If there’s ever a Top 10 list for America’s most notorious billionaire landlords, a spot in the top five will be reserved for Donald Sterling. For years, Sterling, the former Los Angeles Clippers owner, has been known as a shady, racist, unscrupulous figure among tenants rights groups. His most public disgrace was getting thrown out of the National Basketball Association for making racist remarks. Now he’s back at it again — trying to evict lower-income veterans.
On July 18, NBC4 in Los Angeles reported that Donald Sterling bought two apartment buildings in LA’s Koreatown and quickly moved to inform tenants that their government housing vouchers would no longer be accepted as payment for their rent — effectively evicting them. Among those tenants are seven veterans.
“I don’t have nowhere to go,” Navy veteran Aaron Draper told NBC4, “don’t know what I’m going to do.”
Joe Aguila, another veteran, said, “They way I see it, I did my part and fought for my country honorably. I’m going to school. I’m not a criminal. Why would you want to put us on the street like we’re worthless?”
Thankfully, Coalition for Economic Survival Executive Director Larry Gross stood up for the veterans — and pushed back. He’s been battling Sterling for decades.
“Sterling is one of California’s worst landlords,” Gross tells us, “with a history of discrimination against people of color and low-income, Section 8 rent subsidy renters.”
Sterling, who resides in swank mansions in Beverly Hills and Malibu, made his fortune by owning more than 160 apartment complexes in the LA area. His riches helped him to buy a professional basketball team, the Los Angeles Clippers. But the billionaire lost the team and was banned for life from the NBA in 2014 after numerous racist remarks he said to his mistress went public.
Immediately after Gross heard about Donald Sterling’s newest shady move, the activist learned that the buildings where the veterans live are regulated under LA’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance, a form of rent control. According to the ordinance, landlords can’t cancel the use of government vouchers without just cause.
Rent control, in other words, saved the day.
For now, the veterans can still use their government vouchers and won’t be evicted. Sterling may try to cook something up in the future, but rent control gave them protections they would not otherwise have.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti promised to fight for the tenants, telling NBC4, “What [Sterling’s] doing is illegal, but it’s wrong, too.”
Such devious tactics by Donald Sterling and other wealthy landlords — rent gouging is rampant all over California — are why residents, activists, and labor unions are forming a powerful grassroots movement to pass Proposition 10 in November. The California Democratic Party has endorsed Prop 10.
“Passing Proposition 10 would open the door to more rent control laws with increased protections for tenants,” says Gross, “enabling them to thwart outrageous and heartless attempts by landlords like Sterling to displace tenants.”
Billionaire landlords such as Sterling and Trump-linked Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman will do anything to make more billions, disregarding the hard-working people that they hurt.
We must band together — and fight back. Vote Yes on 10.