Editor’s note: The Daily Press has agreed to withhold the name of the author due to concerns of personal safety.
I’ve lived in Ocean Park for 25 years, and it was wonderful until early 2012. That’s when Jerry (not his real name), who lives in the building next door, committed acts of domestic violence on his girlfriend. (Neither of the two was on the lease.) It all culminated when the girlfriend hanged herself in the carport in front of his truck.
With Jerry’s mother being the leaseholder, Jerry was raised in the apartment. Unfortunately, over many years he’s shown dangerous signs of psychotic behavior. Jerry was in a lock-down mental hospital in the valley and we thought our nightmare was over but, like a bad horror movie, Jerry, even though he’s been evicted, is back in the neighborhood harassing residents.
In 2012 Jerry began screaming, ranting and swearing incoherently at no one in particular. He would rage at all hours of the day or night. My neighbors and I called the police but they wouldn’t arrest Jerry and noted that he would be out the next day.
The yelling escalated and was then accompanied by Jerry’s destroying his apartment by breaking walls, windows and doors. Meanwhile, throughout the day and night, Jerry would get in his truck, race down the driveway and speed recklessly along the streets to purchase drugs. Neighbors witnessed actual purchases as Jerry seemingly went from drug dealer to drug addict.
Unfortunately, the police were limited in what they could do because of state laws that protect the mentally ill. So residents went to Jerry’s landlord, who owns several buildings in Santa Monica. But, he apparently saw this as an opportunity to get rent-controlled tenants to move so he could raise the rents to market level.
In fact, the landlord told residents, “If you’re not happy, move.” (Meanwhile, in a neighboring building, that landlord hit the jackpot as seven rent-controlled tenants moved and the rents doubled.)
Frustrated with the police and Jerry’s landlord, we then went to Rent Control. But we were told that a tenant can’t complain about another tenant and tenants of neighboring buildings have no standing. They suggested we go to the City Attorney.
But it’s not that easy to get to talk to the City Attorney. We were referred to a liaison who sent us to Code Enforcement. But Code Enforcement insisted they were waiting for the City Attorney’s office to send an order. Total runaround! Meanwhile, every night Jerry’s madness escalated. The police came out numerous times but appeared powerless.
It seemed the only person who could get Jerry arrested was a neighbor whom he frequently threatened. Unfortunately, she too was a drug user and didn’t want to see Jerry get arrested but rather that he get mental help. And several times the police sent Jerry to UCLA Santa Monica Hospital for an evaluation but, each time, inexplicably, the doctors let him out within a day.
Finally, with help from the SMPD Community Officer and all our complaints combined, the landlord managed to evict Jerry. But, as of this writing, the landlord has not been willing to get a restraining order. The truth is Jerry needs mental help but the funds for those services have been reduced in past years. Thus, it’s very likely that Jerry will be back living with his mother, who recently got an apartment in Santa Monica.
So what’s the moral to this story? Everyone seemingly passed the buck, the result being greedy landlords were able to triple their rents while causing unbelievable mental stress to tenants in almost an entire city block.
It turns out that Jerry’s antics and complaints from his building resulted in untold numbers of police visits on various matters including weapons charges, domestic violence and disturbing the peace. In fact, Jerry’s address was the No. 2 most visited by the police in 2014 in the entire city. I can only imagine what No. 1 was.
The bottom line is landlords profited from tenant turnover due to continuous noise from an out-of-control neighbor exhibiting abusive conduct. Thankfully, Mayor Kevin McKeown and Community Officer Erik Milosevich intervened and in part helped resolve this nightmare. Although, since he’s back driving recklessly on our street, it’s clearly not entirely resolved.
Everything above is true and factual. I’ve purposely left out names and addresses to respect people’s privacy. I realize that our situation was complicated by state laws and there were no easy answers. You can decide for yourself who’s to blame and what you might do if, God forbid, this happened in your neighborhood. In the meantime, I’ve been able to get this nightmare off my chest. For that, I’m grateful.