Militant Journalism

Pasadena tenants march to demand rent control

Wherever capitalist exploitation occurs, the working class will rise to resist it, and in Pasadena the housing struggle is heating up. At noon on March 5, multiple community organizations in Pasadena, Calif., marched together to demand rent control legislation and just cause eviction protections for their community. 

The march was representative of the many interlocking working-class and racial justice struggles in the Los Angeles area, and was a powerful demonstration of solidarity and unity among these communities. Organizations involved included the Pasadena Tenants Union, Pasadena Tenant Justice Coalition, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, Pasadena Organizing for Progress, Pasadena Community Jobs Center, Making Housing and Community Happen, and Black Lives Matter Pasadena. 

The march was well attended, drawing around 150 activists and community members, and featured live music and performances as well as persuasive speeches and talks. Speeches during the demonstration were bilingual, as well as the chants, which included “El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido!” and “What do we want! Rent Control! When do we want it! Now!” Community members responded very positively, honking in support and even joining the chants from their apartment windows. The rally briefly stopped at Villa Park before concluding at Robinson Park with a celebration.

The event was intended to draw attention to a signature gathering campaign, headed by the Pasadena Tenants Union and sponsored by the Pasadena Tenant’s Justice Coalition, to put rent control and other tenant protections on the ballot in Pasadena. If passed in November, the measure would establish a maximum rent increase percentage tied to inflation rates, establish just cause eviction protections preventing landlords from evicting tenants for frivolous reasons, and establish a rental control board to monitor landlord abuses and neglect, as well as enforce the new measure’s guidelines. 

Liberation photo

Aaron Markowitz, an organizer with PTU, told Liberation News: “We want to raise some awareness about this rent control campaign, and how rising rent and all of this gentrification really intersect with and contribute to a lot of other issues facing our communities … We really need laws like rent control, and to come together as working people to fight for our rights.”

The housing crisis in Pasadena and the country at large is causing unprecedented hardship for working families, particularly with the onset of COVID-19. David Flores, a community member and ethnic studies teacher said, “I’m out here because I grew up in this neighborhood, and on a teacher’s salary I can’t afford to buy a house here. My biggest fear has become a reality, and that is that I can’t raise a family in the neighborhood that I grew up in.” 

The struggle for affordable housing is also a struggle for racial justice. Adriana Bautista, a lead organizer with Black Lives Matter Pasadena told Liberation News: “I only learned within the past few years that the Black community of Pasadena used to go all the way to Old Town, and so the Black and Brown communities in Pasadena have already been fighting this uprootedness.” Additionally, Michelle White, a member of the Pasadena Tenant Justice Coalition, said while pointing in the direction of the march: “We’re gonna lose all those Black and Brown faces over there, and it’s been pretty devastating for the past 20 years. It’s so markedly different [in the community]”. 

Describing the distances Pasadena residents drive to work, Luis, an organizer with National Day Laborer Organizing Network, told Liberation News: “It’s not fair that families who work in Pasadena have to move out to farther areas where they may be paying less, but it’s far … these families have their own communities here established and it’s not fair. We really need to push for rent control and more protections for tenants that are being displaced illegally by owners of these properties.”

The rent control signature gathering campaign will conclude at the end of March, and should it make it onto the ballot, the next phase of the struggle to pass rent control in Pasadena will begin. Burt, an organizer with Making Housing and Community Happen, commented, “We have always supported rent control — this is, I believe, the third rent control campaign we’ve been on … The city council has refused to put it on the ballot. They have the authority to do so and they have refused to do that. A lot of them are landlords.”

It is clearly not in the interest of these landlords, who profit from their tenants, to support affordable housing, and that is why it is so important that the working class organizes across lines of race and gender to confront their oppressors head on and fight for their interests together. Doing so, Bautista of BLM Pasadena said, “If we can secure this on the local level it’s going to make a ripple effect in the whole San Gabriel Valley, maybe even L.A. County. [It would] empower other communities to do this as well.” 

This march for rent control in Pasadena was a small taste of what is possible when we unite and organize as fellow workers to fight the capitalist profiteers and build a better future for ourselves and our communities. Only a mass mobilization of the working class in Pasadena can secure this vote. 

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