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July Closing Date Set for Legal Aid Office : Housing: The office provides free legal advice to low-income tenants. Money problems are forcing the closing.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Low-income tenants in the Westside needing free legal assistance in resolving housing matters will have one less place to turn to this summer.

The Legal Aid Foundation announced that it will close its Santa Monica office July 1 because of a shortage of funds.

The office on Pico Boulevard nearly closed last year because of money problems, and cut back its hours to 18 a week. But even that was not enough.

Attorney Jack Schwartz, who managed the office, said he was disappointed by the decision, and he forecast a gloomy future for low-income tenants.

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“The number of homeless in the Westside will double, and there will be a tenfold increase in the number of illegal evictions,” Schwartz predicted. “The Westside is going to become whiter and wealthier and with fewer children.”

The Legal Aid office provides free legal assistance for low-income tenants faced with eviction notices, substandard living conditions and other landlord-tenant problems.

Although tenants will have access to the downtown Los Angeles Legal Aid office, most of the slack is expected to be picked up by Westside Legal Services in Santa Monica.

Westside Legal Services, which was formed nine years ago after Central Legal de Santa Monica and Santa Monica Legal Aid Society merged, is also expected to receive city funds that had been going to the Legal Aid Foundation.

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Elena Popp, executive director of Westside Legal Services, said she has asked that the $66,542 from the city that would have gone to Legal Aid for 1990-91 be given to her group. With that money, Popp said, the group plans to hire an additional full-time attorney and a paralegal to take over the clients of Legal Aid.

In addition to aid in landlord-tenant disputes, Legal Services, at Colorado Boulevard and 6th Street, provides free legal aid in areas including domestic violence. The group also receives funding from the city. The group is asking for about $123,000 for 1990-91.

The funding requests will be considered by the City Council during the annual city budget review in June.

But even with the additional money, legal assistance for the Westside’s poor is still inadequate, Popp said.

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“We’ll be expanding our services, but the legal needs of poor people are still severely unmet,” she said.


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