New affordable housing project threatens to displace tenants

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Street sign for Toland Way in Los Angeles, CA. March 20, 2024. Amy Wong/The Occidental

California Landmark Group (CLG), an LA-based property developer, filed a proposal last year to build new affordable housing at 4319 N. Toland Way. The current 17-unit rent-controlled building is set to be replaced by a project proposing 153 new units. Among the building’s roughly 45 tenants, Celena Juarez, a 48-year resident, said she discovered the project through Urbanize LA. Juarez said that there are about 45 tenants at the address, and that she did not receive a letter informing her of the plan to build new housing.

“They still, to this day, have not told us anything. We’re finding everything out publicly,” said Celena Juarez.

Sally Juarez, Celena Juarez’s mother, also lives at Toland Way and said that she and many of the residents have been in the building for several generations, with few options if the project moves ahead.

“[The tenants have] created their lives here. These are their homes. How are you going to kick them out of there? And where are they going to go?” Sally Juarez said.

Amanda Juarez, Celena Juarez’s daughter, said that she has lived her entire life at Toland Way. She said she is a veteran with PTSD, and that she depends on the support of other residents.

“My mom, my family’s here. They’re my support system. So what am I supposed to do if we can’t all afford to stay here and be together?” Amanda Juarez said.

Nancy Castillo, a tenant, said that she is physically disabled, and that she has been placed on anxiety medication because of the stress associated with the possibility of her home being demolished. Nancy Castillo said that other tenants run errands for her, as she cannot drive and walking is difficult.

“Thank goodness that I know I can always call Sally [Juarez], and I know my neighbors keep watch over me,” Nancy Castillo said.

According to the LA Mayor’s Website, Executive Directive 1, mandated in December 2022 by Los Angeles City Mayor Karen Bass, is meant to expeditethe processing of affordable housing projects. In its introduction, the Directive states that it aims to “aid in swiftly sheltering people who are unhoused in the City of Los Angeles” by exempting 100% of affordable housing projects from discretionary review processes otherwise required.

Yaya Castillo, of no relation to Nancy Castillo, is a member of the LA Tenants Union. She said that displacement cases, such as the one Toland Way tenants are now facing, have skyrocketed since the introduction of the Directive.

“That’s the flaw in Executive Directive 1. It’s meant to create an emergency situation where we need affordable housing so badly that this directive bypasses every ordinance,” Yaya Castillo said.

Yaya Castillo said that Bass is responding to a real housing crisis in a way that ends up hurting current tenants. She said that projects built under Executive Directive 1 do not require public hearings, where both current tenants and developers can state their cases.

“Normally, you would get a notice in the mail showing you how many feet of radius will be affected, and you have a chance to go to a public hearing,” Yaya Castillo said.

Sally Juarez said that there is enough parking for all the residents, but that the new project would provide only 46 parking spaces for the 153 planned units. She said that everyone supports each other in the community, and that it would endanger residents’ physical and mental health if they were forced to move.

Toland Way in Los Angeles, CA. March 20, 2024. Amy Wong/The Occidental

“How are they supposed to get where they need to go when you’re going to remove them from their home and put them somewhere else? Do you think that’s not going to cause health issues?” Sally Juarez said.

Sally Juarez said that homeowners on the street are also against the project, and that they are going to sign a petition. She said that the homeowners are concerned the project will lower their property value, and that the new building will block sunlight and views, since it will be taller than the current building.

Yaya Castillo said that the Tenants Union helps people crowdfund for lawyers and other forms of support when they are in situations similar to this one. She said that people made homeless by these projects are important contributors to the effort to stop them.

“It’s so important to be an active member of your community, because when we’re emotionally invested in each other, we’re going to contribute and defend each other, and protect each other,” Yaya Castillo said.

Juan Manuel-Riebling, a tenant, said that he planned to spend his entire life in his home and raise his 4-year-old son in the surrounding Eagle Rock neighborhood, and that he’s fighting to stay.

“We take care of each other and we don’t want to go anywhere,” Manuel-Riebling said. “We want to stay here and live our lives here in peace.”

Contact Ruby Gower at gower@oxy.edu.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Solidarity with the Toland away tenants!! You guys have the support of the community – you are a crucial part of our community <3

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