The S#!T List: Some of L.A.'s Worst Landlords
There’s a housing crisis in Los Angeles, as there is in nearly every other major city in the U.S. According to a study released by real estate database Zillow however, Los Angeles residents are in an especially precarious position.
L.A. residents who fall into the middle third of earners are on average made to pay 47% percent of their income toward housing costs. For reference, the federal government considers anyone paying more than 30% of their income toward housing to be “cost burdened”.
Staggeringly, those residents who fall into the bottom third of earners are being asked to pay 121% (yes, you read that correctly) of their income to afford even the least expensive housing options in the region. This is of course impossible, forcing these residents to seek out state and federal housing subsidies like Section 8.
While there are a number of factors contributing to this crisis, we can count chief among them the vulturous nature of L.A.’s landlords. Approaching housing strictly as a commodity to maximize their profit, building and landowners are all but too eager to introduce steep rent increases, employ legal loopholes like the Ellis Act (mass eviction), and flip properties with no regard for the epidemic levels of displacement that these activities result in.
Despite wanting to appear as such, L.A.’s landlords aren’t anonymous. While they prefer to operate behind faceless, dully named LLC’s, these seemingly powerful people do in fact have “names and addresses” as late IWW organizer and folk singer Utah Phillips once mused.
So, for your reading (dis)pleasure, we present the Shit List, an incomplete catalogue of L.A.’s worst landlords.
Steven Taylor & Vicky Mense
AKA Taylor Equities, Ness Properties:
Taylor is and has been the owner of numerous properties across L.A., all of which he has flipped and massively raised rents on. Vicky Mense is Taylor’s mother-in-law, co-investor, and owner of Xi’an restaurant in Beverly Hills.
To illustrate just how addicted Taylor is to flipping people’s homes for a profit, look no further than his March 2018 acquisition of the Waverly apartment complex in Silverlake. After coming into possession of the property, Steven wasted no time in kicking off a war of attrition against tenants of the Waverly.
He offered meager buy-outs to some, while those who resisted were targeted for intimidation in the form of all-hours on- site construction. One of these families, the Peffers, had lived in the building for 17 years...that is, until Steven served them with a no-fault eviction.
Tenants at the site have gotten together to form a tenants association, so far fighting back by holding pickets in front of Mense’s swanky Beverly Hills eatery, as well as staging militant occupations of their units in defiance of eviction orders.
Alfredo Solalindez & Soon Hee Park:
While Park and Solalindez may own fewer properties than the other landlords on our list, they make up for it in spades when it comes to their willingness to harass and lie to their tenants.
Renters at one of their Highland Park properties have been issued several invalid unlawful detainers, illegal notices to remove waste bins, and abrupt changes to lease terms. Perhaps the most egregious action taken by these landlords has been their willingness to forge tenants’ signatures on documents.
Tyler “Wiener King” Wilson
AKA Brick and Mortar LLC:
Tyler Wilson is the owner of the WurstKüche chain of sausage restaurants, with locations in the Arts District of DTLA and Venice. He also happens to be a greedy landlord.
In April of 2018, Tyler’s front company ‘Brick and Mortar LLC’ purchased the property directly behind the Venice location of his hot dog business. Within two months, Wilson delivered renters at the property an intent to file an Ellis Act eviction. This maneuver is especially favored by landlords who want to find a way to remove long time residents from RSO, or Rent Stabilized units.
One of the families hardest hit by the impending eviction is that of Patricia Sanchez, who has lived at the Vernon Ave. property for more than 25 years. Patricia and her family (husband, 22 year-old son with autism, and 13 year-old daughter) are being given less than a year to vacate their home.
But they aren’t sitting back and taking the abuse. They’ve allied with the L.A. Tenants Union, launching a boycott and pickets against Wilson’s businesses.
Ethan (Eman) Barzi, Eliaho Barzi, Aaron Barzi, and Morris Emanuel
AKA One West Management LLC
The Barzi family and their associates have a diverse stream of revenues, including high- end Kosher market ‘Sedona Farms’ in Santa Monica, as well as a jewelry shop in DTLA, ‘Emmanuel Jewelry Design’.
But where they seem to draw most of their income is on the backs of working class renters across Los Angeles.
Since forming in 2011, ‘One West Management LLC’, the company through which the family holds several multi-unit apartments, has been helmed by Eman Barzi. Problems at their properties have run rampant, prompting families at two complexes (172 N. Mariposa Ave. & 141 N. New Hampshire Ave.) to fight back.
The Barzi’s have employed both the Ellis Act, as well as no-cause mass evictions, in order to displace tenants and flip properties to market rate. In both cases, the Barzi’s gave tenants the minimum amount of notice to vacate, harassed them with illegal utility shut off notices, and had unpermitted construction crews operate on the properties at all hours.
Julia Boyd Corso & Marshall Boyd
AKA Interstate Equities Corporation:
Julia and Marshall are co-presidents of Interstate Equities Corporation (IEC), a real estate investment company based out of Silicon Valley. These two have holdings in properties across California and are clearly intent on one thing: getting returns on those investments no matter the human cost.
In 2017, IEC purchased a complex on Avenue 64 in Highland Park. Less than a year later, they hit their tenants with rent increases in the range of 50-70%. When tenants began to organize in an effort to stop the absurd hikes, IEC offered to postpone, — so long as the tenants stopped publicizing the situation. In January of 2019, IEC reneged on this promise and rammed the increases through anyway.
AKA 1979 Ehrlich Investment Trust
Lisa has an impressive CV which includes her accomplishments as a multi-millionaire, a lawyer (Bar #:131459), and the legal trustee of the ‘Island Waterpark’ in Fresno.
Now she can add slumlord to that list.
In January of 2018 Lisa issued a notice that rent would be increasing between 25-45% in every single unit of three adjacent Westlake complexes under her ownership (131, 143, and 171 S. Burlington Ave.).
This was especially galling given that tenants were able to show a well documented history of poor upkeep in the buildings. This included everything from unfixed elevators, to ongoing rat and roach infestations.
Tenants organized quickly to fight the increases, soon launching what would become the single largest rent strike in the history of Los Angeles. When 90 families made of more than 200 people joined the strike, Lisa brought eviction lawsuits against all of them. When the first 9 went to court, 6 juries ruled in favor of the tenants - signalling to Lisa that she was on the losing side of the fight.
After withholding their rent for nearly seven months, Lisa decided to vacate the evictions against the remaining 70 families she had moved to displace. The rent strike was successful.
The Burlington tenants are still fighting for long- term guarantees from Llisa and her cohorts, but if they’ve proven anything, it’s that persistence, struggle, and solidarity work.
Tom & Chloe Botz
AKA 636 NHP LLC
Thomas is the shadowy owner of numerous properties, but despite his secrecy, his name has become well known at the Hillside Villa apartment complex in Chinatown.
In early 2019, Thomas issued massive rent increase notices to nearly all of the units at the complex, some of which were as high as 200%.
Chloe, who is on her father’s payroll, has a penchant for threatening tenants with infractions if they allow their children to run or play in the courtyard of the complex. An especially cruel irony considering her father had the only play structure on the property torn out — leaving only twisted rebar in its place.
Chloe likely gets her dislike for children from her father, who has been convicted of carrying out policies that are discriminatory towards families who live on other properties that he owns.
At the time of this writing, the tenants, organized under the banner of the Hillside Villa Tenants’ Association, have just launched a public campaign to beat back the increases.
Lance J. Robbins
AKA Urban Smart Growth
Perhaps the most notorious name on our Shit List, Lance is a legally convicted slumlord. He’s also a lawyer who consistently employs esoteric legal schemes to weasel out of responsibility for the atrocious conditions of his properties.
To get a feel for exactly how long Lance’s track record is, check out this list of L.A. Times headlines spanning 1986 to 2005, all of which are stories focused on him: “Landlord’s Negligence Claimed: Tenants of Burned Out Slum File Suit”; “Slumlord Agrees to Settle Suit, Pay DWP $1 Million”; “State Moves to Pull Real Estate License of L.A. Landlord”...and it goes on like that for some time.
Most recently, tenants at the Ellison Suites, a complex in Venice owned by Robbins, have begun speaking up about the poor conditions, nearly constant construction, and broken, decaying fixtures that have gone chronically unfixed at the site.
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This article is incomplete. You can help us by expanding it. Hate your landlord? Send us some info on them: firstname.lastname@example.org
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This article appeared in the Spring 2019 print edition of Salvo.
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Illustrations for this article by Wyatt Kollar • www.wkillustration.com • IG: @wkillustration