Response to “Don’t Want to Be the Grinch”

Letter to the Editor:

As a renter at 265 Monterey Rd., I felt the need to respond to a Letter to the Editor by Kim Hughes titled “Don’t Want to Be the Grinch.”

Development in our community is inevitable and the improvement of rundown properties is good for everyone. The last thing I want for any resident, be it a renter or an owner, is for them to reside in unsafe conditions.

The property located at 265 Monterey Rd. has an extensive history of citations and multiple visits by City officials. As a resident of the property for five years, I have raised several concerns to previous owner Charles Wong and his associates regarding walkways, smoke detectors, plumbing, and heating–all to no avail. I have replaced broken fixtures, replaced the carpeting with wood laminate flooring, and purchased electric heaters to keep us warm. It almost goes without saying that the property owners have never reimbursed me for the work I had done to my apartment.

I understand that my rent is low in comparison to the current market. I understand that most people are in business to make money. I understand that improvements cost money. What I can’t wrap my head around is how a teacher such as myself can no longer afford to live in the community she serves. I can’t accept that although my apartment has not received basic upgrades, such as the installation of a working kitchen faucet, smoke detector, or heating, I have been notified by the new ownership that my rent will increase 40 percent beginning on January 1.

According to Paul Wong, a remodel of my apartment won’t be done until I move out. The ownership group he is associated with, the Axtell Group, has the right to do as it chooses. Paul has been the face of the ownership change since the beginning (January). He chose to lead us on. He said the increase would be gradual. He said we would be safe during construction.

The construction was stopped at least two times and given red tags for safety violations. I certainly don’t consider a 40 percent increase to be gradual. When we talk about paying “market value” I think most would expect to rent a unit that has working plumbing, heating, air conditioning, maybe even a dishwasher and most certainly an onsite manager. The “new” units are receiving remodeled kitchens, bathrooms, flooring and new, hopefully energy efficient, heating and cooling. As Paul reminded the audience at the Nov. 15 Council meeting, remodels cost money. The problem with that simple-sounding explanation is that remodeling has only been done on vacant units, not those occupied by paying tenants.

With regards to smoking on the property, it is against the law in our community. We have been subject to this nuisance and safety hazard for five months now. I don’t think any person would want to bother the police, but that is what the Council has advised. My thing is, just obey the law. I don’t know what the answer is in our ever-changing world. Compassion, honesty, and kindness are my philosophy.

I am thankful that the City Council heard us and really listened to our testimonies. The community that has been home to me, and now my son, is a place we love. It is a sad state of affairs when people who have called South Pasadena home for decades are priced out of the city in the name of development. Diversity in a community provides life lessons for us all and is much more interesting than a homogenous environment. Not everyone earns six figures; in our growing cities, affordable housing needs to be considered.

– Lula Cummings