By CHRISTIAN MONTERROSA and TRILBY BERESFORD
Close to 50 protesters returned to the Pacific Palisades Farmers Market on Sunday, June 3, in an ongoing dispute between hundreds of home renters and Palisadian landlord Lisa Ehrlich.
The tenants, who live in apartment complexes owned by Ehrlich in the largely Hispanic neighborhood of Westlake, erected tents and marched down Bowdoin Street.
The gathering was part of a wave of Los Angeles rent protests that have attracted national media attention: The Washington Post compared it to rent strikes of the early 1990s.
Ehrlich did not respond to requests for comment.
On two occasions protestors gathered outside Ehrlich’s home in a gated community in The Highlands, but as they could not even see the house, never mind disturb the targeted resident, they have refocused their efforts at the farmers market.
Assisted by the Los Angeles Tenants Union and joined by some members of the Democratic Socialists of America, the residents have put pressure on Ehrlich to fix issues with the building after raising their rent prices by hundreds of dollars.
After receiving notices of eviction for not paying, the tenants countersued Ehrlich for substandard living conditions and negligence.
On Sunday, the protesters again stood at the entrance of the farmers market on Bowdoin Street, passing out their usual “Lisa Evicts Children” flyers and holding signs that read “Stop the Evictions” and “Lisa, Where is Your Humanity?”
Ehrlich is both a stakeholder in the Burlington apartments and its legal representative.
“For her to raise the rent and throw these people because she wants more money is just pure greed and it’s a lack of recognizing the humanity in fellow people,” said Jacob Woocher, one of the protest organizers from the LA Tenants Union.
“We think it’s important to tell her community what’s going on … She needs to know that her community members are learning about what she is doing.”
Among residents, the stories varied. Some showed video footage of yellow water coming from their sink and insects huddled inside of a lamp fixture. Others told stories of a time the elevator fell with them in it, causing minor injuries.
Ehrlich has received citations for multiple violations from the city, according to public records. Tenants said she has fixed those problems, but more continue to arise.
Elena Popp, an attorney at the Eviction Defense Network, has been fighting on the tenants behalf in court and leading the negotiations. Popp told the Palisadian-Post that attorneys for 1979 Ehrlich Investment Trust have been trying to negotiate with tenants on a case-by-case basis, which they have refused to do.
Since the protests began, outside of Ehrlich’s Highlands home and at the farmers market, she has grown increasingly frustrated, rescinding an offer she had made to the tenants, according to sources close to the situation.
“The strike resulted in much improvement at the building,” Popp said, adding that her clients are “ready, willing, and able to pay the rent withheld” as long as the right measures are put in place to both keep the building up to code and a guarantee that the rent will not “dramatically” increase in the future.
At a trial hearing on June 4, the court assigned judges to no more than three cases each and will now begin jury selection.
The Burlington Unidos have promised to continue the protests in the Palisades and rent strikes until an agreement is reached.
They are motivated by the renters in Boyle Heights who challenged their apartment building’s owner for almost a year when he threatened a substantial rent increase.
A settlement early in 2018 encouraged other tenants to form organized groups and go on strike when they see fit, even when the risk of eviction looms. Or a long bus journey to the Palisades.