WHOSE INTERESTS ARE BEING PROTECTED AT CITY HALL?

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Category: City News
Published on Friday, 28 June 2019 03:10
Written by Grace Yoo
JUNE19Grace2web














As a resident of CD10, I keep witnessing how we, the people, the voters, the residents, are getting left behind. I see mega developments come into my district and push out long-time residents. When a mega development moved in, my friend’s rent went from $1,600 to $1,900.  She moved out and the landlord raised the rent to $2,200.  In other words, gentrification is happening, and the results are scary.

In Seattle, large corporations like Amazon, Boeing, etc., have changed the face of the city, turning it into housing and parking spaces for the workers of their mega developments, which means raised rental rates and displaced communities and neighborhoods. New York City made the transition years ago. Only the very wealthy can afford to live there now and, importantly, the renters, who still have apartments that are protected by rent stabilization. Is this slow takeover of our city by developers and corporations the secret vision of L.A.’s future by our elected officials at City Hall?

In Culver City on the border of Los Angeles, AMAZON and its subsidiaries will be moving into a huge new development on Washington east of Trader Joes. HBO will be moving into Ivy Station just off the 10 freeway and the 25th St. exit. APPLE will be moving into a new development just east of Trader Joes in Culver City.  You can be certain their thousands of employees will be headed to CD10 for housing.

Recently, folks were alarmed and upset to learn that a 102  year-old woman was being evicted from her home of 30 years. This could have been your mother, grandmother, aunt or neighbor.  Yet how do we resolve this type of situation? The owner of the house has rights too. Shouldn’t they have a say about who lives in their house?  Of course, but there is a fine balancing of rights that must be achieved.  Just because someone is a property owner, doesn’t mean they have all the rights while the renter, unprotected by rent stabilization, has zero.

It was not too long ago that we as a society allowed for racism in housing without consequences. However, the law was changed to ensure equal treatment regardless of race or sexual orientation. Antidiscrimination laws were put into place and enforcement of these laws came into existence, which ensured greater protections for individuals. Unfortunately even then it did not eradicate discrimination. Within our City Council District 10 boundaries, there have been renters who were racially discriminated against by Sterling. Yes, the same Sterling who until a few years ago was the owner of the LA Clippers.

From https://www.businessinsider.com/donald-sterling-racist-history-2014-4

“In 2006, the Department of Justice brought housing-discrimination charges against Sterling for allegedly refusing to rent to African-Americans at his Los Angeles residential complexes. The suit was settled three years later for a record $2.75 million, with Sterling avoiding an admission of liability.

In sworn testimony, one of Sterling's top property supervisors Sumner Davenport claimed he made racist comments about black people living in one of the buildings he had just acquired.”

Luckily, with the antidiscrimination laws in place, the renters were able to work together to bring a lawsuit to stop the discrimination and also be compensated.

According to the Housing and Community Investment Department (HCIDLA),  in the City of Los Angeles nearly 60 percent of all Angelenos are renters.  You would think that their representatives at City Hall would make an effort to listen to this majority of voters regarding their issues and concerns. Yet, more often than not, renters are not listened to or even sought out for input. Distressed neighborhoods have become a favorite destination for young home buyers with well-paying jobs and corporate businesses looking for cheap property.  (CIM, a corporate development agency, has bought up large sections of Adams Blvd.) Los Angeles' low income renters, businesses included, who have lived and worked in these communities for decades are currently under siege from this new kind of economic discrimination.  When property owners realize they are sitting on a potential gold mine, longtime renters are forced out of their homes and businesses.  If renters in Los Angeles were to organize I foresee a TSUNAMI of change in the policies of our city.

From Shelter Force, a national tenants organization -  “Renters, faced with a historic housing crisis, are getting organized to change immediate conditions on the ground and build a movement to transform the way land and housing are treated in the country,” says Tony Romano, director of organizing with the Right to the City Alliance, (in an interview with Shelter Force) This year’s wins come as evidence continues to mount that the housing crisis is reaching epidemic proportions. According to a new study by PolicyLink and the National Equity Atlas, 51 percent of all renters are now cost-burdened.”

There are unintended consequences when laws are not enacted and enforced to protect people. For example, after the passage of Measure JJJ in 2016, which allowed for zone changes for building more housing units, it was with the understanding that these new units would include low-income rental units.  However, when a call was made to ask how many units were available for low-income rent, the person answering the phone seemed lost and bewildered that there was such a requirement. When laws are consistently made and used to protect large corporations, to ensure greater profit for the corporation versus the needs of the people, such as the manner in which JJJ is actually working in real life, it is not surprising that the promised low-income rental units are not being built as initially promised.  It is only a matter of time before an uprising by the people breaks through the surface.

As someone who truly respects and believes in Democracy, I like to remind myself what the definition is.

From Webster’s dictionary:

a : government by the people especially : rule of the majority

b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections

Democracy works only when voters actively engage and ensure that their voices and needs are heard.  What would our city look like if politicians actually put people’s interests first instead of those of big corporations.  The Los Angeles Times recently wrote how a local big corporation got away with not paying back $6.3 million in federal loans, and provided absolutely zero of the promised 600 jobs to our district.  The Crenshaw District Square site still remains vacant, which at first sounded promising but turned into a stark empty and broken lot after a decade of hollow promises by Beverly Hills businessman Arman Gabay (aka Gabee). Gabay has been charged with bribery in cases involving county leases, so stay tuned for more details to come out of the trial, set for this fall.

Strange and bizarre loopholes in the law allow for the one percenters to not pay their share of taxes. Do you recall Warren Buffett talk about how he’s still paying a lower tax rate than his secretary? Or how Amazon paid zero taxes in 2018, although the company made $11.2 billion in profit?

It is time to wake up and pay close attention to what is happening around us.  We can begin by taking a hard look at what candidates, who are running to represent us, really have to offer. What in the candidates' past indicate they really want to help others instead of doing what is necessary to gain greater power for themselves. It’s time for a tsunami change at City Hall. We need elected officials who will protect the voters' interest over corporate interest and set forth policies that will help build real, affordable workforce units in their district, as opposed to developing expensive rental units with a few “affordable” units thrown in. We want to avoid the fate of Seattle, New York and L.A. neighborhoods that with the help of “business as usual” at City Hall,  are in the process of being corporatized at the expense of community and long-standing neighborhood cultures.  We want the focus from our representatives at City Hall to protect us from being ousted from the homes and communities we helped build and nurture over the decades.  The next elections, from cities to the federal government, will be some of the most important elections in a long time.  See you at the voting booth!

Grace Yoo is a practicing attorney and community activist who ran for a Council seat for CD10 in 2015. She will be running again in 2020.

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