The Santa Fe Art Colony may sit next to a recycling plant and a tow yard in an industrial zone southeast of downtown L.A., but for 30 years the former furniture factory has been heaven for artists — an affordable place for an intergenerational community to live and work.
“We’re a haven for painters, printmakers, artists who aren’t doing commercial shoots for cars or the fashion industry,” said Laurel Paley, chairwoman of the visual and media arts department at Los Angeles City College and one of the colony’s first residents.
All that may change Friday, when rent increases planned by the property’s new owners take effect. Sample rent increases provided to The Times by a tenants’ representative showed that the $680 rent on each of five units had risen to $1,822 to $2,146, depending on the unit. Multiple tenants who had been paying $978 are now looking at rent above $2,000 as well.
The Miami-based development agency Fifteen Group bought the complex of buildings in June 2018 and notified many tenants that their rents will be raised significantly — doubling or tripling for some residents — starting the first of this month. The increase has forced residents to make a difficult decision: Pay the higher rent, which many of them say they can’t afford, or leave the community that they have called home for years — in some cases, decades.
“I have nowhere to go,” said Julie Arnoff, a painter who has called the Art Colony home for 31 years. “I’m just praying it’s gonna work out; I can’t afford it.”
The Santa Fe Art Colony was established in 1986 with public funds through the Community Redevelopment Agency, allowing for the adaptive reuse of factory buildings into artist studios. A 30-year agreement set rent restrictions on 85% of the 57 units. That agreement expired in 2016, but because the previous owners didn’t notify tenants of a rent increase, the city imposed a stay until 2017. After Fifteen Group purchased the property, it raised the rent on the small number of market-rate units. It notified the other residents that rent restrictions would be lifted this month.
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