About 100 residents at a retirement home in Westwood Village have until November to move out of their units to allow for an extensive renovation of the building.
Watermark Retirement Communities, a company based in Arizona, bought the Vintage Westwood retirement community building on Tiverton Avenue in October, said Jill Hofer, a spokesperson for the company.
The building will undergo a $50 million renovation so the building can become a regulated health care center. This will allow Watermark to provide residents with new services such as assisted living and memory care.
The building has been under rent control, which means landlords must keep rent at an affordable level and cannot evict residents unless they have a good reason, Hofer said. Some residents said they were concerned whether the building will continue to be under rent control. The city approved Watermark’s renovation plan on Nov. 28.
On Dec. 2, the building’s residents received eviction notices that asked them to move out by March 28. Watermark extended the move out deadline to Nov. 28 after meeting with residents early December. It will also host a fair on Jan. 19 where residents can learn about other retirement homes to stay in during the renovations.
Hofer said Watermark plans to upgrade the building’s plumbing and electrical systems and make it seismically safer. If residents were to stay, the renovations would be inconvenient and unsafe for residents, Hofer said.
Additionally, Watermark will allow residents to return to the building after renovations are complete without having to pay increased rent.
On Dec. 13, the Los Angeles City Council member Paul Koretz, who represents Westwood and the surrounding areas, introduced a motion to the City Council asking the city attorney’s office and other city officials to look into the legality of Watermark’s actions.
Koretz also said the previous owner planned to renovate the building floor-by-floor instead of all at once to ensure residents could stay during renovation. He said the change in plans calls into question whether Watermark’s plans are fully legal.
“The mass evictions of so many elderly residents is likely to create major distress for many of them … and make it difficult (and in some cases unaffordable) for them to relocate,” Koretz said in his motion.
Some Vintage Westwood residents said they were shocked to hear they would have to leave their units and didn’t know where to go.
Sadae Smolave, who has been living in the building for the past five years, said she does not yet know where she will move. She added she has to live near Westwood because she relies on services from the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
“What are we supposed to do?” she said. “We don’t have the money. This has been our home for years.”
Another resident, Lucile Polachek, said she only moved into the building six months ago and knew of the previous owner’s plans to renovate the building floor-by-floor. She said there are few retirement homes near a hospital or grocery stores.
“Many people come to this place thinking that this is where they’ll spend the rest of their lives,” Polachek said. “I hope the owners’ minds will be changed.”
Hofer said Watermark representatives will meet with Koretz and other city officials Tuesday to look at different ways they can approach the seniors’ relocation.