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Photo by Brian Addison.
Victor Chacon, an 81-year-old Long Beach resident, had been living at the Driftwood Apartments (939 Pacific Ave.) for nearly 30 years when he received a notice that he had 60 days to vacate his home after the 13-unit building was sold to the Waterford Group, an Irvine-based real estate investment and development firm.
This was and remains entirely legal.
The tenants, many of whom were on a fixed income or identify as extremely-low income—that is, households which earn 30% or less than the median income of a given area—took to City Council chambers two weeks in a row to express their frustration and grievances, leaving 1st District Councilmember Lena Gonzalez to try and, in someway, alleviate their distress.
Jeanaya Chadwick, who appeared with her mother and whom she also lives with at Driftwood, spoke of the fear of becoming homeless, her mother’s dire medical situation following a stroke, and the overall anxiety her household came under with the eviction notice.
This was one of many tales coming out of Driftwood.
But these tenants were in a very odd if not outright peculiar situation.
The Driftwood Apartments were market rate apartments that weren’t properly priced, meaning the tenants paid super low rents that, on paper, were still listed as “market rate”—and therefore not on any subsidized listings. The difficulty of this from a political angle is that, despite being ELI definitionally, these tenants weren’t legally so on paper and that turns the transitioning process into one of difficulty since benefits like expedited housing vouchers post-eviction become void.
Enter Gonzalez, who not only brokered a deal with Waterford to extend the ability for tenants to stay an additional 30 days but also scored direct funds to help the tenants with relocating. (And even downplayed the hard work of ushering in such compassion on a Facebook post.)
“So, it came down to Lena working with Waterford to secure this support basically out of the goodness of Waterford’s heart and the negotiations of Lena,” said Cory Allen, Chief of Staff for the councilmember. “Now that we have negotiated this building, we are going to be working on similar plans for the other building they purchased on Cedar [Avenue].”
Josh Butler, Executive Director of Housing Long Beach, said that this only more fire for fuel in pushing Long Beach to enact a rent control ordinance because “residents shouldn’t have to protest in front of their building to get help.”
“Housing Long Beach is extremely happy about Councilwoman Gonzalez’s intervention in the matter,” Butler said. “Now we need to work towards enacting a citywide policy to assist all those who are at risk of displacement.”