Jerry Linnett’s Lincoln Boulevard apartment is about the size of a parking space. A bed, a television, a mini fridge and a toaster oven take up the entire 88 square feet.
The small quarters might feel cramped if it wasn’t for the solitude. From the outside, there is little sign that 1441 Lincoln Boulevard even exists. The building is set far back from the busy street, hidden behind a vape store and a doggy daycare. Someone once hastily spray painted the address on the bricks facing the back ally.
Inside the worn structure looks just as deserted. Up and down the hallway, plywood slats cover door frames punctuated with fire engine red “no trespassing” signs. On the other end of the hallway, there lives just one other tenant. At least Linnett does not have to share his bathroom anymore.
To Linnett, who is 64 years old and on disability, his meager home has provided shelter and stability. For $500 a month, the space was supposed to be only temporary. For years, 1441 Lincoln served as transitional housing for the homeless lucky enough to get to the top of the list for Santa Monica’s highly desired affordable housing supply.
However, a paperwork error meant Linnett got off the streets but never into a permanent place. As long as he has a roof over his head he can afford, he has a slim chance of getting into a different building.
“There’s been fifty people in and out of here since I moved in,” Linnett said. “I’m just stuck. I kind of fell through the cracks.”
In 2012, NMS Properties purchased the building and businesses on the lot as well the one next door, and began plans to bulldoze the existing properties to make way for five stories of market-rate apartments. There will be underground parking and retail stores along the sidewalk. It is only one of about twenty NMS projects in Santa Monica.
“We don’t have a timeline to begin construction,” NMS spokesman Eric Rose said. “There are two tenants at the building and both tenants have expressed an interest in leaving.”
Designs for the building recently went before the Architectural Review Board. In a few months, they will go to the Planning Commission. NMS cannot begin construction, however, until the rent-controlled tenants have left.
“The City requires tenant relocation assistance that the property owner is obliged to follow,” said City spokesperson Constance Farrell. “Any displaced tenants who qualify for affordable housing would receive priority on the master waiting list for available units.”
In the meantime, Linnett’s future is uncertain. NMS, which calls itself the City’s largest supplier of affordable housing, has offered to buy him out – included in the deal was an $800 a month apartment on one of their other properties and a five-figure lump sum. The apartment’s rent alone would consume eighty percent of Linnett’s fixed monthly income. The lump sum was not enough to ensure stability for the remaining years of his life. An attorney from Legal Aid counseled him to turn down the deal.
In Santa Monica, NMS controls 615 units that have to be designated for low-income tenants, according to a recent audit by city staff.
“I love this City. I’ve been here since 1977,” Linnett said. “These people are like a cancer in the City.”
In the meantime, Linnett has become an expert on code compliance and seismic safety issues. He can proudly show-off a transcript for courses at UCLA in building codes and earthquake requirements. He believes the City missed his building on their recent list of properties requiring seismic retrofits. If he’s right, NMS will have two years to retrofit the building. He says it’s been a struggle to get repairs and earlier this year both tenants went a week without hot water when an old pipe broke.
In his lonely corner of Lincoln, Linnett is still grateful for the roof over his head that is keeping him off the streets. For now, there is no other way he can afford to stay in the city he has called home for decades.