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Tenants decry eviction by landlord, the chair of state housing agency

Tenants facing eviction from Beverly Grove rent-controlled apartments took their complaints against their landlord, a developer who also serves as chairman of the California Housing Finance Agency, to his latest luxury residential project Saturday afternoon.

The group passed out fliers criticizing CHFA chairman Matthew Jacobs in front of an open house for Bento Box 5, a five-unit development on the corner of North Crescent Heights Boulevard and Romaine Street in West Hollywood, with homes listed north of $1.4 million.  

“We want people to know what he’s doing to the neighborhood,” said tenant Steven Luftman, who has been told to vacate his two-bedroom, less-than-$1,800-a-month apartment by Tuesday. “The fact is he’s making his fortune by hurting people.”

About 60 tenants protested Wednesday outside Jacob’s home, Luftman said.

Jacobs did not return messages seeking comment. He told KPCC last week that he plans to go ahead with his plans for the apartment buildings on North Flores Street and Edinburgh Avenue. The buildings are to be razed and replaced with more upscale, modern residences.

Jacobs, a Democrat, was appointed to the CHFA board in 2012 by Gov. Jerry Brown. The agency provides mortgage loans and programs that “create safe, decent and affordable housing opportunities for low- to moderate-income Californians,” according to its website.

The Beverly Grove evictions are allowed under the state’s Ellis Act, a state law that permits the eviction of rent-controlled tenants if owners plan to get out of the rental business or tear down the buildings.

The law has become increasingly controversial as more and more landlords invoke it. It has been used extensively in San Francisco to accommodate the tech crowd’s demand for high-end residences. In Los Angeles, there are about 638,000 rent-controlled properties. In 2013, owners filed to remove about 378 of those from rent control. 

harriet.ryan@latimes.com

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