A disabled local cartoonist who has worked on some of his industry’s most iconic characters — from Mighty Mouse and Betty Boop to Richie Rich and Felix the Cat — says his landlord is kicking him out and he now has no place to go.
According to Milton Knight, 55, the conditions at his Altadena apartment on Ewing Avenue are so bad that he almost died from typhus, a disease bought on by fleas from rats living in nearby trees. The walls of the dilapidated converted garage that he lives in are riddled with holes, and the plumbing is faulty.
Despite the terrible living conditions, Knight is fighting to stay there because he has no other options.
“I have a friend that is willing to put me up for three months,” Knight said. “After that, I have no place to go. I am distraught about it. I don’t know where I’m going after that.”
Altadena, an unincorporated community in Los Angeles County, has no rent control and tenants can be asked to leave at any time with 60-days notification. Knight has until early May to leave the premises.
Rent control movements have started in several cities, including Pasadena and Glendale, which would not only cap rent increases but force landlords to pay relocation fees when a resident is asked to move without cause. A rental housing board, consisting of five members and funded through rental fees, would act as a mediator in housing disputes. But none of those ideas will help Knight now.
So far, the cartoonist has raised nearly $5,000 from a Gofundme campaign. He plans to use the money for relocation costs, storage and any legal fees that may arise.
Knight suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, bought on by years of physical and verbal abuse he suffered as a boy at the hands of his alcoholic father and his enabling mother.
According to Knight, he started drawing at the age of 2. He used his art as a way to bring relief from his troubled family life, and later graduated from Hofstra University in New York.
Over the past few decades, some of his work has appeared in the Pasadena Weekly, High Times, Heavy Metal and the National Lampoon.
During his career he has also worked on Mighty Mouse, Richie Rich, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Betty Boop comics after moving to Los Angeles in 1991, a time when animation was booming. He also worked on “The New Twisted Adventures of Felix the Cat,” “Sonic the Hedgehog” and “Johnny Test.”
But by the middle of the decade, the studios were looking for younger artists and soon it became harder for him to find work.
In 1996 he suffered a nervous breakdown that left him down and out for nearly two years.
He only receives about $1,000 a month and $600 of that went toward his rent in the one-room converted garage on Ewing Avenue, where he has lived for the past seven years. Over the past six months, his rent has skyrocketed, rising to its current cost of $900 a month.
On the recommendation of a local gallery owner he decided to move into the place on Ewing Avenue, although he knew the place had a multitude of problems: holes in the wall, an unfinished ceiling and windows that don’t shut. To this day he finds rat droppings around the property. Two trees are infested with squirrels and rats. Water from the faucet comes out foamy.
Last year, the acclaimed artist was hospitalized with typhus, an infectious disease caused by fleas. Symptoms include fever, headache, and a rash.
Things got worse after he was released from the hospital.
When Knight returned home in March, he discovered all of the fuses powering his apartment had been removed. Days later, the plumbing in the bathroom backed up and waste was coming up through the bathtub. Knight took photos and threatened to take complaints to the Los Angeles County Department of Health. Altadena is an unincorporated community governed by the county Board of Supervisors.
“I know this place would not be approved by the Board of Health,” Knight said,
Two days after the plumbing failed, a woman came to clean up the mess, but an hour after she left Knight’s landlord delivered a notice to vacate the premises.
“He claimed I used too many extension cords,” Knight said. After Knight pointed out there were not enough outlets, the landlord claimed Knight was “hoarding.”
According to Knight, landlord Micah Adams was not sympathetic to his situation when Knight begged him to let him stay at the property.
Knight said he has been unsuccessful in contacting Ron Pettie, the property owner.
“I said, ‘Please don’t throw me out, I am poor and I have no place to go,’” Knight said to Adams. “He just shrugged.”
Adams would not discuss the situation in detail when contacted by the Pasadena Weekly.
“He is not being evicted,” Adams said. “We are asking for possession of the unit. The reason is something I have discussed with him. For his privacy, I wouldn’t feel comfortable talking with anyone else about it.”
But Knight says he still does not know why he is being kicked out.
“They have given all sorts of reasons,” said Knight. “I think it’s in retaliation. The landlord has always been poor with repairs.”
According to Knight, Adams tried to strike a deal with him after he called an elder abuse hotline and complained about the conditions in the unit.
“I have been on time with my rent for all of my seven years here,” Knight said. “He [implied] he would give me a break if I dropped all my accusations.”
To help Milton Knight, visit gofundme.com/an-artist-survives-but-needs-help