Residents Evelyn Allen (from left), Larry Estrada and Steven Allen are facing eviction from their apartments after receiving 60-day termination notices from their building manager at 635 Prospect Ave. without a stated cause. Photo by Skye Hannah

Multiple tenants are facing eviction from their apartment building on Prospect Avenue after receiving 60-day termination notices from a new management company — and the tenants are angry and scared.

“Our neighbors are people who have recently had babies, who have their kids enrolled in our schools, who are planning weddings and retirements — we do not want to leave our homes, but we are being forced out,” tenant Evelyn Allen said on Oct. 2 during emotional remarks to the City Council.

“And it is very likely that many of us will not be able to find new homes within South Pasadena.”

Allen estimated that 10-12 tenants have been sent eviction notices from the new managers of 635 Prospect Ave., the Pasadena-based Anchor Pacifica Group. The building has 32 units.

Residents who’ve received evictions are scrambling to find new housing before the holidays, while many others fear they will be next to be forced out.

In interviews with the Review, several tenants said they feel the move is coordinated so that the new landlord can ensure larger profits before a new rent cap and tenant-protection housing law go into effect in January.

According to GlobeSt.com, a commercial real-estate news website, it was reported in September that a “dissolving partnership” sold the “value-add” property for $11 million to a “local private buyer.’’

The property was noted as 80 percent renovated, “leaving some upside for the buyer,” as well as located “in a non-rent-controlled location.” The property includes a mix of one- and two-bedroom units constructed in 1954.

Anchor Pacifica did not comment on the issue when contacted, with representatives noting they would send word to “the appropriate people.” No response was received by press time.

At the council meeting, Allen was looking to draw attention to what she called a “mass eviction.” She said tenants were “abruptly served … without cause.”

Allen reported Wednesday that Margaret Lin, manager of long-range planning and economic development for the city, reached to her to share that an ad hoc committee of two council members were willing to meet with tenants to discuss the evictions.

This week, Allen and her fellow residents learned via an apartment listing website that a vacant 1 bedroom/1 bathroom at the building is now listed for $2,225 a month. She said her and her husband Steven Allen currently pay $1,650 “for what is essentially the same unit.”

When they moved in around 3 ½ years ago, the rent was $1,300.

On Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new law that will cap rent increases starting Jan. 1, 2020. The Wall Street Journal called it “the most significant piece of housing-related legislation in a year that also saw the shelving of a measure to relax zoning and spur more construction.”

The governor has said the tenant protections and rent caps are necessary to help people who are being forced out of their homes. The law will limit annual rent increases at 5 percent, plus the rate of inflation, and adds some limits for landlords who are planning to evict people.

The tenants facing eviction at 635 Prospect Ave. suspect that the new landlord is making a preemptive move in regard to the law, pushing residents out before the it comes into effect.

“We recognize that it is within the legal rights for the new landlord to do this, but we just want to draw attention to the human beings that are on the other side of their business choices,” Allen to the Review.

After receiving her 60-day termination notice on Sept. 30, Allen felt pushed to share the news with the City Council as it was meeting days later.

“Emotions were running high and it seemed like that was the moment to strike and let the council members know what’s happening in their city,” said Allen. “I think it’s also very timely considering other issues that are being discussed in the city with regards to affordable housing and the lack of it here.’’

Allen noted that the timing of the notices means that residents will be required to move out before or right on the Thanksgiving weekend.

“It paints this horrible picture (that) instead of being able to gather with their families for a national holiday, they’re going to be forced out of their homes, maybe trying to get established somewhere else,” said Allen.

Tenant Larry Estrada has lived in the complex since 2010. He received the 60-day notice on Sept. 30 as well, after receiving a rent increase Aug. 1 from $1,445 to $1,585. He planned on living there until he retired in five years, but now is forced to make other plans. He said he had a good relationship with the previous managers and that they were “easy to get along with.”

Estrada shared suspicions that the new owner and management company are “trying to avoid” the new rent control law.

“It just doesn’t feel good,” said Estrada. “I understand you have property, and, sure, you want to make money on it, but this doesn’t feel good when they’re saying, ‘I’m going to kick you out so I can make $600 more a month now, so, you know, bye.’ ’’

A tenant in her 30s who is married to a man in his 40s spoke to the Review on condition of anonymity. After living at the complex for two years and paying their rent on time, the couple felt forced out and callously ignored by the new management. She shared that the eviction notice took her by surprise. She said Anchor Pacifica never asked any questions of residents, such as if they could do a rent increase. They simply handed out eviction notices.

“The sort of way that it’s written out is really dry and really just aggressive,” she said. “It’s akin coming home to a hate mail. I know that sounds so exaggerated, but that’s what it felt like.”

Skye Hannah, Senior Reporter
Author

Skye Hannah is a senior reporter for the South Pasadena Review and the San Marino Tribune, covering education, government, sports, features and civic issues. Skye previously served as an award-winning senior staff photojournalist and staff writer for five years for the Rome News-Tribune in Rome, Georgia. You can contact Skye with news tips and feedback at shannah@gavilanmedia.com / Twitter @SkyeHannahCA

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