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Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz battled Monday to stop more than 150 disabled residents of a Westwood senior apartment complex  from being evicted.

Koretz said that during the Tuesday’s City Council meeting he will introduce a motion asking the Planning Department, Building and Safety, Housing and Community Investment Department, and the City Attorney’s Office to look at viable options to stop the evictions.

“The building’s previous owner got approvals to do a phased renovation, where the residents would not be evicted but would be moved to other floors while the upgrades were being completed on the vacated floors,” Koretz said this morning in front of the Vintage Westwood Apartments at 947 Tiverton Ave. “Then, the Arizona-based corporation called Watermark bought the building and is now using trying to use those same approvals to evict all the residents at once. This sure looks like another greedy corporation trying to force out tenants who are paying lower rents under the rent stabilization ordinance.”

Under the Ellis Act, owners are legally allowed to remove units from the rental housing market under certain conditions, according to Koretz’s office.

The building’s occupants received eviction notices recently from Watermark Retirement Communities, which owns the facility, stating residents must vacate their units by April 27.

The owners have plans to remodel and convert the building to a luxury state-licensed residential elder-care facility, and Watermark has cited the temporary cutoff of utilities along with the disruptive construction as reasons for the evictions.

Koretz said he had met with attorneys representing a number of residents.

“These attorneys believe they have a reasonable chance of winning in court over the question of whether or not Watermark is illegitimately using the Ellis Act to evict their residents,” Koretz said. “Watermark could be violating the Ellis Act by exchanging one set of renters for another under the guise of converting to assisted living, rather than going out of the rental business completely.”

Koretz also sent a letter on Friday to Vincent Bertoni, head of the Department of City Planning, asking him to hold a public hearing on the matter.

“If the legal and procedural means exist, I will do everything I can to prevent these evictions,” Koretz wrote.

In a statement to CBS2 last week, Watermark executives said “the vast majority of residents will be eligible for extensions, allowing up to one year before relocating. We recognize the fact that this news has a great impact on residents, families and associates and pledge to support them throughout the process.”

—City News Service

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