Welcome to the fourth issue of The Tenant! Each issue of The Tenant will feature updates from LATU locals about recent goings-on in their neighborhood. We hope this will foster solidarity and communication across LATU citywide. We would appreciate any feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Los Angeles Tenants Union media committee
The South Central local has done outreach at several of a dozen buildings in South Central owned by Ken Wong, landlord to the Cinco Puntos tenants. One of the tenants hasn’t had electricity since February and has herself already been on a rent strike for a few months. The local is hoping to support them in forming a TA in solidarity with Cincos Puntos, and to do outreach with more buildings owned by Ken Wong. The local collaborated with the newly-forming Baldwin Village/Leimert Park/Crenshaw (BLC) local on their second tenants rights workshop. Organizers are in the process of planning several more workshops as the local prepares to start holding regular meetings.
The local is supporting Abel and Flor, two tenants in Watts during their evictions. Look out for a gofundme for relocation assistance. Several members of the local attended an archiving workshop at the Southern California Library to begin the process of archiving what we are doing across the union.
NORTHEAST LA (NELO)
This month, Los Inquilinos Unidos de los Cinco Puntos marched five miles through Lincoln Heights, to all six buildings owned by their landlord, Ken Wong. They were met with overwhelming support from their community as they raised awareness about their rent strike and their list of demands. Some of the tenants also paid a visit to Ken Wong’s house, presenting him with an oversized “rent” cheque so that he might negotiate with them. Meanwhile, NELo organizers have been meeting with tenants from buildings Wong owns on Daly Street and Griffin Street, who have been facing similar habitability issues, abusive managers, and rent increases that the Cinco Puntos tenants are fighting. We’re seeing momentum towards what could be LATU’s first general rent strike against a single landlord. In the meantime, all six Cinco Puntos eviction cases have been dropped, and Ken Wong is clearly feeling the pressure.
The Livonia Tenants’ Association hosted a well-attended Tenants’ Rights’ Workshop at the Robertson library in March. Over 30 tenants came to learn about their rights and about Ellis evictions. Tenants at a mid-Wilshire non-RSO apartment complex formed a tenants’ association to demand repairs of their landlord and protect their homes against the threat of luxury renovation, and are working with the Mid-City local to determine next steps.
The Rent Adjustment Commission handed notorious vulture landlord Lance J. Robbins a momentary setback on April 4th when the commissioners denied Robbins’ attempt to avoid correcting code violations in an East Hollywood apartment building. The owner’s lawyer attempted to defend the appeal by challenging the legitimacy of the Commission to tell Robbins what to do with his property. Turning out in force, tenants told chilling stories of harassment, retaliatory rent increases and evictions, rampant building and health code violations, construction without permits, and the use of AirBnB. The next steps for the tenants include forming a tenant association and forcing HCID to revoke the building’s RSO exemption. This case is further proof of the immediate need for an aggressive Anti-Harassment Ordinance to protect all tenants.
We have a new dues payment system!
Sign up at latenantsunion.org/join. If you currently pay your dues online every month, we ask that you sign up on the new system as soon as possible — your old account will be automatically cancelled. For anyone who pays in cash or once a year, no action is required to start benefiting from the new system! This system is a development from the new Sustainability Committee as a response to LATU passing the proposal to democratize control of LATU common assets. Some of the new benefits to this system are: tracking dues per-local; easier & direct input of cash dues; point-of-sale payment (processing dues anywhere there is an internet connection); automated accounting; monthly emailed reports to locals about their income and expenses; members have the ability to increase or decrease their dues at any time. Please help us in switching everyone over to make use of this new system by signing up yourself and spreading the word! If you’re currently not a member, join now!
The Outreach Committee focuses on three areas; organizing new Locals, conducting unionwide education, and networking with other tenant unions and coalitions within LATU’s mission and values. The committee currently has seven member-representatives from five Locals. Committee members are involved in active efforts to establish four new Locals: Baldwin Village/Leimert Park/Crenshaw (BLC), East Hollywood, Wilmington, and Palms. The committee will hold a May 18 “think-tank” for tenant association organizers from across the union. The LATU-founded Autonomous Tenants Union Network continues to grow with participation from autonomous tenant groups from across the U.S. and Canada. Primarily a space for knowledge-sharing, the Network’s April online meeting was facilitated by the Vancouver Tenants Union.
Two years ago, LATU played an instrumental part in making the City Council aware of the prevalence of harassment against tenants, used by landlords to push tenants out of their homes. Under enormous pressure, Councilmember Jose Huizar then proposed a Motion to the City Council requesting that an Anti-Tenant Harassment Ordinance be studied by the Housing Dept (HCID). Two years later, we’re seeing some progress. HCID released a report on tenant harassment in December 2018. Several tenant and legal reps responded to the report by making public comments at a City Council Housing Committee meeting on January 23rd, 2019. Based on those public comments and meetings among tenant and legal reps, we expect a revised HCID report to be submitted to the Housing Committee for review and a vote, possibly within a few weeks. Stay tuned….