Photos by Angela Truong.
Willmore area residents renting from an apartment complex at 939 Pacific Avenue gathered together to share a meal on a Saturday in late March, coinciding as the final day in a 60-day notice to evict from the building.
Housing advocates organized the final gathering dubbed “The Last Supper” with tenants in three out of the 14 total units choosing to continue the fight against their displacement by remaining in their units.
Some of these residents have lived in the building for nearly 30 years.
The residents previously fought back by holding a protest outside of their building and going to city hall twice in March, which caught the attention of Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez, who recently set a deal with the building owners to give residents 30 extra days before having to leave. Residents will also be provided with relocation assistance.
“I am proud of the work that my office and I have done when it comes to advocating for new housing opportunities in the City of Long Beach,” Gonzalez said in a statement. “In addition to the 1700 affordable housing units in the First District, (the most of any area in the city), we have been able to assist the residents of 939 Pacific with a 30 day extension beyond the original 60 day notice to ensure that residents’ immediate needs are taken care of.”
Gonzalez said her office has also assisted residents in securing financial assistance to help with relocation costs. They will also begin rolling out a program meant to educate and empower residents about their housing qualifications.
“Our work continues alongside our residents and property owners, to ensure that we protect affordable covenants for seniors and low income families, as well as look for new affordable living opportunities citywide,” Gonzalez said. “This is an issue that requests a collaborative approach with many stakeholders at the table and residents’ needs should come first before anything.”
Housing Long Beach Executive Director Josh Butler says that the residents aren’t only losing their homes but also a part of their community. Being a no-fault eviction city, the landlord isn’t required to give tenants a reason to evict in Long Beach, according to Butler.
“We’re the largest population of renters on the West Coast without any renters protections beyond basic state law,” said Butler, who is one of the chief organizers in a campaign to bring rent control to the ballot this November.
Neighbors, friends and other residents being evicted by the same company joined in sharing a meal while telling neighborhood stories.
Victor Chacon and his wife have resided in the building for 30 years. Translated from Spanish to English, Chacon encouraged everyone to remain hopeful.
“Jesus has been there with us and sometimes we have to live through the saddest times and the hardest times but nonetheless our faith is what pushes us forward,” said Chacon.
— Angela Truong (@heyitsangelaLB) March 31, 2018
Theresa Harvey has lived in the building for nearly 20 years, as well as raised her daughter there. She recently had a stroke and says she would be unable to move her things in time. She has seen neighbors and friends on the street with their children but never thought it would come down to this for her.
“It’s scary when you have to realize that you may not have a place,” said Harvey. “It’s something I don’t want for my daughter.”
Housing Long Beach and residents will be heading to city hall on April 17 for another council meeting to hear a city report back on rent control.
“This is a necessary hurdle for the council to clear for this process to move forward and place the rent control measure on the ballot,” said Butler.
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