Actors Fund Tells Special Needs Home Residents to Allow Renovations or Be Evicted

The Palm View -H-2020-1597894190
Courtesy of Resident/The Palm View

The notification arrives days after residents said they were planning a demonstration on Sept. 14 to obstruct construction workers' entrance into the building.

The Actors Fund is communicating to residents of a special needs, low-income apartment complex it operates that they will have to let construction workers into their apartments during the COVID-19 pandemic or be evicted.

In a residents' notification sent on Tuesday to tenants of the Actors Fund-owned Palm View Apartments in West Hollywood, the apartment's limited liability corporation, the Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation and Actors Fund Western Region director Keith McNutt informed residents that renovations on the apartment complex must continue despite protests from residents over the potential health consequences they could face during a pandemic.

Residents, who must have a permanent disability, a professional history in the arts for the majority of rooms and an annual individual income of $12,000–$21,930 or a joint income of $15,000–$41,800 to qualify for the complex, have previously told The Hollywood Reporter that they have underlying conditions including HIV/AIDS, cancer, lung and heart conditions that make COVID-19 especially dangerous for them.

"We do not wish to say goodbye to any resident of this building, but obstructing the project will have serious implications for both the stability of the Palm View residence and The Actors Fund more broadly," the Tuesday notification said to residents. "Anyone who refuses to participate will be subject to the filing of eviction paperwork as soon as practicable and as permitted by law." West Hollywood has extended its moratorium on evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic until September 30, 2020.

The Actors Fund added in the communication that the organization does not have an "option" to move the renovations to a later date. "This is the legal commitment we made to the city, county and lending partners who are making possible both the financing of the rehabilitation itself and the longer-term, project-based Section 8 contract that will permanently subsidize the rents of the majority of residents to a third of your income," the notification said. THR has reached out to The Actors Fund for additional comment.

The Actors Fund previously told THR that the organization needs to fulfill a 2020 tax credit delivery commitment to The Royal Bank of Canada; if the commitment is not fulfilled, the bank will only provide half of its capital contribution and the City of West Hollywood, the Los Angeles Community Development Authority or The Actors Fund will need to fulfill lost funds, per the Fund. THR has reached out to The Royal Bank of Canada for comment.

During the renovations, which are scheduled to start in September and require construction for around five days for each unit, residents will have the option of staying in a hotel for six nights paid for by The Actors Fund; staying with family or friends and receiving a stipend; remaining in their units from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with workers in PPE; or staying in a vacant unit while work is being done on their units and in apartment hallways, per the Fund. Residents must tell apartment management about their choice of option by Thursday, August 27.

The notification comes three days after residents announced they were planning a demonstration on Sept. 14 to obstruct construction workers' entrance into the building.

With this latest communication, The Actors Fund is "choosing financial obligations (money) over the health and safety of 50 special needs residents in a 40-unit building geared towards independent living for low-income, permanently disabled entertainment professionals," says Kevin Ross, 55, an actor and resident of the complex who has heart and lung disease.

Seth Engber, 63, has HIV/AIDS and heart disease and has written letters to The Actors Fund and West Hollywood about the planned construction. "My health has been fragile for a couple years ago and it completely wiped me out to do the pack up in February," Engber says, referencing earlier renovations that occurred in the complex before West Hollywood's stay at home order took effect. "I'm very concerned about going through this process especially with this virus looming out there. It just seems ludicrous that no one can understand why this is such a concern with us."

The Actors Fund said in a statement to THR on Tuesday, "The Actors Fund is pursuing the completion of the renovation of Palm View, not only because of the financing and contractual obligations of the project, but because we already completed eight months of much more extensive construction demonstrating that rigorous safety protocols are effective. That primary scope of work involved interior and exterior construction, resident relocation and moving of apartments to storage and back, and we experienced not a single exposure among residents, vendors or staff.  We would not proceed if we had not already demonstrated both our commitment to our community’s safety and the effectiveness of the protocols our contractor, MFRG-ICON, has put in place."