Catherine Yang has walked into the same metal, gated entrance of her two-story apartment building, squeezed between rows of wooden garages painted orange, for the past nine years.
That’s how long 1761 Park Ave., in Long Beach, has been her home. But sometime within the next two months, she was notified earlier this week, she’ll have to move.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” she said Wednesday, July 31.
On Monday, July 29, she — and many of her neighbors in her building and in the next-door complex, at 1741 Park Ave. — came home to a letter taped to her door with the unmistakable all-caps heading: “60-day notice to move out.”
By the end of the day Tuesday, July 30, more than two dozen units in the two buildings had received the same letter, tenants said.
The property management company, in a statement, said the owners plan to renovate some — but not all — of the units and “promptly” issued the notices once they took control of the property.
The notices are part of what housing advocates say is a citywide issue, with tenants kicked out of their apartments so landlords can renovate the properties. The city, though, has tried to solve the problem: it recently enacted a relocation ordinance that requires property owners to pay renters who get evicted through no fault of their own.
But that, along with the timing of the notices, has added insult to injury, the Park Avenue residents said: If those letters had been issued three days later, on or after Aug. 1, the tenants would have been entitled to relocation assistance payments.
“It seems like they’re trying to get away with something that obviously will save them thousands of dollars, if they try to push this through beforehand,” Chase Arenella, one of the tenants, said, “but this is what that law was fighting against.”
But the property management company said it did not intend to skirt the new law.
“We and the owner will always comply with local laws and ordinances with respect thereto,” Austin Rogers, president of COAR Property Management, said in a statement. “If any future notices implicate the new relocation ordinance, we will comply.”
In June, the City Council approved the new law, which requires landlords to pay tenants who are forced to move through no fault of their own, including because of a 10% or higher rent hike.
The amount property owners have to pay depends on the size of the unit. That number, which will be updated periodically, is $2,706 for a studio; $3,235 for a one-bedroom; $4,185 for a two-bedroom; and $4,500 for a unit with three bedrooms or more.
In an effort to give landlords time to prepare for the new law, the City Council opted not to put it into effect until Thursday, Aug. 1. But the renters in 1741 and 1761 Park Ave. said they believe that buffer simply created a deadline for property owners.
Representatives in the City Attorney’s office acknowledged the ordinance could have been better implemented.
And, they said, they were aware of some, but not many, other instances of tenants being forced to move just ahead of Aug. 1.
“We haven’t gotten a lot of calls one way or the other,” Assistant City Attorney Mike Mais said Wednesday, July 31. “But that type of issue (that the Park Avenue residents are facing) should go away after the ordinance becomes effective on Aug. 1.”
But that’s not definitive. Although the opinion of the City Attorney’s Office is that the law only applies to landlords who issue notices after the law became effective, Mais and Deputy City Attorney Rich Anthony both said the courts may read the ordinance differently, should tenants like Yang choose to sue.
Yang, Arenella and their neighbors have been in touch with lawyers, who have told the tenants there’s not much they can do on the legal front.
But, Arenella said, that won’t stop them from trying.
“I think we just have to keep making noise,” he said. “We’re going to make it hard for them.”
But still, residents who received notices have resigned themselves to their fate: They will, by law, have to move.
Jocelyne Cortez, who moved into the building last week from the Bay Area, was among those who was notified she would have to leave.
She came to the city for Cal State Long Beach’s nursing program and was looking forward to starting classes later this month. Now, she’ll have to find another place and move yet again, on top of what would already be a demanding schedule.
“It’s stressful,” she said. “You have the stress of moving in, and now the stress of having to find a new place. It’s pretty terrible.”
When Cortez stumbled upon 1761 Park Ave. in an online listing, she knew she found a good deal. Cortez was set to pay $500 per month for a shared room in the two-bedroom apartment.
“I thought I got so lucky,” she said.
Her hunt for a new apartment, however, has shown her she’s not likely to be so fortunate the next time around.
“We saw some yesterday,” she said. “You could tell there were roaches and bugs. You either choose to live in a place you can afford, where the conditions aren’t great, or you find something really expensive and are barely making rent.”
Not everyone in those buildings — which comprise 69 units total — has received a notice. But even those who haven’t gotten one say they’re simply waiting in fear for when it will happen.
But it may not.
Fred Sutton, a spokesman for the California Apartment Association, said Wednesday that most landlords don’t issue notices to vacate unless they absolutely have to.
“Housing providers are not in the eviction business,” he said. “They don’t want to vacate units.”
Property owners don’t make money from empty apartments, after all.
And Rogers, for his part, hinted that some of the tenants are safe.
The owners, Rogers said, bought the complex with the intention of “performing extensive repairs and upgrades” to some of the units, which he noted hadn’t been upgraded in 40 years.
“The scope of work required inside the units,” Rogers said, “precludes the possibility of maintaining a habitable space.”
“Only a fraction” of the total units received the notices while the majority of tenants did not.
The owners, according to a change of ownership notice residents received, are three limited-liability companies: Miramar – Park Apartments 1, Miramar – Park Apartments 2 and Miramar – Park Apartments 3.
Those LLCs registered as companies in Delaware in June, and as foreign agents doing business in California in July, according to records from those two states. They have no websites and no contact information listed. The person who signed the state registration forms is from a private law firm; she declined to disclose who actually owns the LLCs.
But, according to documents, they share an office with Miramar Capital, a $5 billion real-estate investment fund. A search of the state business records show multiple LLCs — all with the name “Miramar” in them — listed at that same office, in Santa Monica.
One such LLC, Miramar Logue 400, bears the address of a Mountain View property that Miramar planned to turn into a massive apartment complex. Miramar Capital also purchased properties in Redondo Beach and Torrance in recent years, according its website; the address for those properties also form the names of other Miramar LLCs.
Paul Fuhrman, a managing partner for Miramar Capital, did not return requests for comment. Many of the projects Miramar touts on its website, however, tend to be corporate or higher-end apartment complexes.
Still, Rogers, of COAR Property Management, said the owners want to make things as smooth as possible for tenants.
“We understand that receiving a notice to vacate can be challenging for any tenant,” Rogers said, “and we are prepared to do what we can to accommodate our residents in an effort to make their transition as low-stress as possible.”
That hasn’t soothed residents, though. As the slow trickle of renters came home after work Wednesday evening, a single refrain repeated itself in the roomy courtyard Yang, Arenella, Cortez and their neighbors share:
“Did you get the letter today?”
“No, not yet.”
But for those who haven’t received a notice, there is some solace:
If they do get one, the tenants said, they’ll know some money will be available to them to help ease the burden.