The "Howard and Irene Levine Program in Housing and Social Responsibility," a part of UCLA's graduate school, exists because of a "generous gift" from the program's namesakes. It seeks to address "timely and critical issues related to urban housing markets, and housing policy and sustainability, particularly the housing needs and outcomes of low-income and workforce households."
Sounds like a pretty good mission, but curiously, Howard and Irene Levine don't seem to be practicing much housing and social responsibility themselves. Back in May, Beyond Chron reported on the purchase by Danny Sun of a building on Folsom Street in San Francisco that resulted in eviction notices for 14 mostly working-class residents living in rent-controlled units.
This is an issue disproportionately affecting communities of color. For instance, according to 2014 data from the Eviction Defense Collaborative—a San Francisco nonprofit that aids low-income workers with eviction notices—28% of their clients were African-American even though African-Americans comprised just 6% of the city.
On Thursday, Mission Local revealed that a $200,000 loan from Howard and Irene Levine helped make Sun's purchase possible. Sun received $1.44 million more in loans from three other families, taking in a total of $1.64 million in loans to purchase the $1.72 million property.
UCLA's Ziman Center, a research center that houses the Housing and Social Responsibility program and works in conjunction with the law school and the business school, did not respond to Fusion's requests for comment.
“We want to cause them pain because they’re scum," Tommy Seiler, a longtime tenant, told Mission Local. "They’re not building housing, they’re not creating products, not doing anything with their money except speculating, sucking money from the working class to make money for themselves.”
It’s unclear if Sun will remodel and sell back the building, but doing so would be in line with previous behavior: in 2013, for example, he evicted five people from a rent-controlled apartment and then flipped the building and sold one of the units, Mission Local reports, in an Ellis Act eviction. (The Ellis Act is a 1985 California law originally intended to protect landlords that went out of business, but is now commonly used in the same manner as Sun's eviction in 2013.)
If this is the case, the Levines will stand to profit from their loan in an inflated market; meanwhile, yet another handful of affordable housing units will be gone from a city that's increasingly devoid of any.
“They’re taking affordable housing, and these bastards are just getting rich off the backs of people who should remain in the city,” said Stephen Booth, a lawyer representing 12 of the 14 tenants in the building, told Mission Local.
Michael Rosen is a reporter for Fusion based out of Oakland.