Friday, June 25, 2010

Amerland Executives Arrested For Manslaughter

This entry was posted on June 25, 2010 at 4:31 pm and is filed under LAPD, civil rights, housing victories, human & civil rights, legal, organizing, united nations with tags amerland, jules arthur, la can, amerland group, Becky Dennison, human rights violations, ruben islas charged with manslaughter, amerland executives arrested, casa vallejo fire, martha enriquez, martha isla, affordable housing developers arrested for manslaughter, amerland group owners arrested for elder abuse. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Contact: Becky Dennison 213-840-4664
Pete White 213-434-1594

Los Angeles Affordable Housing Developers Arrested for Northern CA Manslaughter of Tenants

The arrests of Amerland Group founders Ruben Islas and Jules Arthur does not come as a surprise to tenants that still live in properties they control—especially in Los Angeles. For years Amerland has been the center of controversy in Downtown Los Angeles, where the group has been working to gain a stronghold on the area’s residential hotel stock.

Islas, Arthur and three other Amerland executives, [along with Martha Enriquez, and Martha Isla],  were arrested yesterday and charged with two counts of manslaughter, one count of elder abuse and two counts of elder abuse causing death in connection with a fire that resulted in three deaths in a Vallejo retirement home in 2008.

Amerland’s failure to maintain fire protection systems has been an ongoing problem for tenants in the Group’s Downtown Los Angeles buildings. In Spring 2008 Amerland was convicted of 36 counts of fire code violations in their two Los Angeles residential hotels, and tenants of these buildings say the problems persist.

Leonard Woods, a disabled, retired worker who has lived at the Alexandria for more than a decade, said fire alarm systems still sound without cause, and disabled, elderly residents are trapped on top floors.

“When the fire alarm goes off, the elevators stop, and if you can’t get down the steps, you’re stuck,” Woods said. “People in wheelchairs, they’re cooked.”

In May 2008 the Los Angeles City Attorney filed criminal charges against the company because of fire code violations at the Rosslyn and Alexandria residential hotels. The complaint alleged, in part, that Amerland failed to repair broken fire systems and clear blocked exits at the Alexandria Hotel. Also, it alleged that the fire protection system in the Rosslyn Hotel was in such disrepair that Amerland employees were supposed to have 24-hour fire watch patrols ordered by the Los Angeles Fire Department. Amerland was later convicted of the charges.

These criminal charges came in addition to civil claims addressing issues such as illegal evictions, harassment of vocal tenants, disability discrimination, and major habitability issues.

For more information go to
Witnesses are available upon request.

Residents DOJ Complaint Filed on Safer Cities »$1 million settlement from Alexandria Hotel owners, City and CRA to current and former tenants

Low-income tenants at the century-old Alexandria Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, who were subjected to unlawful displacement, shutoffs of heat, water and elevator service, have negotiated a broad-sweeping case settlement in their lawsuit filed in December, 2007. This victory comes after more than three years of tenant organizing to protect their homes, including dozens of LA CAN members. The settlement sets numerous new policies and also provides compensation to the 10 most harmed tenants as well as more than 100 tenants who were wrongfully displaced.

The case of the Alexandria Hotel is much more than the classic “landlord preys on weak and vulnerable tenants” narrative. Those cases are usually characterized by slumlords, in isolation, failing to provide basic services and habitable environments for tenants who are usually poor. In the case of the Alexandria Hotel, the City of Los Angeles and the Community Redevelopment Agency were aware of the problems almost immediately after Amerland Group took control of the property. Tenants consistently raised their voices to City officials and City Councilmembers about the violations of their housing and human rights, yet the City and CRA failed to remedy those situations. But a strong group of organized low-income tenants would not give up, we continued to stand up to the political and developer interests in creating a “new downtown” and, finally, have achieved victory.

The publicly-funded project at the Alexandria, as originally approved by the CRA, was intended to revitalize the property for the benefit of current tenants. However, it became clear pretty quickly that “improving” the property involved more than new paint and kitchenettes—it also meant getting rid of the original tenants, mostly African American, extremely poor people. In response, tenants made numerous visits to Councilmember Huizar and his staff, testified publicly at the CRA Commission (because it was the local funding agency) and City Council, contacted the Mayor’s Office on multiple occasions, collected evidence to support their claims, and educated and organized dozens of tenants to fight against the mass displacement.

Instead of help from City officials, tenants and organizers were routinely ignored, targeted and/or slandered by both the developer and city officials. For example:

Þ There were emails between the developer and City officials accusing tenants and LA CAN staff of lying, drug dealing, and other things to discredit the testimony of poor people

Þ After the problems at the Alexandria were well-documented and shared, letters of support from local and state elected officials, including the Mayor and Councilmember Perry, were provided for a second project by the developer

Þ High ranking LAPD officers attended extended CRA board meetings to provide public support for the developer to off-set complaints made by tenants

Þ Multiple LAPD officers attended eviction court to testify against current tenants, although there were no convictions to report

Again, tenants did not give up in the face of adversity. LA CAN members continued to document the problems and worked with our legal partners at LAFLA to put together an amazing legal team to support the efforts of tenants. This settlement provides some long-deserved justification and compensation for tenants who stood up for their rights, faced eviction, endured humiliation and name calling by Councilmember Cardenas and others, but finally won their David and Goliath story. It also includes policy changes at the Alexandria and the CRA that will prevent similar situations from occurring in the future. LA CAN is proud of all of our members who participated in this fight, especially those who lived at the Alexandria.

Links to some media coverage:

Press release:
This entry was posted on February 13, 2009 at 7:10 pm and is filed under housing victories, human & civil rights, legal, organizing with tags skid row, human rights, amerland, CRA, alexandria hotel, la can, slumlords, downtown los angeles, amerland group, logan property management. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.