On June 28 tenants from the Astro Vista Apartments in San Diego neighborhood Linda Vista rallied against their landlord, Michael Contreras. The renters, members of the San Diego Tenants Union, have been experiencing massive rent increases in an effort to gentrify the neighborhood. Linda Vista, like many communities in California, is undergoing attempts at gentrification with the aim at displacing long-time residents and replacing them with new tenants that can afford the ever expanding rent hikes.
Tenants gathered by the front gates of the Astro Vista apartments with a sound system and banners demanding rent control. Most of the assembled renters were working families with small children and elders who have lived and worked in the community for years. People took turns speaking including a child who talked about the poor roofing, leaks and mold in her home. SDTU organizer Rafael Bautista lead chants demanding rent control at two-percent and a fair contract with management. The tenants had prepared a letter to management that they read aloud in a format known as a “mic check.” Tenants, many with small children, then attempted to deliver the letter to notorious gentrifier Michael Contreras and his management staff at MC Properties. Management refused to meet with the renters, prompting a picket of the driveway of the complex. Renters, conscious of their neighbors, allowed fellow tenants entry to the complex, all while keeping a watchful eye for management and chanting.
Eventually, tenants would march from the Astro Vista Apartments to the Morley 47, another apartment complex owned by MC Properties several blocks away. Families, organizers and elders marched in the street, with SDPD demanding they return to the sidewalk and trying to steer their cruisers into pedestrians.The steadfastness of the marchers seemed to shock the SDPD, forcing them to recede to the periphery of the column after their threats went unheeded. Everywhere the march went, working class families came out of their apartments and observed with many openly supportive of the demand for rent control. The march would conclude with organizers reminding the community of their upcoming rally on July 1 at Acropolis Management Services, and that this was still only the beginning of a bigger campaign for rent control in San Diego.
As rent continues to skyrocket across the country, tenants will continue to come together and fight against displacement, intimidation and unobtainable rent increases. The tenants of Astro Vista said it very clearly in their letter to management, “We cannot work more jobs just to pay the rent…We cannot leave our children alone more than we have to just to pay more rent.” The rent strike at Astro Vista is slated to begin Aug. 1, giving MC Properties a little over a month to come to the table in good faith to avoid taking financial losses. Until then, the San Diego Tenants Union will continue to organize renters across the City of San Diego with an action scheduled against Acropolis Management Services on July 1.