Pamela Azar: Remembering My Neighbor, Gone Five Years Already

Five years ago we lost to cancer Pamela Azar, who was a civic-minded neighbor and a passionate Renters Alliance follower. So much time has passed; how can it be? It seems like only yesterday that Pam and I shared a call or I opened my email inbox to see another uplifting message of support for our ongoing effort to wring better tenant protections from city hall. Pam died in hospice on June 22, 2019 before we even had a chance to meet. We lived only blocks apart. Here is a bit more about a lovely soul I am proud to have called ‘neighbor.’

I first heard from Pamela Azar in February 2017 after I reached out to multifamily residents with news about important changes to the Beverly Hills rent stabilization ordinance. She was living at 169 North LaPeer in a building that, like so many, was poorly maintained. Indeed Pam experienced many of the same problems as do all longtime tenants in Beverly Hills: plumbing backups, water leaks, legacy water damage, suspected mold, and the inevitable half-assed handyman fixes.

“The current management is the third owner of this deferred, minimally-maintained building,” she wrote me that August about her landlord Judah Farahi. He has an ownership interest in several other Beverly Hills rental properties including 133 North Clark and 128 South Palm. “They’ve just sucked money out and done as little as possible,” she said of her building, of which he was fond.

Pam was interested to get involved and to make change. To that end, she contributed many good policy ideas which I incorporated, without credit, into my own policy talking points.

Pam didn’t mind; she herself didn’t want to step forward herself for fear of eviction. “I don’t want to stir up a hornets nest with my manager,” she said in one email. “Please don’t draw attention to our situation specifically….I can’t take any aggravation.” I have heard that may times over the years.

Pam was less reticent about her health challenges; in fact she was blunt. Almost as an aside, she early confided, “FYI, I’m battling cancer and my elderly auntie has Alzheimer’s…So we’re a mess here, we are very fragile and require frequent trips to Cedars-Sinai.”

Her fear of eviction was real. Back then the city allowed no-just-cause tenancy termination with only 60 days notice. Pam saw it happen around her.

“The landlord next door emptied his fourplex based on no cause terminations,” she said in one email. “The tenants were really freaked…but they vacated.” (The property was remodeled and rents nearly tripled she said.) “Another landlord across the street emptied four contiguous multifamily buildings same way, and he is building a major multi-story project with underground parking where a row of charming buildings once stood.”

In a follow-up email she added, “Just on North LaPeer and North Almont alone in past 12 to 18 months, there are approximately 20 to 24 or more units that were emptied using no cause terminations.”

Indeed between her cancer and her caretaker role, Pam was very concerned about being evicted. Nevertheless she agreed to share her concerns with city council as the city considered further amendments to the rent stabilization ordinance.

Honorable City Council Members,
Please take into consideration the following as you consider this important matter:
Long term Beverly Hills residents, elderly tenants many with catastrophic illnesses (Alzheimers, COPD, stroke, and cancer) with otherwise excellent long term tenancy records can’t easily absorb continuing high annual increases and / or abrupt evictions without reason simply because the landlords want to significantly raise rents.
Many of us living on fixed incomes simply can’t secure alternative affordable rental property in the immediate area or relocate beyond Cedars Sinai medical facilities which many of us urgently need daily/weekly due to ongoing medical care. Please take these important matters into consideration as you seek an appropriate lawful resolution to this important issue.
Landlords and long term Beverly Hills residents deserve your equal respect. We wish you all the best in your review of this important issue and are hopeful a suitable compromise can be reached.
Best regards,
Pamela Azar
169 No. La Peer Dr.

Thankfully Pam was able to see city council end no-just-cause tenancy termination. But thereafter the pace of change in Beverly Hills slowed; endless city-sponsored tenant-landlord meetings produced little heat and no light. And it was exhausting for everyone.

“Breathe, pray to your better angels for patience,” Pam counseled. “But don’t take any crap! Carry on!”

That was Pam in a nutshell: personally encouraging at every step. “Thank you so much for everything you do,” she would regularly tell me. And when cancer had got the better of her, she wrote, “I’m sorry I’m not well enough to offer you more than moral support. But…I’m here!” And a few months later: “I regret my health has continued to deteriorate so I’m virtually useless except to occasionally cheer you on. I’m a mere shadow of my former self.”

Shadow of her former self indeed!

Pamela Azar portrait
Pamela Azar

Pamela Azar was born in 1948 in Macon, Georgia. She relocated to California and became involved in many civil causes like preserving the Santa Monica Mountains from development and supporting the Danny Thomas Memorial St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Pam was also a founding donor to the ‘GOP Wish List,’ which was a national, pro-choice Republican recruitment program for women candidates for national office.

Professionally, Pam was a real estate professional. She graduated from the Masters program in real estate development at the School of Policy, Planning and Development at the University of Southern California. Pam founded the Unistrux corporation in 2009 to bring aerospace composites technologies to homebuilding (she served as both the CEO and CFO according to Secretary of State filings). That was a heavy lift, no doubt. Soon enough she took a position as Senior Vice President of Capital Markets for Realty Capital Partners, LLC.

According to her Pazar Corporation website (now archived), she was licensed as a real estate broker, a Class-B general contractor and also a California Public Notary. Pam was a member of many professional associations. Who knew?

Then I learned from her Caring House Hospice memorial page (now archived) that in her former life she was a flight attendant.

As I read about Pam’s journey I am reminded that she had never shared much of it with me. I didn’t hear about a career in real estate or even about her broad range of interests. I knew her as a neighbor who was keenly interested in making our community better for those who rent. She was generous in spirit and generous with her time. That was enough for me.

Over her last months we understandably lost touch. The last time I heard from Pam was the day after city council outlawed no-just-cause eviction. It had been her primary worry. The previous day I had brought a few people to city council chambers to talk to our councilmembers about how their landlord evicted them and, more generally, talk about the ongoing harm caused by keeping no-just-cause eviction on the city books.

Councilmembers got the message. That night city council took no-just-cause eviction off of the city’s books and it remains so today.

After that meeting Pam emailed me one last time. “Congrats Mark, I’m very proud of your efforts! XOXO PA.”

I replied, “Much more to come. Wind in our sails! Thinking of you Pam.”

Pam died in hospice the following June and I’m still thinking about her support. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to know her and thankful for her counsel.

Were it a better world I could ring her right now to see if she’s up for a coffee…the coffee that we never had even though we lived only blocks apart. I would tell her that she is one of my favorite neighbors and we would probably laugh heartily about why it took so long for us to get together. Until we meet again….

Caring House hospice street view
Caring House hospice where Pam lived for her remaining days.