March 11, 2013

Topic: Housing

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WYVERNWOOD APARTMENTS NEXT TARGET FOR DESTRUCTION OF RENT CONTROLLED HOUSING.
Los Angeles Tenants Need to Prepare for the Battle Ahead.

In the last month many people have asked Union de Vecinos about Wyvernwood and the struggle to stop its demolition. We have signed the petitions, we have seen the flurry of facebook messages, emails, tweets, and events and have replied to the messages, participated in the events and lent our virtual space to promote the struggle. We most definitely support the Wyvernwood tenants opposing the demolition, and certainly agree with the concept that Todos Somos Wyvernwood. However, given the history of Union de Vecinos, born in the struggle to stop the demolition of Pico Aliso public housing, we believe it is important to expand on our reasons to support this effort.

Boyle Heights has been a target for redevelopment since 1996 because of its proximity to downtown Los Angeles, its culture, and its traditions. The first attack came with the demolition of 1,262 units of public housing and was followed by hundreds more through the development of the Gold Line, the expansion of the Hospital, and the construction of Hollenbeck’s police station. Over $3 billion of public funds have been used to ‘embellish’ our community at the expense of over two thousand families. Each time church and community “leaders”, accompanied by the bought silence of the local non profits, have blessed the demolition, displacement and destruction of our community. Virtually none of that housing has been replaced. Other than what 342 families in Pico Aliso fought for, there are no guarantees that anybody has been able to return to their community since their displacement. Now, Boyle Heights is at risk another 1,175 units of affordable rent controlled housing through the proposed demolition of the Wyvernwood Apartments.

Fifteen Group, the owner of the apartment complex, proposes to demolish the units and build 4,400 units of homes for sale and market rate rental. This development not only impacts the residents of Wyvernwood, it impacts the residents in the Boyle Heights community. More importantly it makes it clear that in Los Angeles low income tenants are not welcome. The effort in Wyvernwood is no different from what has been happening in Highland Park, Echo Park, Downtown, and Hollywood where thousands of people living under rent control are being pushed out for the sake of development. Every time that developers come into the neighborhood, they denounce the crime and violence and use this fear to displace the community and develop the housing that we cannot afford. Later on they celebrate this destruction as a success, and are silent about the people that they pushed out.

The demolition of Wyvernwood will eliminate rent controlled housing from the Boyle Heights community. The housing that will be built will be priced at rates that most of the population of Boyle Heights cannot afford . Many of our members live in overcrowded homes and in housing conditions with code violations. The proposed development exacerbates that problem through the demolition of rent controlled housing. Instead of the 1,175 affordable units that exist today, the owner will only build a little over 600 units of supposed affordable housing thereby reducing our affordable housing stock. This new development will not benefit the current residents of Boyle Heights.

Boyle Heights should be declared a no net loss rent controlled housing zone. There should also be a plan to replace the housing that was lost in all of Boyle Heights and a plan to meet the growing housing needs of this growing community. But this is not just a problem for Boyle Heights.  All tenants in LA should be concerned, and all tenants in LA should join the fight.  RENT CONTROLLED HOUSING CANNOT AND SHOULD NOT BE DEMOLISHED UNTIL LA’ HOUSING CRISIS IS SOLVED.

For the last 17 years Union de Vecinos has stood AGAINST gentrification and FOR the preservation of affordable housing and FOR the human right for all to have housing. We support the residents of Wyvernwood and Comite Esperanza in their call to preserve their homes. We support the struggle of all tenants in Boyle Heights. This is not about tenants versus developers. This is about tenants and our need and right to rent controlled quality affordable housing.

WE NEED TO PREPARE FOR WHAT IS COMING. WE NEED TO PREPARE TO ACT OVER THE UPCOMING MONTHS TO FIGHT FOR OUR HUMAN RIGHT TO HOUSING.