The new owner of a large retirement community in Westwood has handed out eviction notices to more than 150 residents in preparation for a major overhaul of the property that will transform it into a luxury residential care facility.
According to a press release from Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz, Watermark Retirement Communities plans to evict all current tenants under California’s Ellis Act, which allows landlords to mass evict tenants when converting buildings to new uses.
The building resident’s include Joseph Goldfarb, a 99-year-old Holocaust survivor, who told ABC News that the new owners “should have a heart.”
Koretz held a press conference Monday calling on Watermark to consider alternative plans for the renovations that would not require residents to relocate. Many of them are in their 80s and 90s.
“I am outraged and disgusted by this entire situation, and since learning of the eviction notices on December 2nd, I have been working to do everything I can to stop the process,” Koretz said.
The councilmember also plans to introduce a motion during Tuesday’s City Council meeting asking city staff to examine options to halt the eviction process. At the press conference, Koretz called on concerned citizens to contribute to a “pressure campaign,” bombarding Watermark with letters and emails opposing the evictions.
For its part, Waterton maintains in an official press release that the $50 million renovation would be impossible to complete with residents in the building and that it has hired a “Relocation Liaison” to help residents find places to live in advance of construction on the property.
According to ABC News, the eviction notices delivered November 30 gave tenants 120 days to vacate the building, though Watermark claims that most residents will have “up to a year” to leave the apartments. The company also notes that tenants would receive “up to $19,700” in relocation fees, though this simply represents the minimum amount Watermark would be required by law to provide to longtime tenants under the city’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance.
The company, which manages dozens of senior living facilities in 20 states, took over management of the building in October, and quickly made plans to transform it into a licensed facility under the California Department of Social Services. In an announcement of the purchase, Watermark President and CEO David Barnes noted that the structure once served as a residence hall for students at UCLA.
“We’re looking forward to rolling out Watermark University and other signature programs,” he said, referring to the company’s practice of offering residents classes in subjects ranging from poetry to wine appreciation.
Watermark expects the renovations will take between 12 and 14 months to complete.