The history of AAGLA’s first 90 ii years is almost complete. AAGLA’s Legislative Analyst, Jim Fleck, has examined the association’s historical records from 1917 through 2006, retrieved relevant photos of past presidents and key members, as well as contemporary events that occurred in each year of AAGLA’s past. Apartment Age editor Kevin Postema has edited Fleck’s of AAG draft and with Fay Ward, our most capable graphic designer, is producing a photographic layout to accompany the text.
Our new history book starts with Elizabeth McGonigal, our first president and the “foundress” of the association. During World War I, Mrs. McGonigal and five other Long Beach landlords sold their beachside apartment buildings and moved to downtown Los Angeles.
Since the first bound volume of the association’s magazine has been lost for many years, we cannot be sure of the exact reasons why our founders relocated from Long Beach to Los Angeles City, nor why they chose to start their own association instead of joining the handful of Los Angeles property owners who had already started an apartment association here. Whatever the reason, within a few years the original group had disbanded and AAGLA had absorbed it.
Rent control in Los Angeles surfaced following Armistice Day on November 11, 1918. One of the earliest successes of AAGLA was defeating this early rent control attempt. But rent control reappeared in World War II. Tenant activists and federal officials wanted to keep the wartime controls in effect, but our organization fought to end rent regulation and helped build the massive expansion of rental housing that occurred in the post war era.
An attempt at “socialized housing” occurred in the 1970s when Chavez Ravine was a political war zone over whether or not to build $110 million worth of low-income high-rise rentals of the type sprouting up across the nation. The result was a nationwide glut of instant slums.
This did not happen in Los Angeles as AAGLA was able to stop the construction here of the type of instant slums that sprang up elsewhere. Later, Dodger Stadium was erected on the site instead of slum skyscrapers.
We were not as successful in the late 70s when rent control spread like a disease across California, but our members fought hard against the worst aspects of rent control, and protected us through the “vacancy decontrol” that preserved some free market aspects in Los Angeles and served as a model for the Costa Hawkins protection enacted by the State Legislature that exists today.
No decision has been made yet on how our new history will be made available to our membership. Check my December article in Apartment Age. We should have up to date information by then on when our new history book will be available.
More history from earlier columns …
I have just returned from a business trip to the East Coast. While I was there I arranged a meeting with Jim Fleck, AAGLA’s research analyst who now lives just north of West Palm Beach, Florida. A month or so ago I asked Fleck to start writing a book on AAGLA’s history.
We began in 1917. Our organization was founded by Mrs. C.H. (Elizabeth) McGonigal, a rental property owner who had from just moved north from Long Beach to Los Angeles. Once in L.A., McGonigal started a property association called “The Co-operative Apartment House Association,” which eventually became the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA).
This new association’s headquarters moved to different locations near downtown L.A. until in the mid ’80s it eventually settled into our present site at 621 South Westmoreland Ave. McGonigal was elected AAGLA’s first president. She served as our president for four terms, setting a precedent for both FDR and myself as four-term presidents. In later years McGonigal’s picture was printed in the association’s magazine, which, like the association, underwent a number of name changes until it took on the title of “Apartment Age.”
One issue McGonigal faced was the problem of over-construction. Building activity in L.A. was unprecedented. Consequently L.A.’s summer vacancy rates climbed as high as 47%. The early AAGLA leadership sought by every means possible to convince developers and investors not to invest in more L.A. apartments.
That our forefathers and foremother were not totally successful in achieving that goal can be seen in the population growth in L.A. In 1900, L.A. had a population of 259,000, less than the population of Syracuse, New York, which had a population of 346,600. By the year 2000, Syracuse’s population had grown to 732,100 while the Los Angeles area population has grown to over 16 million.
As I recall, one of the first kings of England ordered the tide not to come in. His efforts were unsuccessful. Our founders early efforts to hold back L.A.’s population and housing growth weren’t any more successful than the king’s, but aside from that miscalculation AAGLA’s efforts over the past century have been remarkable. Today we are the largest rental property association west of New York City. We have both lobbyists and AAGLA members active in Los Angeles and Sacramento protecting us from the destructive efforts by some elected officials who continually attempt to erode our property rights in favor of those of tenant activists, who seem to want to cripple us by imposing absolute and unjust tenant “protections” against our industry.
We continue to provide you with both professional business assistance, education and ongoing political and legal efforts to protect your interests. McGonigal’s efforts still live today.
Thank you, Elizabeth.