The Ellis Act is a California law that allows landlords to get out of the rental business by evicting all their rent-controlled tenants and converting the building for some other use (a hotel, condos, a dirt lot), but in practice it’s been used as a ruthless tool of gentrification, sweeping through cities to push out lower-income renters in favor of people with richer interests. The law proves especially handy in places with strong protections for renters, like San Francisco and Santa Monica (its use is on the rise all over Los Angeles too).
The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project has previously shown how Ellis swept through San Francisco, helping to create the hypergentrification that has made it shockingly expensive over the last several years; now they’ve released a similar animated map for Santa Monica, where Ellis evictions have shot up by 75 percent just between 2013 and 2015 (the map was made with help from the Pico Neighborhood Association and the city’s Rent Control Board).
The map tracts Ellis evictions over time since the act passed in 1986—since then, tenants in 2,078 units have been kicked out of their homes, but Ellis use tends to spike in boom times, when real estate is bubbling. You can see that on the map in the early nineties, around the turn of the century, and in the mid-aughts. As the bubble has returned in Southern California, the evictions have begun to rocket once again. According to the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, “the most egregious example is Village Trailer Park, that resulted in more than 100 rent controlled units and the displacement of dozens of long-time elderly residents of Santa Monica.” (It’s being replaced by a fancy mixed-use complex.)
The Project also suggests that the development boom that has sprung up around the forthcoming Expo Line in Santa Monica has not focused enough on protections for low-income families who have been living in the area and who “are the most reliable users of public transportation.” They add that “with the increase in property values & market pressures in Santa Monica along with TOD, we expect that there will be increase in evictions and resident displacement which will no doubt continue the elimination of rent controlled apartments.”