Adrienne Boswell is a web designer in Glendale. She’s been in the area for decades, having attended Immaculate Heart High School in Hollywood. Similar to Sarah Tenorino, she has extensive experiences with landlords wanting to increase rent but not maintain units. She’s a veteran in the rent control fight, having gone to court with a landlord, and witnessed friends leave the area due to housing crises.
Kate: What has your experience been in the housing affordability crisis?
Adrienne:My main experience has been with landlords who want to charge you a lot of rent and not keep places up. I have fought them. I have had a situation where a landlord tried to evict me because I had a child, and said there were too many people. It was actually retaliatory and I won that.
I had a brand new baby, and I noticed there were black flecks in the water. I went to the manager and I went to the landlord, but I never got a satisfactory answer. So finally I went to the City. I said, this is happening and I need help. They sent a very nice man out…and when he came into the building, he happened to notice that there were workers working in the one of the lower units. It was a one bedroom apartment they were converting into two singles—which you can’t do—but the landlord was a little weird anyway.
After they had found out that I had called the City, I got a notice of eviction that said there were too many people in my apartment, that my son made too many people.
What happened was, after they had found out that I had called the City, I got a notice of eviction that said there were too many people in my apartment, that my son made too many people.
I said okay, fine, I’ll see you in court. When I got to the courthouse, I had all my documentation, including that things were backdated, they had postmarked things with the wrong date, you name it. They had really messed up. It was obviously retaliatory. They made the letter the day before the city inspector had come, but they forgot that the postmark, which showed the true date, was actually mailed. It’s the postmark that’s important, not the day that’s on the letter, legally, and I knew that.
So when I saw the lawyer, I said, ‘Here, what are you going to do about this? This is not right, this is retaliatory because I called the City.’ The lawyer knew there was no way in the world he could go before a judge because he’d lose, so they wound up giving me $5,000 to move, and I did. And I knew that landlords will do stuff like that and its just terrible.
We have a real serious problem; we have a crisis with housing. Landlords know that, so they’re like, ‘Okay, I’m going to jack up the price. What’s this person gonna do? They’re going to become homeless, and I don’t care.’
Another person I spoke to said people sort of look at their properties as spreadsheets, or that people who live in their unit are just sources of income.
Adrienne: It’s exactly what they think. We have very few landlords who actually really care. I know one landlord who really cares about her tenants and she actually goes, every year, and at Christmas buys presents for every single one of her tenants. I used to work with her.
It’s unusual to have a landlord who really cares. Especially you don’t have as many individual landlords as you do corporate landlords, and corporations really could give an ‘eff.’ I’m not going to say the real world but you know what I mean. As a matter of fact, a very good friend of mine, who now moved to Oregon, was the manager of an apartment building. It was her and her husband and her three kids, and they had the corner patio apartment with a beautiful patio. It was really nice. They had been managing that apartment for 10 years when the building got sold.
The new owner came to see all the units, including theirs. The next thing they knew, they had an eviction notice. The manager, the manager! The reason why they wanted them out was because they could get a ton of money for the unit. They started concocting stuff, like ‘Oh, you didn’t do this, and you didn't do that.’ And she was like, ‘Well, yeah, I did.’
I told my friend, you have to be really, really careful now because they could take you to court. They just wound up moving to Oregon, where they got a much better situation. Those are the things that happen and that’s really bad.
Rent Control Series Articles:
- The Fight for Rent Control in Pasadena, by Eushrah Hossain
- Rent Control's Human Face, overview by Dick Price
- Nicole Hodgson: Rent Control's Human Face: Hanging On, Moving On, by Kate Clark
- Bob Roberts: Rent Control's Human Face: Taking It to the People, by Kate Clark
- Sarah Tenorio: Rent Control's Human Face: Making Change at Home, by Kate Clark
- Mike Van Gorder: Rent Control's Human Face: Couch Surfing at 85, by Kate Clark
- Adrienne Boswell: Rent Control's Human Face: Facing Retaliation, by Kate Clark
What do you think is a good solution, to increase the supply of units, or…?
Adrienne: We definitely need to increase the supply of units, because we have a situation like in downtown Los Angeles. Literally every street has at least one one tent, at least one. There’s that lack of housing downtown, but there are plenty of high-rises that charge $4,000 a month. Who can afford $4,000 a month for rent? Nobody.
You have a lot of lower-income people who are working at, you know, Burger King, and they have a family, and where are those people supposed to live? That’s why those people are living in tents. So you have to have some type of situation where you say to a developer ‘Okay, if you want to build a six-story building, then 10% of that has to be for low-income people.’ Also, making things multiple-use, so you may have some shops downstairs, and you have some apartments upstairs.
The other thing is that, there are building coding things that are going on that make it kind of difficult, be-cause when you are building with steel, as opposed to building with wood—because wood is a lot cheaper—you’re going to want to have huge rents to pay off the damn steel. So maybe build with wood, and maybe not have these huge 20-story buildings. Make it four or five stories, then you can use wood.
I feel like they're encouraging development, but no developers want to develop non-luxury units.
Adrienne: It’s costly to do it, but eventually, they’re going to get their money back. We need to give developers incentives to develop, we have areas that are designated for single-family homes and right now that’s the way that is. A neighborhood is all single-family homes and they're all one-story, then they have to stay like that. But we can’t do that anymore, we need to say, okay, if there’s a property and there’s a building, then, okay, they should build up. We need to be able to build up, because we need room for more people. We have, I forget what the numbers are of people that are coming into California and Los Angeles, a lot.
Way more people than are leaving—there are a lot leaving—but there are way more people that are coming and we don’t have enough room for them. They wind up literally in tents on the street. It’s hard to find a job when you’re sleeping in a tent.
Kate Clark is a junior at Occidental College studying psychology and politics. Originally from Philadelphia, she hopes to stay in California for a while. She initially became interested in social justice issues after tutoring elementary school students in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward. She has a variety of academic and non-academic interests, including journalism, running, the brain, and law.