In the San Fernando Valley, in a middle-class enclave known as Valley Village, residents are under siege by developers who destroy affordable housing units in order to build small-lot subdivision condominiums and other luxury housing — a troubling pattern that’s happening across Los Angeles in both working- and middle-class neighborhoods.
When one visits Valley Village, which sits east of Sherman Oaks, the vacant lots of torn down residential buildings look eerily similar to Venice, where developers are also sending in demolition crews to make way for luxury projects at an extraordinary rate.
Whether it’s Valley Village or Venice, the same result takes place — working- and middle-class residents are shoved out of their affordable units and often find themselves forced away from their longtime neighborhoods. At the same time, developers make millions in profits.
The most recent example is a Valley Village block at Hermitage Avenue and Weddington Street, which is represented by L.A. City Councilman Paul Krekorian of District 2. The intersection became a major news story when a developer demolished the former home of Marilyn Monroe days before the city of L.A. was set to decide upon its historical status.
Now only a cyclone fence stands at the property. Another cyclone fence surrounds a large empty lot where residential units once stood down the street.
Then there’s Urban-Blox, a development firm based in L.A. It wants to demolish a number of affordable residential buildings across the street from the former home of Marilyn Monroe. It’s where longtime Valley Village resident Jen Getz lives.
“All it takes is one project,” says Getz, “and there goes the neighborhood. It’s a domino effect.”
She adds, “We feel we’re completely under siege. Valley Village is under attack.”
Urban-Blox wants to replace the affordable dwellings with 26 small-lot subdivision condominiums, which will go for at least $600,000 each. That’s too much money for Getz and her neighbors, but the developer may end up with a minimum of $15.6 million in condo sales.
Urban-Blox also wants the city of L.A. to hand over a public street so the developer can link two properties and build the 26 condos — and make huge bucks off the project. It’s a crazy transaction made worse since street parking is limited in the neighborhood, and, so far, it appears city officials are not seeking any form of compensation for the street.
“It’s criminal what’s going on,” says Getz, who’s been fighting the project with the help of community activist Rick Abrams and others.
“The city is no longer an independent arbiter,” says Abrams, who’s undertaken land-use battles in Hollywood. “They lie and deceive on the behalf of the developer.”
The South Valley Area Planning Commission recently approved Urban-Blox’s project, including giving the public street to the developer. Now it’ll work its way through L.A. City Hall — Krekorian officially supports the project.
“There are people’s lives at stake,” says Getz. “We’re not little dots on a map.”
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