Flower Street residents continue to fight for affordable housing

Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News

imageAt the intersection of 30th and Flower Street there is a McDonald’s, a used tire center, and an old motel. The hum of the 110 freeway and the Expo line are constantly in the background.

The neighborhood may not look particularly fancy now, but to developers, this area between Downtown and USC has big appeal. Residents of the apartment building at 2913 Flower Street found that out last fall when developers started asking if they would be willing to move out.

“The developer was just offering them the standard relocation and he said the company would be willing to pay a little bit above the standard relocation,” said Thelmy Perez, an organizer with the LA Human Right to Housing Collective.

A few weeks ago, she and the residents of the building sat down with Symphony Developers, a company that owns a USC student housing building on 27th and was interested in expanding more.

Nohemi Armendariz has lived with her family in the Flower Street building for 15 years.

Her message to developers was, “We are happy at this place. We don’t want to move because it is not fair that they want to make the apartment only for the students. That is not fair. We have lived here for a long time.”

Symphony Developers did not wish to comment, but told ARN that they are no longer pursuing the Flower Street building.

But Perez said, “This issue is much larger than just this one building.”

imageThat’s why she and the building’s residents sought the support of one of their most influential neighbors. City Councilwoman Jan Perry’s office for her now-dormant mayoral campaign was just a few doors down from the apartment. 

“There is plenty of opportunity of non residential empty commercial buildings that could be acquired,” said Perry.

Perry came out to support the building’s residents at a news conference on Thursday. She will end her term on City Council in June and says her successor will have to pay attention to affordable housing.

“That person will have to protect the interests of people like the ones who live in this building,” she said.

It will also be up to the next mayor to protect rent stabilization in Los Angeles. Perez says as the mayor’s race continues, she hopes affordable housing will become a debate issue.

”None of the candidates, at least for mayor, have a plan for housing,” Perez said. “We are in dire need of affordable housing in the city of Los Angeles and we can’t afford to lose any more rent stabilized affordable units in this city.”

Residents of the 33-unit Flower Street building pay between $700 and $800 a month for small studio apartments. If forced to move, Perez said many would have to leave the neighborhood to find comparable rent prices. That’s why, as election season continues in Los Angeles, they’ll look for candidates who will help them stay in their community.

Flower Street residents tell the city they don’t want to go anywhere


Listen to the audio story from Annenberg Radio News:

Residents of the 100-year-old apartment building at 2913 S. Flower Street are sending a letter to the city today.

“Dear Developers, City Officials, and members of the general public,
This letter is meant to express one simple intention: we will not leave our community without a fight,” the letter begins.

Many families in the 33-unit building have lived there between 15 and 35 years. But they have started to feel pressured by the growth of the neighborhood around them.

“There’s a lot of redevelopment of this area,” says Thelmy Perez, an organizer with the LA Human Right to Housing Collective. Her organization helped write the letter along with other groups LA CAN and Comunidad Presente. “You have the university to the south, you have now the proposed Farmer’s Field development that’s just north of us, you have the giant Palmer project that’s up here on the corner, you have the new Icon project that’s over here on the corner of Figueroa and Jefferson and the Metro [Expo] rail line.”

About half of the building’s residents are USC students. The low income families in the building like having students around and being part of the University community, but worry they might be asked to leave soon.

The building is managed by student rental group, First Choice Housing and owned by 424 W. Brown Road, LLC. First Choice Housing says it is not aware of the building being for sale.

Some residents say they’ve been offered money to move out though. So before any big changes happen, they have written this letter to the city and sought legal advice. Barbara Schultz is a lawyer working on the tenants’ behalf.

“Under the state’s Ellis Act a landlord is allowed to remove a unit from the market, but only if they’re going to permanently remove a unit from the rental market. They are not allowed to displace tenants only to either just replace them with new tenants or build a new building and replace them with new buildings,” Schultz says.

In October, USC agreed to contribute $20 million toward affordable housing as part of their University Village expansion project. Farmers Field reached a similar settlement with the city last week for $15 million. Until those projects begin, what will happen with those contributions is unclear.

It is clear that this neighborhood is changing quickly. Whether or not the rumors of the building’s potential sale are true, Perez says the residents want the city to know their concerns saying, “What we’re calling for is people-oriented development.”

Residents say they don’t mind changes in the neighborhood, as long as it means they don’t have to go anywhere.