Photo by Ted Soqui

Eighty-eight-year-old Albert Dunne is facing eviction from the Venice apartment he has lived in for 47 years. His landlord wants to fix up the place and three other units and charge more rent. The WWII vet and Purple Heart holder suffers from emphysema, degenerating spinal disks and two (controlled) cancers. He has few housing options if forced to move from his $397 monthly rental, since his condition limits him to ground-floor apartments.

All of this sounds familiar in housing-tight L.A. In fact, the L.A. City Council heard so many similar tales of gentrification woes that it placed a moratorium on the practice of booting out such tenants from rent-controlled apartments a year ago. But the council also left in a provision for hardship exemptions. In April, the council granted such an exemption — to the landlord, on grounds that he would unduly suffer. Todd Flournoy, one of the owners of the property, said $56,000 has been spent on the improvement plan, including $32,000 on architectural plans. When the moratorium went into effect, they had three vacant units and were losing $2,350 a month and borrowing against personal credit cards to avoid foreclosure.

Dunne and his 38-year-old daughter, Karen Dunne, who grew up in the apartment and still calls it home, are suing to try to stop their eviction. A hearing in Superior Court is set for July 23.

The Dunnes’ attorney, Barbara Schultz of Legal Aid, questions whether the landlords are suffering, since the costs are split three or four ways and they own other Venice rental properties. For Schultz, one of the main issues is one of due process, and the City Council is the culprit.

She says Dunne and his lawyers weren’t told that the council would consider the landlord’s exemption April 16; in fact, say the Dunnes, they were expecting another hearing before the council’s Housing and Community Development Committee, which had made approval of the exemption contingent on the Dunnes’ finding alternative housing. Instead of further committee action, and without the mediation session scheduled by Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski’s office, the matter was fast-tracked to council.

Miscikowski’s aide Alex Ponder says the councilwoman tried to balance the interests of all involved, “but ultimately we couldn’t find a solution that made everyone happy.”

“It’s outrageous,” Schultz says, “considering the overall intent of the moratorium to protect seniors and the disabled like Mr. Dunne, and the explicit call to consider hardship to the tenants, that the only hardship the council sees is to speculators looking for housing profits.”

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