HEARTRENDING STORIES & ACCOUNTS OF DAMAGE

By Brenda Barnes

We have handwritten petitions with signatures of about 200 of our neighbors in Mid-City and Pico Neighborhood, from just one guy going out for a few hours on two Sunday afternoons. Not one person said they were in favor of the development, 200 people signed, and five said they were watching the game and couldn’t take time to talk about anything right then. That’s the way support for us goes.

When we picket in front of the Park 5:30-6:30 Mon-Thur every week–as we’ve been doing since May 10 only–now 100s maybe 1000s of people honk and give us thumbs-up as they pass. We’ve decided since that group recognizes our signs now and knows what we are talking about, we’ll move to the two blocks before the light on Centinela where we can hand out flyers to every car because they are stopped for two blocks at the light. Then we’ll set up a lemonade stand with kids selling lemonade to help their parents pay the rent that is going to go from $500 to $1500 if this passes, in the next block, after everyone really understands the issues, and get them to sign our petition to the state government there at the same time that they help us with fundraising for our legal expenses in the future.

Our next step is picketing in the neighborhoods of the four City Council people running for reelection or the Assembly, and hit them with what they have actually done–supported developers who are going to bulldoze homes owned by 109 families covered by rent control–where their support most logically is. This is where they claim they have done something good, as Bloom claims he has gotten things passed in the Council and he would do the same in Sacramento. He sure would do the same thing he has done here–support Big Money instead of the people–but that is not what he is claiming he did.

Same with the others–for instance, Gleam Davis changed her vote on the second reading from no to yes on 710 Wilshire when Bobby Shriver changed his vote from yes to no because he had been shown the workers were not being guaranteed a living wage as the developer had claimed, since they would have to pay $3 an hour to get decent health coverage. It was more important to her that developers be sure they can develop than it was that workers be guaranteed a living wage.

We just have to get the truth out about what these people actually do. Big Money has bought them because they are in the revolving door–once they make developers happy, they will get cushy consulting jobs and no telling what else for the rest of their lives…Big Money rewards its friends. We have to elect people who will not look out for themselves at our expense..

Then we are going to picket at corners where SM voters are likely to be–unlike where we are on Colorado between 26th and Centinela, where most of the drivers going east during rush hour live somewhere else, which is why the traffic is gridlocked. We hope to get 20,000 signatures–the number we need to elect four Council members in November–on our petition to put reversing this on the ballot, and by the way elect four people who commit themselves never to allow destruction of homes for development. There are plenty of industrial buildings they can build on the land of over on this side of town. That is going to be bad enough if we don’t get them replaced, since they seem never to have seen a development plan they don’t like once its far beyond ridiculous first draft is cut in half to a still-ridiculous second or third one.

Let’s come up with some good, pithy stories and slogans for this. Together we are so much better than any of us alone.

We started a Stories of Village Trailer Park project some time ago, but didn’t get very many stories until the day-to-day having to live under stress of the very sick people whose stories would be heartrending intervened. Also, having to spend so much time on the legal processes. That’s our excuse, perhaps our reason, but this does show enough promise that someone(s) should take time to do it.

I think Patrick Corsaro is the most heartrending I know. He’s my neighbor and I remember him from when he walked around all gentlemanly and friendly when I bought our trailer 26 years ago. He has an English accent still, although he has been here 37 years and in America since before WWII. He was the gentleman scholar of the Park and knew everyone by name. Now he is 94 and so ill and almost bedridden that his three friends in SM from his life living here, going back to a Navy buddy, do everything for him. What would he do if he didn’t have them? He is so desperate to stay in SM that, like the other sick people, he has along the way been almost willing to take the $20,000 and go to rental housing, but now that there are both no redevelopment money and no Section 8 vouchers, he would last a year or so at most paying market rent. Then what would he do, sick and homeless at 95?

If the Council adopts the Planning Commission’s recommendation that people who choose the come-back-to-a-box if-and-when-it’s-ever-built option will get market rent paid by the developer as long as the construction takes, along with a bond we could charge against if the developer doesn’t build, as a condition precedent of the development agreement, then people like Patrick could choose that option, unfair as it is, and have something. However, when you multiply out the numbers, for 60 of us to be guaranteed even that will be paid, the developer will need to post a $12-50 million bond! (It’s $12M for just the 60 families remaining to be covered for five years of market rent and $100,000 for losing our homes, with no damages for loss of our leaseholds into the next generation–it’s $50M for covering all 109 families that have rights under rent control and to cover their heirs–as anyone who owns a home covered by rent control has a right to have.)

People have never been willing to accept how damaged all of us will be by losing our homes we own free and clear here, with rent and eviction protection as long as rent control lasts, which means with our protections under the Mobilehome Residency Law (right to sell and will our homes, and the new owner gets the same rights we had), we are as damaged as any homeowners on leased land would be. In Palm Springs that is half the population, since native American tribes own every other section. Similarly, in NY and London, which have had rent control for generations, many million-dollar flats are on leased land. It simply is not true that because we do not own the land we have no right to damages for our leaseholds and our homes being taken.

If we could get people to turn it around and see how much they would be damaged if they had to go into the rental housing market, the numbers add up. The developer has never been confronted with the true cost of this development because the City has not represented us or the voters who passed rent control to keep this from happening. Every agency we go to acts like they are doing us some favor by telling us how troubled they are to kick the can to the next agency. That is simply not confr5onting the issues.

Please respond with your ideas on how we can make this heartrending as it is, and clear at the same time.

In solidarity,

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