It’s very hard to do something that is for the best when you know some people will be hurt.
We’re talking about the fact that the Los Angeles City Council has been unable to find the will to do something about all the illegal boardinghouses springing up across the city, which have unfortunately become home to many poor people.
Because they are not regulated, many of these illegal boardinghouses are operating without the required health and safety permits and inspections. The operators of these places are cramming people into living spaces built to accommodate fewer residents, and in many cases, reaping big profits without insuring the health and welfare of their tenants, or the surrounding community for that matter.
When discovered, many of these boarding facilities have been found to be infested with insects, rats and mold, and to contain dangerous electrical wiring, no insulation and inadequate plumbing. Two people were killed last month in a fire at a boardinghouse in Pasadena where 19 people were reported to be living.
With large numbers of often unrelated people living in close proximity, unsanitary conditions seem to proliferate. Psychologists say these conditions create added stress and anger, and at times force people to violently act out.
We recognize that not all the owners of these boardinghouses are greedy opportunists. Some are just regular people facing difficult financial times and struggling to make ends meet, including paying the mortgage on the property. The tenants in these places usually are not to blame either, they just can’t find another place to live that they can afford.
We have been hearing a lot in recent years about the large number of home foreclosures and declining values. What we haven’t been hearing about, but what many people are struggling with, is the large increase in apartment rents that is forcing some people to live in their cars, on the street, or in boardinghouses like the one in Northridge where four people were found shot to death on Sunday.
Had it not been for that tragic killing, the appalling conditions in the unpermitted two-story boardinghouse in a quiet neighborhood may have continued unchecked, posing a danger to the residents and the people living nearby.
So while we sympathize with the people who feel they have no choice but to live in one of these facilities, it is time for the members of the Los Angeles City Council to put on their big boy/girl hats and address the growing problem of illegal boardinghouses.
Given our economy and lack of affordable housing, an outright ban may not be the solution, but certainly developing regulations and enforcement of health and safety standards is an imperative.
The residents in these facilities deserve better living conditions, as do the neighbors forced to endure the extra trash and lack of street parking caused by the added density.
We suggest that the city get to work on regulations that will allow them to move people in these facilities to temporary housing, and the owners of these illegal boardinghouses help foot the housing bill and the work needed to bring these places up to code.
It’s also time for Los Angeles’ Dept. of Building and Safety to start investigating all complaints from the public related to boardinghouses.
There is no time to delay, so get on with it.