A few days ago HACLA representatives invited the residents of Pico Aliso to an impromptu meeting. The meeting was to discuss the establishment of a private management in the development to “follow through with original intent of the redevelopment plan of Pico Gardens.” They presented this as a done deal. However, there are many problems with this decision. HACLA’s presentation was made without presenting any serious analysis or alternatives Also, HACLA refused to make any statements about future impact of this decision on the tenantsn, saying that they didn’t know what was going to happen.
Over the last few months HACLA has been reducing services in Pico Aliso, blaming it on funding shortages. They have reduced staff, eliminated the manager position and started sharing services with Ramona Gardens. Now with the sequestration they are taking the next step by imposing a private manager. Their plan is to use a current RFP to request services and hire the new, private, management.
For the members of the Union de Vecinos this is not a surprise. We fought in 1996 against the demolition and privatization of Pico Aliso. We read and studied the plans that announced a new vision for public housing with different priorities were privatization was at the center of the planning and where the impact on the tenants’ lives and voices was secondary. Also, in Pueblo Del Sol, the HOPE VI development, we fought and organized to stop the private manager from carrying out illegal evictions against former residents of Aliso Village. Recently, Union de Vecinos as part of the Human Right to Housing Collective had to fight to stop the conversion of all public housing in Boyle Heights into section 8.
What is the impact of privatization for the tenants of Pico Aliso? While HACLA refuses to answer the question, we have some ideas. The privatization of management means a change in emphasis from serving the needs of the most poor to focusing on the bottom line. It means the weakening of the federally protected rights of the tenants in Pico Gardens. Furthermore it means the renouncing of HACLA’s responsibilities toward the tenants. All of these have been experienced in Pueblo del Sol, formerly Aliso Village, where 685 units of public housing were demolished to build section 8 and private Housing. The development displaced over 500 families, the section 8 was transferred from the tenants to the developer and a new aggressive management came in with a campaign that targeted former Aliso Village residents for eviction. Throughout this process HACLA ignored the concerns of the tenants and supported the new management.
It is ironic that recently, HACLA busing Jordan Down Tenants to Pueblo del Sol to look at the buildings and telling that this is their future, little do the tenants know that Pueblo del Sol is a development where less that a third of the residents are former Aliso Village residents.
By HACLA’s own admission the possibility of the reduction in the subsidies is a given. This means that the manager of the development, then, needs to provide housing to tenants that are more stable economically thus, creating pressures to remove the tenants that are in more precarious conditions. In the meantime HACLA moves from being a provider of Public Housing to becoming a real estate management public corporation that transfers public resources into the private sector.
This is not going to stop with Pico Gardens. HACLA is preparing for the demolition and privatization of Jordan Downs, the plan of section 8 conversions continues. Thousands of very low-income families stand to lose their stability as these changes continue. All this while the city of Los Angeles lacks a serious plan to provide real affordable housing for the poorest, refuses to protect rent control housing and continues being the homeless capital of the US.