Evictions and Housing Demolitions
Protested in Koreatown
The Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA), with support of the Coalition for Economic Survival and other community allies, gathered on the steps of an apartment building on February 19, to protest the demolition and conversion of the building to a parking lot by Oriental Mission Church and to call for the preservation of affordable housing in Koreatown.
(Left to Right: CES Tenant Organizers Sua Iris Hernandez, Melissa Chinchilla & Felipa Soto listen as KIWA Executive Director Danny Park addresses the media.)
The Oriental Mission Church owns the buildings at 435 and 465 N. Oxford Avenue. Since last year, 35 families have been evicted from over 40 units of affordable housing by the church. The church is stating that it plans to demolish the apartment building to create a parking lot.
Only five remaining low-income, disabled and elderly residents remain in the two buildings. They have not moved because they have nowhere to go. The average income of the current residents is around $600 to $1600 per month. They are mostly elderly, on fixed income tenants.
Masako Mochizuki, has lived in her apartment for over 35 years. She said, "This has been my home and neighborhood since 1973 when I got the apartment as a honeymoon home. I stayed because I fell in love with the neighborhood. Besides I cannot afford to move anywhere now. At 73 years old, I don't know how I'd start over. The idea of new neighbors and learning to get around in a new neighborhood scares me."
KIWA is urging the church to reconsider its parking lot plans in favor of maintaining these affordable housing units, which are valuable to the entire community. KIWA Organizer Jang Woo Nam says, "Low-income residents like Masako, Mr Yi and Mrs. Bang have nowhere to go. The current economy makes it even harder. Our first responsibility must be to our neighbors and those in need in our own community."
Nam adds, "Development plans should first and foremost benefit and include current residents. As a community, we should come together to stop the displacement of our neighbors."
Attendees at the news conference wore roses as a symbol of history and perseverance. When Masako moved into her unit 35 years ago, she planted a rosebush, which has grown with her over the years and still survives. She says, "I've cared for this rosebush for so long. It would be sad to see it all paved over for a parking lot. It's not paradise but it is my home."
KIWA stated while the housing bubble resulted in new construction, 90% of these units have been for those earning at least $135,000 and are unaffordable for the majority of Koreatown's low and fixed income residents. In 2006, the Wilshire Center/Koreatown Community Redevelopment Agency, which is required to replace and affordable housing removed with an equal number of replacement dwellings, reported 187 units demolished at 55 different addresses in that area.
The Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) has been advocating for stronger restrictions on condo conversions and demolitions in the City of LA for years now. Close to 15,000 affordable rent controlled units have been destroyed since 2001 due to condo conversions and demolitions.
CES Executive Director Larry Gross stated, "The situation KIWA has brought to the public attention is an example of what has been going on throughout Los Angeles, There has been a lot of focus on the need to build new affordable housing, which we fully support. But, we will never simply build our way out of our affordable housing crisis. We must also have a real commitment to preserving our existing affordable housing stock, as well as building new affordable housing."