It’s well known that the City of Los Angeles actively supports gentrification and thereby transfers an appalling amount of wealth to real estate developers. But it might not be as well known that a lot of people who aren’t developers, many of them not even in the real estate business, also with the active support of the City, make a lot of money from gentrification. E.g. the official police garages1 or the vast array of PR consultants who function as the set dressers of gentrification by “repositioning” so-called “up and coming neighborhoods” to make them cozy and attractive to the new residents.2
And very recently I learned about a new3 aspect of this process related to the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Citywide Nuisance Abatement Program. The City uses its municipal power to bring such suits to directly support the gentrification of specific neighborhoods. For instance see the (apparently) ongoing prosecution of a nuisance case against Nipsey Hussle’s property at Crenshaw and Slauson As with the police garages and the neighborhood branding consultants, here too there are nondevelopers, in this case property management companies and private security patrols, making good money from gentrification with the open assistance of the City of Los Angeles.
Before the City Attorney files a nuisance abatement suit they send the owner a demand letter insisting on a series of costly and complex conditions to be met in order to head off the impending lawsuit.4 One of the most egregious of these is a demand that property owners install live security cameras and give LAPD open access to the live feed. Another, used more for commercial and multifamily properties than single family, is a requirement that the owner hire private security guards and/or professional property managers.
Both of these are discussed, by the way, and under oath5 to boot, by three LAPD officers who were deposed by a property owner defending against a City nuisance abatement action. But the most surprising thing I learned from the depos is that the City Attorney’s office actually recommends specific private security patrols or property managers to targeted property owners.
The process seems to go something like this. The City Attorney sends a demand letter to a property owner asking forcefully for a meeting to discuss ways to stop an actual lawsuit. At the meeting the City Attorney lists conditions, among them hiring security or management. And, I imagine the City lawyer saying, here’s a list of companies that of course we don’t endorse, but given that we’re going to sue you and take away your property if we feel like it, why would you risk choosing a company that’s not on our list?
OK, not saying the last part out loud, but you can bet that the property owner hears it just fine. This all inspired me to send yet another CPRA request to the ever-patient, almost saintly Deputy City Attorney Bethelwel Wilson, asking for records that would reveal the names of these blessed companies. After a little of the usual back and forth Wilson sent me an email containing a list of companies6 and a really implausible but also fascinating explanation of what goes on:
Good Evening Mr. [Kohlhaas],
Our abatement unit has identified the following companies whose successful track records have been highlighted (though NOT an endorsement of their services) to property owners facing possible abatement proceedings with our office:
So you see, the City Attorney hauls these property owners into a meeting with threats of lawsuits backed by inexhaustible public funds. They tell the owners that they have a chance to avoid this fate by hiring a property manager and a security patrol. They don’t endorse any, but they have a list of ones they claim have been “successful”, although they don’t say what they’ve been successful at.
Then what? The property owners are going to hire ones that aren’t on the list? When failure to please the City Attorney has such dire consequences? This is like a protection racket, but even worse since there’s not even a promise that paying will stop the pain. Just an equivocal hint that paying money to the City Attorney’s friends7 might bring “success,” whatever that might mean in this context. That’s the story and here’s the list of the City Attorney’s favorite property managers and security guards:
North Oak Property Management
20501 Ventura Blvd.
Woodland Hills, CA 91364
Joel Rodstein/Steve Rodstein
West One Realty and Property Management, Inc. 115 W. California Blvd., Suite 168
Pasadena, CA 91105
LRS Realty and Management, Inc.
9400 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Suite 110 Chatsworth, CA 91311
Beachfront Property Management
Contact: Kyle Kazan, (562) 981-7777, firstname.lastname@example.org
Private Patrol Company:
American Executive Security
Contact: Gary Davis, (562) 668-2687
- These are private towing companies who have exclusive contracts to tow for the City. Towing of cars and RVs increases with gentrification, which pays off for developers but the police garages make a ton of money from it as well.
- A business improvement district hired the consultant in the linked-to post, but BIDs are created by the City, funded by the City, and controlled by the City. BID actions are City actions. Happy to debate this in the comments.
- I mean new to me, of course.
- See e.g. Slauson Girl’s story on the letter sent to Hussle’s partner David Gross.
- For what that’s worth with cops.
- It’s pretty strange that he sent the list in an email, by the way. The CPRA explicitly doesn’t require agencies to create records, and usually Wilson is really into these weird technicalities, so much so that if he can’t find an appropriate technicality or two to blow up into an unauthorized denial he will go ahead and invent one or two. But this time he just created a new record and sent it to me in an email without even printing it out on paper, xeroxing it a million times, and then rescanning it to PDF. I wonder what’s up?! Probably nothing. I wasn’t kidding about him being saintly. Wrong about the law mostly, but very patient, mostly.
- Metaphorical friends, don’t know about actual personal relationships.