Thursday, October 27, 2016

Neighbors help elderly Silver Lake woman find a home for the holidays

Natalie Moore | Photo courtesy Rebecca Taylor

Natalie Moore | Photo courtesy Rebecca Taylor


SILVER LAKE — It was only a few weeks ago when 87-year-old Natalie Moore appeared to be on the verge of homelessness. The run-down Coronado Street apartment building where she had resided in for more than 40 years had a gaping hole in its roof and a ceiling that collapsed during a recent rain. City housing inspectors had declared the place uninhabitable, and Moore had been ordered to vacate in 30 days. But now, thanks to a pair of neighbors who came to her aid, Moore is living temporarily in a cozy cottage while her apartment building undergoes extensive renovations.

“I like my old neighborhood because I knew everybody there,” said Moore during an interview in her temporary home about a mile away from her Coronado Street apartment. “I was in a motel for awhile, but everything turned out okay for me.”

Her fearless neighbors, Rebecca Taylor and Anne Hars, have been at her side every step of the way during her housing ordeal. While Moore was being interviewed for this story, the two made sure the heat was running, curtains were hung, the three cats and dog were fed, and all the donated furnishings were in place – including the Christmas lights and decorations.

“Rebecca does all of the talking for me to straighten things out,” Moore said, “and Anne is casual, nice and has lots of patience … They’re like my step sisters.” (continued below)

Neighbors organized a bake and plant sale for Moore | Courtesy Rebecca Taylor

Neighbors organized a bake and plant sale for Moore | Courtesy Rebecca Taylor

Moore’s world since the 1970s has encompassed a three-block circle around her apartment at 624 N Coronado Street in Silver Lake. Known for her smile and long white hair, she greeted neighbors with a friendly “hello” when she walked to the corner store on Temple Street. She loves her pets and was often seen caring for her plants outside her apartment.

Born in East Los Angeles, Moore graduated from Garfield High School in 1942. She worked as a telephone operator, a dental assistant and a singer with a “well known band” in Hollywood who once appeared in Variety. But she does not like to reflect on that past. Today she has no family connections except for a cousin who lives in La Puente.

Taylor, her husband and two children have lived next door to Moore for five years. Moore’s cats would often wander beyond the fence, and Taylor would bring them home to her. It wasn’t until then that she began to notice how dilapidated Moore’s home really was.

“She has a very low fixed income,” said Taylor, noting that Moore collects Social Security benefits and, with 40 years under rent control, she pays roughly $350 a month in rent, an unheard of figure in 2014 given L.A.’s lack of affordable housing.

According to Taylor and Hars, Moore’s original landlord passed away in December 2013, leaving the 1920s Craftsman-style five-plex in poor condition. “She didn’t have plumbing,” Hars said. (continued below)

Moore's home on Coronado Street | Courtesy Rebecca Taylor

Moore’s home on Coronado Street | Courtesy Rebecca Taylor

But conditions worsened after a new owner began what neighbors said were illegal renovations, gutting units, tearing the roof off the building and intimidating Moore by telling her she had move out in a week. Taylor, a Congressional policy analyst, intervened to make sure her neighbor had a voice and that her wishes were known – she wanted to stay put.

“She didn’t want the relocation money,” Taylor said. “She had no interest. She just wants to stay in her unit.”

Then, after undergoing some unpermitted demolition, the building was sold again on Oct. 1 for $600,000 to 1 Valley View Group. The following month, the Los Angeles Housing Department declared the building unsafe and ordered it vacated by the end of the month.

When Taylor and Hars realized that Moore could potentially be homeless by Christmas, they rallied the neighborhood. They set up a Gmail account called “Help House Natalie” to keep the community informed about Moore’s situation, and held a plant and bake sale before Thanksgiving that raised almost $2,000 to help Moore pay a security deposit and first month’s rent on a new place. They also raised Moore’s plight with city officials.

After it became apparent that their order to vacate the building would leave Moore homeless, city housing officials rescinded the order in late November and gave the new landlord two days to make emergency repairs to correct the problems left by the previous owners.

“She wouldn’t be able to afford wherever she moves,” said Roberto Aldape, Assistant General Manager at the L.A. Housing Department.

Repairs were underway in early December when Moore’s bathroom ceiling, covered only with a blue tarp, collapsed during a rain storm as a city inspector and the owners were present. That’s when Taylor and Hars helped gather all of Moore’s important belongings in case she needed to vacate.

Eventually, Moore’s new landlord placed her in a nearby motel and later in a temporary new home until she can return to Coronado Street. According to landlord Brad Wiedmann, Moore’s building needed a new roof and other extensive repairs.

“We’ve seen properties this bad, but never seen [them] with someone living in it,” said Wiedmann, who estimates that it will take up to eight months to complete the repairs. “It was just horrible. It had to be horrible for a long time.”

Moore will return to her apartment when the repairs are complete under the same terms and conditions, said senior housing inspector Brian Beltran. Moore will also receive assistance from Meals on Wheels, Beltran added.

The housing officials credit Taylor and Hars for coming through for Moore. “If she did not have those people advocating, you’d definitely see a different situation,” said Aldape

Hars, an architect and artist, said she’s helping other elderly residents on Coronado Street to make sure new owners and developers follow the rules. During Moore’s ordeal, both women reminded themselves that one day they may also need to depend on fearless neighbors for help. “We’re future old ladies,” Hars said.


Rebecca Taylor (left), Natalie Moore (center) & Anne Hars | Matt Sanderson

For more information, visit the tenant habitability plan on the LAHD’s website.

Matt Sanderson has been a journalist, photographer and digital media producer for nearly eight years. A native of Rhode Island, he received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of New Hampshire and moved to Los Angeles in 2012 through a job transfer with Patch.com/AOL.

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  1. Love this. I tip my hat to those involved.

  2. Wonderful of these women to step forward and engage the Housing Dept in a meaningful and compassionate way! Kindness abides!

  3. This is what being a neighbor is all about! Tipping my hat here as well. I hope when I’m the little old lady in the neighborhood that someone looks out for me. We look out for and help the older folks who live on either side of us. They’ve been there for 40 years and it’s been a pleasure to get to know them in the last 15 years. It takes all of us!

  4. Such a wonderful, happy ending! Love this story!

  5. It seems like a big coincidence that two of the four people who posted before me wear hats.

  6. LOve this story! Kudos to the people helping Natalie.

  7. Way to go! You are great neighbors and people. Keep looking out for those around you–you inspired me to do the same.

  8. I’m a landlord in Silver Lake and I also applaud the neighborhood efforts to provide temporary housing for Natalie.

    However what I don’t understand is why under the current housing departments Tenant Habitability Plan (THP) Natalie needed such assistance. It’s my understanding that under the THP the landlord, given that the tenant chooses not to accept the permanent relocation option, has the obligation to provide comparable housing for the displaced tenant for the duration of the work that needs to be performed on the tenants apartment. This includes the cost of moving the furniture and personal belongs of the tenant back and forth between the current and temp. apartments. If the tenant can’t afford the additional moving cost of first months rent and security deposits, effectively preventing them from receiving comparable housing during the renovation, it would be my assumption that the landlord would have to pick up those temporary cash outlays, he would get the money back when the tenant moves out of her temp. unit. Otherwise he wouldn’t be meeting his obligation to provide housing for the displaced tenant.

    Again I agree that it was a kind thing for her neighbors to jump in to help Natalie. I just don’t understand why it was necessary.

    • Rebecca Kuhlmann Taylor

      Paul Finegold–very good question. The reason why this was necessary was because the previous owners’ demolition made the building uninhabitable and the Housing Department could no longer wait for the owners to make the needed repairs. The rainy season was coming and Ms. Moore’s home was too dangerous to live in, so the Housing Department issued an Order to Vacate, which forced Ms. Moore into accepting permanent relocation assistance (vs. temporary relocation in accordance with the THP). This, in effect, meant that the owners were not being held accountable for the work that needed to be done, but the repairs were so extensive that the Housing Department, under its current regulations, did not have a mechanism to hold the owners accountable in a timely fashion that would also protect Ms. Moore. (The Housing Department does not have the resources to conduct urgent repairs of such magnitude–e.g., new roof–and when they issue a 2-day order to repair such large items, they commit to doing the work themselves if the owner does not follow through.) However, once neighbors elevated the issue, the Housing Department’s Assistant General Manager (Mr. Aldape, quoted in the article), determined that a different course of action was needed and, in this case, the Housing Department would commit to doing such extensive repairs if the owner would not.. So, the Housing Department lifted the Order to Vacate a week before it was due and instead issued the 2-day order to the current owners to fix the property. Meanwhile, the rains started and while the owners were assessing the property to figure out how to conduct the urgent repairs, Ms. Moore’s bathroom ceiling collapsed. So, an immediate alternative became necessary. The owners had not yet filed a THP with the city, but Ms. Moore needed to move immediately for her own safety. So, the Housing Department and the owners came to a written agreement that essentially has the same provisions as a THP, but it was enacted without the normal notice to tenants since Ms. Moore moved to a motel the same day her ceiling collapsed.

      So, although the THP would normally function well to protect tenants, in this case, the previous owners left the property in such a horrendous state that the Housing Department, following its regulations well, was essentially forced into evicting Ms. Moore because of the uninhabitability of the property. Unfortunately, this sends a message to unscrupulous developers that if they wait long enough on repairs, they may get the city to evict their low-rent tenants for them. Though this is not at all the intent of the regulations or of the Housing Department officials themselves, the regulations can play out this way. In Ms. Moore’s case they did not, because the Housing Department made a special exception. However, in other cases that do not get such visibility among high-ranking Housing Department officials, they may. I therefore feel that the regulations should be reviewed to determine how to better protect vulnerable tenants like Ms. Moore.

      Hope this explanation made sense. If not, or if you’d like to read more about the nuances of what happened in this situation and how the regulations played out, feel free to email [email protected] and ask for a copy of our press releases where we detail the events as they unfolded. For someone who knows and understands the housing regulations–like it seems you do–it’s a fascinating read!

      Thanks for your interest!

  9. Wow. The writer and all commenters, including alleged rental property owners, miss the whole problem.
    “40 years of rent control”.

    Not only does this contribute to the decay of the property, it creates an entitlement mentality.

    Do we want poor old ladies out on the streets? Absolutely not.
    But that is a collective, societal issue, not one to be carried by the apartment owner alone.

    If these neighbors actually cared, they would put her up, not bring down the jackboots from City Hall to “force” the situation.

    This property will eventually be Ellised and razed.
    Maybe not under the current ownership, which the city may bankrupt, but that it is its fate – unless sensible policies prevail.

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