Dear South Pasadena:
With all the chaos that has ensued the past six months, I was torn away from my usual activism of fighting for South Pasadena renters.
As early as April, I knew the inevitable would come, the day when hundreds, potentially thousands of South Pasadenans would be faced with eviction. I allowed myself to get distracted by other issues in the City, equally important, but ultimately easier fixes than saving homes.
The last week of August it happened. One resident posted on Nextdoor asking about her tenant rights under COVID. I replied, and within seconds had two or three messages from other tenants in her building and the sister property.
Here it is, I sighed.
In this case of 2028 and 2038 Meridian, the new investment real estate company registered somewhere down in the South Bay, sent in property management goons to harass long time, low income tenants. A recent immigrant family from China, a senior citizen, families and people of color being told sometimes on daily basis to vacate or be evicted. All this during a deadly pandemic. I cringed for many reasons. I thought, “This is not the South Pas way. We do not treat each other like this during times like these.”
I discovered that within days of taking over the property, the new owners went into three vacant units of the 1924 cottages and began to demolish the original interiors, including the removal of walls. That was on May 15. All the work done without City of South Pasadena building permits, Cultural Heritage Commission review or inspections. Who knows if the units above are even structurally stable.
The owner just strolled into our town and gave our City ordinances, State and County laws the middle finger. By the time, our planning department caught up with him the work had been completed. The damage was done.
I regret that I was distracted by the shenanigans of the Finance Department and the antics of a former councilwoman. I wish I had spent the past several months advocating, in advance, for the 51% of South Pas residents who are renters. Instead, there were weeks when I was at odds with my own colleague over a vague proposal by the City Manager to put a building height increase on the November ballot. This rouse of hers pitting housing advocate against housing advocate. What a waste of time.
On Monday, Governor Newsom signed a watered down State Eviction Ban AB3088. It doesn’t even cover our small businesses. Trump finally got into the act with a Federal moratorium ordered by CDC. But neither the State or National moratorium goes far enough. We still have a County of Los Angeles moratorium thanks to the leadership of our stellar County Supervisor Kathryn Barger and Supervisor Solis. That is set to expire on September 30.
Tenants continue to face housing insecurity and fears of homelessness. With no end in sight for the first wave of COVID 19, we don’t know what this health crisis has in store for us when the cold wet months come again. Only one thing I know for sure is that renters will continue to live with the fear that they will be thrown out of their homes. The residents at 2028 and 2038 Meridien are waiting to see if they get their 60-days notices tomorrow, legal or not.
South Pasadena’s contracted housing service provider, Housing Rights Center, could barely be bothered with calls from tenants and their staff has yet to respond to my requests for assistance for the families on Meridien. It truly feels like, with the exception of Councilman Schneider, no one at City Hall cares.
This council, City Manager and a boisterous YIMBY have invested so much time and money into convincing South Pasadenans to swing open our gates to welcome Big Real Estate speculators and yet have not had one conversation in five months about how we can protect our renters, and our mom and pop landlords, from bad actor, commercial real estate investors.
I’m sorry for my failure to act. My only reprieve from this regret is knowing that making policy to serve South Pasadenans is not my job. That job belongs to City Council.
This council or the next, our city government needs to do more. The evictions are coming. The foreclosures may be coming. We will lose our neighbors and our children will their friends. The City of South Pasadena needs to do something, sooner rather than later. The City Council needs to something now and candidates need to commit to doing something in December.
– Anne Bagasao, South Pasadena resident
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