Investors bought a historic Echo Park home. Sisters who have lived there since childhood are fighting to stay


Lupe Breard remembers coming to live in the Queen Anne Victorian house in Echo Park with her mother and siblings when she was a child. The memory is still vivid decades later, she says, because she didn’t want to move there — until she saw the chimney and told herself Santa Claus could bring presents down it at Christmas. She’d never had a fireplace before.

She has stayed ever since, raising her three children in the historic home and watching as the neighborhood changed from a quiet, under-the-radar community to one where homes routinely sell for well over $1 million.

Breard stayed even after her mother died in 2018, leaving the house in her will to three of Breard’s older siblings. She stayed after the family estate tried, unsuccessfully, to evict her. And she has continued fighting to stay after the house was sold in 2022 to an investor who wants her and her sister, Sarah Padilla, 73, out.

Over the years, Breard, 64, has come to see herself as the guardian of a historic house with an important history. “The Queen of Elysian Heights,” as it is now known, is one of the earliest homes built in Echo Park. In the 1960s it was owned by members of the Arechiga family, who moved there after they drew national attention as the final holdouts resisting eviction from their home in Chavez Ravine to make way for Dodger Stadium.

“I know that once I’m gone it’ll be impossible to defend it,” Breard says. “I love that house. I love the walls. I love the staircase. I love walking out on the balcony at night when you can see the stars. I love the brick underneath the house where I used to hide when I was little.”

The history of the Queen of Elysian Heights is not entirely clear, but it is believed to have been built in 1895, around the time when the community was first subdivided.

Many locals see the triplex as the cornerstone of a historic neighborhood whose connection to the Arechiga family serves as an important reminder of a dark moment in the city’s past. Though it was once stadiums, freeways and city redevelopment that regularly displaced people in Black and Latino neighborhoods, today it is more likely to be gentrification and residential real estate investors.

“The house is very special,” said Paul Bowers, a resident of the neighborhood who helped petition the city for historic status. “It’s the first house in this entire area. And there’s something magical about it.”

Breard’s mother was a waitress at a restaurant near Placita Olvera who stretched her tips to make ends meet. She rented the house for a few years, then bought it in 1975 for $18,500, according to public records. The neighborhood was quiet.

“You really had to tell people where Echo Park was,” Breard says.

Breard continued living in the home as an adult and raised her children there alongside her mother. Breard and her older sister, Sarah Padilla, lived in separate units in the triplex at the time of their mother’s death in 2018.

Soon after, Breard says, she learned that she and another sister had been excluded from their mother’s will. The home had been left to Padilla and two other siblings. Their older brother was named executor of the estate. Family representatives of the estate did not respond to phone calls and emails requesting comment.

Soon, plans were in motion to sell the house, which over the years had grown to be valued at more than $1 million.

Breard says she feared that she would be evicted and the house would be torn down to make room for apartments or condos. She saw it as history repeating itself. She, like the Arechigas, would soon be ripped from her home.

“It’s not just an apartment you rent. I grew up there. It took part in raising me,” she said.

She began organizing with the LA Tenants Union and along with other supporters worked to file an application to have the property designated a historic-cultural monument with the city planning department, hoping that it would deter a developer from buying the property and tearing it down.

The estate framed the moves as stalling tactics meant to keep the house from being sold, according to court records.

Breard’s supporters circulated a petition calling for a show of community support so that the sisters could remain in the house and for “the rejection of tearing it down for future development projects.”

When the home went up for auction in the spring of 2022 there were multiple bidders. It sold for a little more than $1.2 million to NELA Development. Padilla, who according to court records refused to cooperate with the sale, received about $290,000 when the estate was settled.

“Buyer to be aware that the property will be delivered with its current occupants who are not paying rent,” read a notification issued with the sale.

Padilla did not respond to requests for an interview. Representatives for NELA also did not return emails and phone calls requesting comment. The company bills itself on its website as a “family-run real estate and investment company dedicated to preserving and enhancing the many precious neighborhoods that make Los Angeles a special place to live, work and play.”

Charles Fisher, a historian who prepared the application for the home’s historic designation, said the company has been a good caretaker for historic homes in the past.

It “has got a fairly good track record in dealing with historic properties,” he said. “They’ve bought houses and fixed them up properly.”

He noted that the company had received an award from the Highland Park Heritage Trust for its work fixing and preserving two local homes.

In June 2022, shortly after the company purchased the home, Breard was given a three-day notice to “perform or quit.” It said that she had “failed and refused to permit an appraiser or other workmen to enter the property” and gave her three days to do so or face eviction.

One month later, the property management company filed an eviction case against her in court, saying she had not complied with the notice.

Breard says she was never given the opportunity to comply. In November 2022, with the eviction pending, the home won the historic designation from the city over the new owner’s objection.

In January, a jury ruled against Breard in the eviction case, setting the stage for sheriff’s deputies to soon arrive and lock her out of the house.

Not long after, Breard saw a video posted to Facebook by the new owners, with the hashtag #realestateinvesting.

“Super excited to announce our first project for 2024,” a man says, standing in front of the house, its pastel facade looking worn but stately.

“This house here in Echo Park is absolutely amazing. It’s a Queen Anne Victorian … Let us know if you have any questions or if you’d like the private viewing of this property.”

Breard began preparing for the possibility that she would have to leave the home, though she wasn’t sure where she would go. She is disabled and cannot work, she said.

This month, Breard hosted a yard sale to get rid of many of the possessions that filled the house over the decades.

A couple of days later, she got some good news. A new attorney representing her had asked the judge to set aside the jury’s decision, arguing, among other issues, that the notice to quit had been defective as it never gave Breard specific instructions on how to fix the alleged lease violation.

The judge ruled in her favor, putting an end to the eviction proceeding.

After the ruling, Breard said, she went to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels and gave thanks at the tomb of St. Vibiana, the city’s patron saint. From her perspective, the win was a victory for a city where people without money are constantly being pushed out.

“I love Los Angeles, it’s my home,” she said. But “this is happening to so many people. You see people on the street and nobody even looks at them.”

Despite the win, the home’s future is still unclear. Breard’s sister still has a pending eviction case.

Lupita Limón Corrales, an organizer with the LA Tenants Union, said a lawyer for the owner reached out to them and raised the possibility of selling the property to a community land trust, which would create a nonprofit that would be responsible for the home. The lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

Corrales said the group is working with the sisters to come up with a proposal that it will present to the company.

If it were to happen, it could take a long time, she said. For now, their main focus is helping Padilla win her pending eviction case.



Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top