Festival of Books
Everything you need to know about the Festival of Books
Opinion Opinion L.A.
Opinion

Why pay a mortgage when you can get away with a bootleg apartment?

Forget paying a mortgage or rent! If amnesty is granted for bootleg apartments, here's where I'm moving

Every year in Los Angeles, the city's housing department finds 600 to 700 bootleg apartments created by enterprising property owners who have not bothered to obtain permits. According to a Times article by Emily Alpert Reyes, this activity has brought together an "unusual alliance of landlords and tenants" who want the city to issue an amnesty for those units that meet safety codes.

"Landlords argue that many of these nonconforming apartments are perfectly safe. And tenant advocates say they often provide rare patches of affordable housing in a city of whopping rents," Reyes wrote.

Current practice is to "evict tenants and rip out the unit" after such apartments are discovered, according to Amos Hartson, chief counsel and director of legal services at the Inner City Law Center. Both sides see this as a waste of perfectly good housing.

Reyes wrote: "The details are still being worked out, but backers say the idea is simple: Landlords could come forward and fix plumbing, wiring or other issues without enduring a lengthy, expensive process to comply with city codes. Tenants could avoid being displaced from decent apartments."

Not everyone is cool with this. "If you follow this lawless path, you'd very quickly see the quality of life deteriorate for residents in lawful, permitted apartments," said Steve Sann, chairman of the Westwood Community Council. "It's a fiction to say you can cram more people in the same space and nobody loses out."

Though seemingly novel, there are precedents for retroactively legitimizing living spaces that began outside the normal legal strictures. New York's SoHo district, now a tony tourist neighborhood choking with high-end boutiques, was populated during the bad old 1980s days by artists roughing it in former industrial lofts, sometimes without running water, much less certificates of occupancy. A "loft law" allows people who can prove they've been in their now-seven-figure spaces since the "C.H.U.D." period to keep them. Also in New York, squatters have occasionally been allowed to keep "their" homes -- sometimes even collecting city loans to help them make improvements.

In Los Angeles, the police won't arrest a squatter unless there's proof a crime has been committed -- and he or she can be evicted only after a civil proceeding, which can take many months. But that's an ad hoc, not a systemic, policy.

Which brings us to Sann's point. If anyone can create a bootleg apartment anywhere he or she wants, aren't those of us who pay rent and mortgages -- not to mention real estate taxes -- suckers to play by the rules? The median price of a three-bedroom house in L.A. County is $668,000. Wouldn't it be smarter to set ourselves up anywhere we want, then get legal later?

For this cartoon, I fantasize about moving into the ultimate view spot: the top of the Hollywood sign. Because the setting doesn't have a lot of intrinsic detail, I worked a little harder than usual on the foliage.

Follow Ted Rall on Twitter @tedrall

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • California lawmakers should pass the vaccination bill
    California lawmakers should pass the vaccination bill

    Anti-vaccination parents showed up last week in Sacramento threatening to leave the public schools en masse, and the Senate Education Committee crumbled like a batch of overbaked cookies. Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), who has written legislation that would mandate vaccines for almost all public...

  • Courts should strike down bans on abortion method in Kansas, Oklahoma
    Courts should strike down bans on abortion method in Kansas, Oklahoma

    The latest attempts to restrict abortion rights don't even bother to pretend to protect women's health — as various state legislatures argued they were doing with recent laws requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The new efforts go straight for the drama.

  • Mountain lion P-22 should have a real name; bring on the suggestions!
    Mountain lion P-22 should have a real name; bring on the suggestions!

    When we wrote an editorial last week suggesting that the mountain lion P-22, who strolled out of his usual Griffith Park habitat and temporarily hunkered down in the crawl space of a nearby Los Feliz house, should be given a proper name, our readers took up the challenge.

  • Hillary Clinton tees up an argument for opposing the TPP
    Hillary Clinton tees up an argument for opposing the TPP

    You know that old joke about how to tell when a politician is lying?

  • Death in the bookmobile
    Death in the bookmobile

    The Riverside County bookmobile came to the Alpha Beta parking lot on Fridays from 2:30 to 4:45, and I would sit there on the long strip of carpet in the air-conditioned hum reading books not appropriate at all for me, full of death — until the poor librarian who not only drove the coach but also...

  • Public needs cold, hard numbers on use of deadly force
    Public needs cold, hard numbers on use of deadly force

    California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris wasn’t campaigning for U.S. Senate on Jan. 5, the day of her inauguration for her second term. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s retirement announcement was still a few days away. But even as Harris was making promises for the next four years, you got the sense that her...

Comments
Loading