OK, I have to admit I was thrilled when our landlord informed us that he was selling our building. This was a guy who would tell us how much he appreciated us as tenants and then — mere days or even hours later — threaten to evict us over some imaginary breach of our lease or Seinfeldian personal slight. Basically, he was nuts, and over the years, we grew to hate dealing with him.
However, my relief over being rid of the bipolar landlord was short-lived.
You see, I live in Los Angeles, which is very tenant-friendly. For example, rent control exists, and owners can’t just boot people out if they feel like it.
However, there are ways to send renters packing — even those who pay their rent on time and are model tenants.
One way is to buy a building and then move an immediate family member in. Now, this isn’t some vile loophole. It makes sense that if you buy a building, you or your kid can live in it.
But legal and ethical isn’t always the same thing, as you may have heard.
In our case, the new owners took possession of our building and promptly deflected any questions about their intentions — good or otherwise.
We were concerned about this for a very real reason. Our neighborhood, as I’ve written, has morphed from skuzzy to somewhat nice to flat-out hipster, all in a brief blink of time. We moved in seven years ago, when the area was still affordable, and young guys in Civil War-era beards weren’t clamoring for more coffee bars.
I still love living here, and the rapid gentrification hasn’t been so egregious that the neighborhood has lost all its character.
Of course, old-timers might disagree with me. For example, our neighbors have been here for 15 years. And as a lesbian couple, they were at ground zero in prodding the area from seedy enclave to happenin’ LA hotspot.
Yes, let’s just get this out of the way. There is never a better development for a downtrodden neighborhood than the news that gay couples are moving in.
Our friends are a big reason why this neighborhood is so popular. They worked to turn this area into a beautiful urban garden.
And the new owners have responded by kicking them out.
Our landlords have announced that their daughter, in her twenties, will be moving into our friends’ apartment.
It’s hard to view this development as anything less than the following scenario:
Spoiled Millennial: Daddy, I want to live in that neighborhood that was divvy, but now it’s all hip and trendy.
Rich Daddy: You’re in luck, sugar plum. I just expanded my vast real estate empire by buying a building there.
Spoiled Millennial: So I can have my own place, rent-free?
Rich Daddy: Of course. All we have to do is kick out the couple who has lived there for 15 years and helped make the place great in the first place. Consider them gone.
Spoiled Millennial: Goody goody. Thanks, Daddy.
Is that a bit much? No, it’s not. Because regardless of how the actual conversation went down and the tone of voice used and the amount of angst that occurred, the result is the same.
The rich kid wanted our friends’ place, and she got it. And our friends are packing up.
I’ve written before about gentrification, and how it tends to hit black and Latino neighborhoods harder. Indeed, there is a large Hispanic population in our neighborhood, but it has been dropping steadily for a few years now.
In our case, some very rich white people have decided that our area is now desirable, and they will ultimately take whatever they want.
Damn, maybe we were better off with the crazy landlord.