Billionaire Jeff Greene’s Plans to Raze Dorset Village Are About as Awful as You Might Imagine

The project would displace 206 households from rent-controlled apartments in a historic garden development

Billionaire developer Jeff Greene plans to tear down 206 units of rent-stabilized housing in the historic garden apartments of Dorset Village in Hyde Park to make way for a massive new project that seems to come up short on affordable apartments by at least 65 units. Rendering: HKS Architects
Billionaire developer Jeff Greene plans to tear down 206 units of rent-stabilized housing in the historic garden apartments of Dorset Village in Hyde Park to make way for a massive new project that seems to come up short on affordable apartments by at least 65 units. Rendering: HKS Architects

Billionaire developer and failed Floridian gubernatorial candidate Jeff Greene has once again set his sights on transit-oriented development in South Central. And once again, it looks like he is doing his best to do wrong by the community.

His target this time is Dorset Village – a 196-unit historic garden apartment development built in 1941 – and an adjacent parcel that is home to an additional 10 units of housing. The site sits just east of Crenshaw on Slauson, within easy walking distance of the Hyde Park station on the soon-to-open Crenshaw Line.

While the promise of the Crenshaw Line has both attracted new investment and boosted housing prices along the corridor, nothing quite compares to what Greene has planned.

The buildings would range in height from four to seven stories. Rendering: HKS Architects and Courtland Studio
The buildings would range in height from three to seven stories. Rendering: HKS Architects and Courtland Studio

The timing couldn’t be worse.

Though he never lived there, the historic garden apartments of Dorset Village figure heavily into the story of the late rapper, entrepreneur, and urban visionary Nipsey Hussle, killed two blocks away this past March 31. “The Vill” was the place everybody always seemed to find their way back to at the end of the day, Hussle told Complex in 2014.

It is also the backdrop for Question #1 – a song off Slauson Boy 2 in which Hussle and Snoop Dogg explain just how high the stakes can be for a youth trying to move through the public space. Always working to subvert those codes and give youth different ways to express their fidelity to the community, Hussle led by example in his video.

Here, he breaks up a fight over a dice game gone awry.

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Here, he’s a positive role model and a protector, casually draping an arm over a kid’s shoulders.

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And here, he might be throwing up signs with Cobby Supreme, J. Stone, and others, but it’s out of pride for where they come from, what they’ve survived, what they’ve accomplished together as artists and as a family, and the fact that they’ve done it all right here.

Right in the spaces they grew up in.

In the very spaces Greene is eager to turn into a playground members of their community could likely never afford.

Or, at least, could never afford to come back to once they lost their rent-stabilized places and found themselves priced out of the community altogether.

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According to documents filed with city planning, the project will raze the existing 206 units of rent-stabilized housing to the ground and replace them with 782 new units – 66 studios, 417 one-bedroom units, 284 two-bedroom apartments, and 15 three-bedroom units – in buildings ranging from three to seven stories tall.

It will also feature several pools, a recreation center including a gym, a dance/yoga studio space, a locker room, an outdoor deck, a basketball court, and a sand volleyball court. Despite the parking requirements being waived, it will also offer 713 parking spaces, as well as 271 long-term bicycle parking spots and 27 short-term bike parking spots.

Rendering: HKS Architects
Rendering: HKS Architects

Under the Transit-Oriented Communities (TOC) guidelines (meant to encourage both greater density and more affordable housing along transit corridors), a developer can build higher than zoning might otherwise allow if they offer a specific percentage of affordable units in their plans.

To get the density bonus required to build seven stories, about 18 percent of the 782 apartments – 141 units – will be categorized as affordable, including 87 Extremely Low-Income, 17 Very Low-Income, and 37 Low-Income units.

But Greene still appears to be falling at least 65 units short of his actual obligation with regard to affordability.

On the TOC referral form [PDF] filed with city planning, where he is asked about the income levels of Dorset Village residents, Greene’s representative Jonathan Riker claims that the existing units are not occupied by low- or very low-income households.

That’s simply not true.

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The median household income for the area is around $41,000. The threshold for 80 percent of the Los Angeles area median income (AMI) is $83,500 for a family of four this year.

Given that nearly 70 percent of all L.A. households earn less than 80 percent AMI, it would be very strange if a development in a historically disenfranchised community did not have units occupied by folks that met that criteria.

Poverty is so prevalent, in fact, that the housing department bakes that expectation into its calculations when it doesn’t have income data for a project to ensure that affordable units are not lost. But the math does not appear to have been checked in this case.

If it had been, Riker and Greene might have been asked how they planned on making up the difference between the 206 units demolished and the 141 affordable units proposed. Or whether Greene was prepared for his massive project to be rent-controlled, given that he was not complying with the one-to-one replacement requirement.

Dorset Village, at right, is just a short distance from Crenshaw and Slauson. Google maps
Dorset Village, at right, is just a short distance from Crenshaw and Slauson – the recently renamed Nipsey Hussle Square. Google maps

If the housing department knew what was good for them, they’d also ask what kind of plan Greene has for moving people out of Dorset Village.

Because if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Greene’s relationship with South L.A., it’s that he’s not a fan of poor tenants of color.

When he entered into negotiations regarding the Rolland Curtis Gardens (near the Vermont/Expo station) back in 2003, he had reassured the seller and concerned Section 8 tenants that he had every intention of maintaining it as an affordable property.

That turned out not to be true.

Instead, eager to move USC students in, he tried to weasel out of his obligations to his Section 8 tenants within a few weeks of the transfer of the property being complete in early 2004. Although the notices tenants would eventually receive were invalid (Greene gave the them only 30 days’ notice instead of the requisite 60), some tenants simply chose to leave to avoid further intimidation.

When tenant advocates learned that the building was actually under an affordable covenant and that they were therefore protected until 2011, Greene complained that it wasn’t feasible to try to make a profit off affordable housing. The Community Redevelopment Agency told him his solvency would be improved if he stopped pushing tenants out, forcing him to bide his time. As 2011 drew nearer, however, he launched a two-pronged campaign of intimidation and neglect of the facilities to get tenants to leave of their own accord. His tactics so unnerved long-time tenants that by the time housing non-profits TRUST South L.A. and Abode Communities were able to organize residents and wrangle the pricey property from his dodgy hands, about half had already fled.

Dorset Village residents deserve so much better. The moment that they are finally getting a rail line and a public art project like Destination Crenshaw that reflects their story should be the moment that their foothold in the community becomes stronger, not more tenuous.

We’ll continue to track this project. In the meanwhile, here are a few more renderings.

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The ground floor. Source: HKS Architects
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View from the west and the north. Source: HKS Architects and Courtland Studio
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View from the east and the south. Source: HKS Architects and Courtland Studio

*Thanks to Steven Sharp of Urbanize LA for getting word out about this project first and to both he and Scott Frazier of the LA Podcast for helping me with the affordable housing questions the documents raised. Any errors are mine. And a huge thanks to the person that helped me get hold of these documents.

  • Jacob Woocher

    This is so bad. So basically under Ellis, he has to have units for all the tenants he displaces, at the same rents, and still rent-controlled — right? But he’s scheming to not have that happen? (plus there are so many ways that people won’t be able to actually reclaim this right, I assume)

  • Ennnne

    Just curious – who owned it before?

    I sympathize with your chagrin. I hate to see green space lost. And it must be awful for the people who live there. What will happen to them?

  • Richard

    RSO units demolished does not necessarily equal the number of households displaced. With 206 units in all likely hood a few are going to be vacant at any given time. If the landlord is thinking they are going to redevelop, they wont rent out vacant units for a year or more before they demolish.

    We dont know how many units in the building are occupied, but it is almost certainly less than 206.

    After all, why rent a 1 bedroom for $1200 a month, when you are going to have to pay 25k in 6 months to relocate the family before demolition and then provide additional subsidized housing for 55 years in the new building.

  • I_Like_Buildings

    This proposed redevelopment doesn’t fall under Ellis because the developer plans to stay in the rental business while Ellis is only when a property owner wants to get out of the business of renting units on the property. For example, if the property owner wanted to redevelop the property as condos, which are then sold.

    Instead, this property falls under the City of L.A. Rent Stabilization Ordinance, which requires relocation fees to be paid but nothing about making sure the units the displaced tenants move to have the same rents or be rent controlled. I believe there is also a right to return for all displaced tenants to one of the future affordable housing units.

  • Booyah Boy

    Why ya’ll delete my comment? yall dont want to address the truth and just drive your own narrative. That entire development is hot and yall know it.

  • Booyah Boy
  • sahra

    you ascribed unemployment in the community to rent control and suggested no one there had any interest in working, etc. among other things. there are indeed challenges in the community and in that development, but they tie back to disinvestment in the area and the lack of jobs, to disenfranchisement, to the challenge folks reentering have finding work, not rent control.

  • sahra

    he can get out of rent stabilization if he supplies as many affordable units or 20% (whichever number is bigger) as he is tearing down. he is doing neither here. but what that means with regard to what comes next, i have no idea…

  • sahra

    He may have owned it since 2003, which would make sense to me b/c that’s when he picked up Rolland Curtis Gardens, too. But I have not confirmed that – only seen that Dorset Village Partners was created in 2003 and that his attorney is listed as its public face.

  • Ennnne

    Okay, thanks. On second glance, maybe there won’t be less greenery after. (the third graphic, after the photos, is the proposal?)

  • sahra

    the greenery is the least of the issues, honestly. and some of the spaces between the homes have been paved over – the existing residents haven’t benefited from all the garden space could be, in other words.

  • Hydeparkresident17

    Agree with Booyah 100% I literally just bought a house in this neighborhood and these are not community building houses and it’s frustrating for people to say that they are. Do the people who write these articles actually live here? Have you read the comments on the apartment reviews?

  • personx

    have you ever considered that the landlord creates those crappy conditions that lead people to react that way? dont assume. 10 bucks that you don’t even live there. How much the developer paying you

  • I’ve been a real estate appraiser in Los Angeles for over 35 years. This development will bring more units, better units, more amenities, jobs, money, taxes to the area. It will increase property values. The tenants get relocation fees in the thousands. Friend of mine in rent control unit got $24,000 in relocation fees for one bedroom because she lived in the unit for a while and was 65+. “Gentrification” is not a bad thing. It’s just the real estate cycle of revitalization. No one is losing their culture or history. Nipsey used it as a background for a music video. He didn’t live there. And remember before this was apartments it was part of a golf course and house. Before that it was a farm. Before that it belonged to Mexicans. Before that it belonged to Native Americans. All places change. Life isn’t static. LA needs more housing. NIMBYs are one of the causes why we don’t have enough housing. FTR I am not a developer. I don’t make money if this complex gets built or not.

  • I doubt the developer filled any vacancies in a while for this reason.

  • sahra

    This story is about the potential displacement of 206 low-income households in a community that the members of those households would likely be priced out of completely if they were forced out of this spot. The management is terrible b/c Jeff Greene appears to have owned the property since 2003… the same time he purchased Rolland Curtis Gardens and did the same to his residents there. He’s treated Dorset Village terribly for years, waiting for the land to be of value. And now he wants them out and isn’t even doing the minimal he is obligated to do. So you’ll have to forgive me for not relying on random apartment reviews for information…

  • sahra

    Questioning the displacement of 206 low-income households who would not be able to live anywhere near the community they have lived in – many for generations – is not being a NIMBY.

  • Stacy Shure

    The city may also impose restrictions against the future rental use of the property. It may require that if the landlord offers the withdrawn units for lease within ten years of withdrawal, the unit must be offered to the displaced tenant(s), and that if the unit is offered within the first five years, it must be offered to the displaced tenant(s) at the former rental rate.

    The city must make this developer replace the lost units and give first right of refusal to the tenants that were there before, at affordable rates. They need to do the right thing here.

  • They are given relocation fees and assistance. If you really care about them, contact them and help them directly. The development isn’t about displacing tenants. It’s about creating more desperately needed units. It’s about improving the community.

  • sahra

    He’s not even meeting the bare minimum obligation with regard to RSO or affordable housing. This isn’t about making the community better, it’s about making money for himself. But if you’d like to head over to Dorset Village to tell the members of those 206 households whose community has endured decades of neglect that they’re lucky to be taking one for the team or how good this is for the community, by all means, be my guest.

  • Matt

    If the developer did something illegal I’m sure he’ll be made to rectify the issue as there are countless orgs. in LA ready to sue for something like this. Yet, it isn’t clear that is the case here. If it were the City should/would be on top of.

    The writer make numerous false assertions all over the place. Comparing brand new affordable housing where renters have to qualify based on income vs. 80 year old rent stabilized housing with lead paint, rusted pipes, and likely asbestos, which is rented at market rates to new renters and has no income qualifications is laughable. The new housing has to be ADA compliant. The old housing – no way. The new housing has to be up to modern codes for earthquake and safety requirements. The old housing – no way.

    The writer says there are 206 units of low income housing, where people have lived for generations, that are being lost. Most certainly, the vast majority of households here have not lived here for generations and certainly not all are low income since there is no income requirement for these units. Not everyone in Southwest LA is low income anyway, especially in today’s economy where plumbers, electricians, contractors, Crenshaw Line workers, LADWP and LA City workers are better paid than ever before and can all make 6 figures.

    There is no mention as other commentators have mentioned of the five figure relocation payments made to residents. Often, residents are happy to get these large checks and can use them as a down payment for a house somewhere else or in another country. Alternatively, some just use for other purposes and are happy to have the money.

    Where are the other 1,000+ people that would make up the 500+ units of market rate housing supposed to live? I guess they simply don’t exist in the writer’s fantasy world, but of course in the real world they do exist. They would likely go into other apartment buildings in the area that are fixed up or other neighborhoods that do allow for some new construction. They don’t just go away and not allowing for building here will just put pressure elsewhere in the City. Maybe soon, a developer will come calling to the writer’s wealthy neighborhood and take down her rent controlled building in favor of a new building with market rate and affordable housing. If we aren’t going to allow housing near transit, where is it supposed to go. Streetsblog used to write about transportation and would support these types of projects that promoted housing and transit together. Those days are clearly over.

  • Booyah Boy

    My parents where displaced when i was young when they built the 105 freeway – getting me away from all the knucleheads i lived around saved my life.

  • sahra

    you say that as if i am going to fight you on the challenges the existence of gangs present for the community. i am not. the community has endured so much and it both wants and deserves a safer environment.

    what i am saying instead is that the existence of gangs and the depth to which they are rooted in the culture of the community is not a product of rent control. it is a product of segregation (the 105 and other freeways were constructed through Black communities in a deliberate effort to displace and disperse them and isolate them/keep them away from white communities), disinvestment, and the repressive policing/mass incarceration that tore so many families apart over the years.

    what i am also saying is that displacing 206 families is not helping address gang issues, either. instead, it pushes poor residents further to the margins and farther away from what they know, exacerbating the problems they’re already dealing with. we see that with displaced folks ending up in communities like san bernardino where they have an even more difficult time accessing jobs or transit and can find themselves engaging in or surrounded by even more harmful activities….we’re just pushing poverty and problems around, in other words. and particularly in a historically Black community where the investment the community has clamored for for years is finally arriving (via the Crenshaw Line, Destination Crenshaw, etc.), to see billionaire developers benefiting from the extent to which Black-occupied land was so devalued for so long while pushing those residents aside is that much more disheartening.

  • Lee Ann Merrill

    C’mon everybody – don’t you care that Jeff Greene needs more money?

  • Guest18585

    I don’t think the developer is lying on 12b and 12c questions about the 80% AMI thing. That usually refers to deeded affordable units – and clearly on 12c the developer answers “Yes” saying that there are RSO units on site so he isn’t hiding the affordable status of units. But an RSO unit isn’t affected by a tenant’s income so technically the developer doesn’t know what the status relative to AMI a unit would be because he never asks for that information as its not relevant. Think about a market rate from after 1978 lets say (non-RSO therefore) unit that has a poor person living in it and just paying rent normally – the answer to 12b should be no, even though its a poor person, because that doesn’t impact the development of a new property because its not deeded affordable.

    This is neither here nor there as far as an opinion of this project, just thought the article wasn’t accurate in that regard. As far as the legality of replacing units, I don’t think under California law you have to replace an RSO unit (for e.g. Mountain view council just let some developer knock down rent stabalized housing to build townhouses of some kind). So would just depend on the local regulations with regards to demolition – I think TOC though mandates replacement only of deeded affordable units which these technically are not (as in theory they could Ellis Act the whole thing into new condos or whatnot).

  • I_Like_Buildings

    It seems like you are quoting the regulations for Ellis Act evictions, which this project doesn’t fall under because he’s not withdrawing the property from the rental market. My understanding is that the City’s Rental Stabilization Ordinance does not require that the displaced tenants be offered a new affordable unit at the same rental rate as the previous RSO unit. Plus, let’s remember that RSO units have no income requirements while the new affordable housing units will have tenant income requirements that even the displaced tenants will need to comply with.

  • sahra

    There is an obligation with regard to RSO units and there is a separate obligation with regard to affordable units (or units occupied by low-income tenants) tied to the state’s density bonus law. The links provided above, including to the TOC referral doc, were meant to offer more information to those with questions, such as yourself. But the screen shot of the doc itself answers one of your questions, if you take a second look – the affordable units requiring replacement include those occupied by low-income households…something clarified here and in the link to the HCIDLA page.

    The question of Greene putting an obvious false answer to that question on the application form is significant here because the housing department only assumes 68% of the units are low-income when it calculates a developer’s obligation. In smaller projects, that might mean a handful of units are lost, at most. Here, it means as many as 65 are not accounted for – a massive loss. And it’s all the more glaring, since it appears he’s owned the place since 2003 and has been a terrible landlord and is more than aware of who his tenants are.

  • sahra

    Few people dedicate as much time to hate-reading me as you, Matt. I’ve told you before you could save yourself the trouble and just send hate mail directly without having to read me, but you clearly can’t quit me. As they say, trolling is caring out loud.

    I appreciate you.

  • basenjibrian

    What is the definition of “the community”? It sounds like “the community” will be evicted and dispersed.

  • Stacy Shure

    I believe the Ellis Act specifically states if it’s not being removed from the rental market, the RSO tenants must be accommodated in the new development at the same rates. There are only certain reasons why RSO tenants can be removed, and if the property is going to be used as a rental property, the RSO tenants do have protection to continue their tenancies.

  • I_Like_Buildings

    “I believe the Ellis Act specifically states if it’s not being removed from the rental market, the RSO tenants must be accommodated in the new development at the same rates.” No it doesn’t. The Ellis Act, which is a STATE law, ONLY covers the situation when a property owner wants to withdraw the property from the rental market. This proposal is NOT withdrawing this property from the rental market but proposing to replace existing RSO rental buildings with new rental buildings. In this situation, the CITY’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance controls what happens.

    In short, you are mixing-up the Ellis Act with the RSO. They are different with different regulations on what the tenants get in the way of relocation assistance and the right to return.

  • Matt

    Guest18585 is 100% correct. The only way a landlord would know the income of their residents is if they were qualified for affordable housing. The Dorset is not affordable housing.

    Does your landlord require you to submit your yearly tax returns to them for your rent controlled unit? If not how do they know your income?

    Since you are so sure the owner has committed fraud by falsely filling out a government form, I am sure you confirmed this with the City of LA? If not you are libeling them and are subject to being sued along with Streetsblog. Your extremely sloppy work is really going to cost Streetsblog at some point.

  • Matt

    Somebody has to point out all your wrong assumptions, misrepresentations and narrow one sided biased viewpoints for the fair readers of Streetsblog. Since there seems to be no editorial control on your work, think of me as a the official watchdog of Streetsblog LA.

  • sahra

    I am always happy to engage critiques made in good faith. But that’s not your thing these days. As I’ve said to you many times, your nastiness and strange fixation on imagining where I live and/or inventing other personal details is both creepy and juvenile. So unfortunately we won’t be able to continue this conversation beyond this point. All my best!

  • Henderson

    Matt, you are the man!

    You should write your own articles countering this writers faulty research. I’d read that.

  • Guest18585

    The link you included here in this comment from LA Planning was for regulations about the state density bonus rules, but that isn’t relevant as TOC mandates that you can only use TOC if you voluntarily are agreeing not to use the state density bonus which is otherwise by right. That way people don’t double up. So those regulations are not relevant. The only thing that matters would be the TOC regulations , if they require replacement of RSO units (which in theory could be occupied by millionaires although obv aren’t in this case). And then would matter the LA city local regulations on demolition of RSO units. I don’t know the answer to that but I think you are citing the wrong things here so just trying to be helpful.

  • sahra

    TOC is beholden to the state density bonus laws, which is why the link to how HCIDLA interprets the law was provided in the article. It is here:

    My point was only that the affordable units are being undercounted – a flaw in system and one that Greene is exploiting to significant advantage here.

  • Guest18585

    So I looked up 65915(c)(3) which governs this and you are mostly correct. You are right that you must replace all 206 units, if they are occupied currently. Then it says if a unit was vacant you must consult a HUD database and they will presume the income level of the resident based on the locality and that proportion is what you must replace of the vacant units. I looked that up for LA and 65 percent are below 80 percent ami so if they are vacant I think he must replace 65 percent of those as affordable units. I do think the developer was correct to check the RSO box on the form however, as that is actually more restrictive than the just having low income tenants. How the section wants you to treat housing that is not income deeded (so landlord doesn’t know income levels but they just have poor people) is to just use that 65 percent I just quoted. So in theory if a developer in la checks the low income box he needs to replace 65 percent of those units, versus the RSO box means 100 percent of them. Checking the RSO box indicates to la that they need look into that so as another commentator said I’d presume that they’ll be forced to fork over more units as your article suggests before getting any actual permits.

  • sahra

    I’ll be honest and say I don’t know why you’re explaining things to me and still not using the resources I directed you to that lay this out … But to each his own.

    Once again, if you look at the HCIDLA link I provided a few times now, you will see that HCIDLA has broken down the ELI, VLI and LI units that will be required to reach the minimum 68% (not 65) that it has baked into its calculations.

    The point, again, is that that is a step HCIDLA takes when income information is not available. Which in a community where the median income is $40K – well below the 80% AMI level of ~$83K for a family of four – presents a real dilemma, given that the likelihood is that all of the units are occupied by low-income households. The potential for a sizable loss of affordable units is very real. And it is unclear how diligent HCIDLA is in checking that math more generally or requiring more units when it is clear that that entirety of the building demolished was occupied by low-income folks (advocacy groups have had to lobby to make sure requirements were met in the past). And it does raise the question of how HCIDLA should adjust to address that kind of shortfall, should we see more of these kinds of massive projects in the future.

    Regardless of which you feel is more restrictive, he is beholden to meeting both the TOC and RSO requirements. But this project doesn’t even meet the basic obligation with regard to RSO. For him to incorporate another 65 affordable units – something that is larger than many stand-alone 100% affordable projects – would require fundamental changes to the plans, at the very least. Which then raises the question of how serious he is about this project or what his larger objective is…especially with a project of that size which would be so out of place in that area anyways. And those are questions I do not have answers for. This project is just at the beginning of the process so I imagine it will pass through a lot of hands before it takes its final form, if it ever does. We shall see.