his company is committed both to offering to: (a) “buy-out” some residents and (b) pay for relocation, moving expenses and any difference in a higher-cost rent for those residents who want to stay after the company finishes extensive renovations to the building.

Over the ensuing five months, residents say that written correspondence to them has been far less clear, even contradictory at times.

“They really do seem to want to not acknowledge that we have the rights that we have,” says resident Joy Wingard.

“In the letters that they’ve sent to us, you can see a pattern in that they don’t acknowledge their responsibility to us,” she explains.   

In a Jan. 30 letter obtained by the Chronicle, Councilman Ryu reminded Domos executives of those rights. The letter stated: “The Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) lays out the limited and specific situation in which tenants may be evicted. Evictions for renovation or to convert to a different type of rental housing are illegal. If substantial renovations are to be undertaken, tenants have the right to be temporarily relocated with no change to the tenancy status, and have the right to return to the same unit.”

Ryu urged Domos to disclose its short-term and long-term plans for the building, noting the lack of communication as of late January: “This vacuum of clear information is fueling a deep concern among residents about the future of their homes.”

For tenants taking the “buy-out,” things have moved smoothly, by all accounts. But for those residents that want or need to return to the building, information is less forthcoming.

Those residents that wish to stay say that they’ve been advised by Councilman Ryu to “wait until plans are filed” to take any action. Residents fear that taking any action before that time could invalidate their legal protections.

“For instance, the RSO says that if we have a studio, we should be allowed to return to that same studio. But Domos has suggested that we agree to move our units within the building, which would change our lease agreement. Their goal is to confuse people,” says Wingard. “I think that’s what they want.”

Among their grievances, residents say that Domos has moved multiple executives into the building to pressure residents, noting it feels like a good cop, bad cop tactic.

“They have people in the building to make us feel uncomfortable,” says resident Jeremy Brown.

Domos responds

Regarding accusations that there’s been a lack of communication, Domos co-founder Daniel Alexander respectfully disagrees, pointing out that the buy-out window only ended on July 15. “Relocation is not an option until late 2020, or early 2021. We are in the process of sending out a newsletter that discusses next steps, and out of respect for our residents, we feel that information should come from Domos to tenants first,” Alexander said, responding to questions from the Chronicle.

“We’ve also been in constant communication with the City Council office regarding all pertinent steps that we’ve made. And we are very happy to do more. That said, relocation is a process governed by the City via the Tenant Habitability Program (THP), which requires ownership to locate suitable housing for residents during the renovations.”

Alexander said that he does not anticipate the THP relocations to begin until later this year or early next year. “However, in the coming months, we intend to roll out a very detailed information campaign for our residents regarding THP to ensure that all of their questions and concerns are answered.”

The company expects renderings of the project to be available later this month.

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