Four years ago, tenants at the Rolland Curtis Gardens fought alongside two nonprofit groups to avoid being convicted by a billionaire developer who wanted to turn their apartment complex into student housing for the University of Southern California. After a yearlong tenant-led campaign, the nonprofits were able to purchase the property for $9 million.
Two years later, those same tenants assisted the nonprofits with a campaign to buy the property and build a new Rolland Curtis complex. They posed for pictures, gave testimonials and wrote letters to the Los Angeles Planning Commission in support of the proposed development that would replace their outdated 48-unit complex.
Now those tenants are at odds with the two organizations, TRUST South LA and Abode Communities, after being told to vacate to make room for the new development the nonprofits are building, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Many of the tenants, who have Section 8 vouchers, have been unable to secure new housing in neighborhoods as desirable as the one they live in now.
The nonprofits offered the legal minimum of $1,375 per apartment in relocation expenses, which is thousands of dollars less than what owners of rent-controlled apartments have to pay to evict tenants for redevelopment.
After being contacted and questioned by the Times, the owners changed course and offered the tenants an additional $7,000 once they sign leases at new apartments.
Patrice Richardson, a 27-year resident of Rolland Curtis, told the Times that she regrets writing letters to help with the new development.
“They used a bunch of low-income families to get this property, they got it and then they are like, ‘Shoo, you are a pest to us,’” Richardson said. “But we’re here and we’re human and we have the right to be placed into a comfortable living situation.”
Leaders of the two nonprofits told the Times that they remain committed to bringing back tenants who want to return once the new development is complete in 2018, but the tenants say that the application requirements are stricter than they were when they originally moved in.
Abode has offered tenants spots at some of its other 37 affordable housing complexes in the county, but tenants haven’t been able to move into some of the properties because they have waiting lists.
Martha Harris has lived at Rolland Curtis for almost two decades. She told the Times that some of the suggested areas for Abode apartments, like Baldwin Village, are unsafe for her family.
“These are the kind of places I don’t want to live. It’s really kind of bad over there,” Harris said.
The Times reports that support from the Rolland Curtis tenants was crucial to the nonprofits’ getting approval for the redevelopment project; nearly 200 nearby homeowners opposed the project because of concerns about crime, traffic, and a belief that it would “promote segregation and increase the concentration of poverty in the area.”
The nonprofits enlisted the support of the tenants in their campaign for the redevelopment, and now many of those tenants, including David Mosley, feel betrayed.
“It makes it seem like something was hidden,” he said. “It develops sort of a mistrust in the people you’ve been dealing with, the ones you opened up your heart to and put all your energy into helping out.”
Read more at the Los Angeles Times.