For several months now, the San Diego Tenants Union and San Diego Tenants United have been organizing against rent hikes demanded by landlords. On August 3, several dozen people mobilized in La Jolla outside the $2.7 million dollar home of Michael Contreras, owner of MC Properties, to reiterate the demands of their rent strike, which officially began at the start of the month. Organizations such as the Democratic Socialists of America, Copwatch, the Party for Socialism and Liberation and others came out to stand in solidarity with the tenants under attack. Presently, San Diego does not have any rent control ordinance.
To begin the demonstration, people chanted slogans such as “Rent control at 2 percent” and “Michael Slumlord!” The chants alternated from English to Spanish in between speakers from the Linda Vista community and from various organizations before the contingent marched around the neighborhood to let Michael Contreras’s neighbors know about the unjust rent hikes and outright neglect being carried out by MC Properties.
The mobilizers eventually made their way back to Contreras’s house to continue the rally. Rafael, one of the organizers for San Diego Tenants United, highlighted the goal of these rent hikes: “He [Contreras] knows he’s just displacing his tenants! He wants to replace his tenants with other tenants that pay more. It’s gentrification. He’s done this with other buildings, he will continue to do this until he’s forced to stop.”
The San Diego Tenants Union made it clear to Contreras that they aren’t going anywhere until the rent control is at 2 percent and they receive the repairs that MC Properties has been refusing to handle for so long. Below is a statement issued by The Morley 47 Tenants Association of the San Diego Tenants Union: (San Diego Tenants Union Facebook page)
“We, the Morley 47 Tenants Association, located within the Morley Apartments in Linda Vista, are writing this letter to declare that we will now be conducting a Rent Strike until our demands are met or until we come to a mutual agreement. We have been protesting, marching and issuing notifications to you ever since you purchased this property. We have asked for you to be considerate and reconsider the 15-40% rent hikes. We have asked you to meet with us and you have denied our requests.
As stated before, the San Diego Tenants Union is fighting for Rent Control at 2% and against displacement. As members of SDTU, we request that you only raise our rents by 2% and give us a one year lease. We want to come to a resolution with you and we do not want to risk being evicted. Please be considerate with rent increases that are in line with real world wages. We cannot afford to work any more jobs or leave our children unattended even more so we can work only to pay more rent. This is unfair and the conditions of the units at Morley Apartments do not reflect an improvement in conditions that is in line with these exploitative rent increases.
We do not recognize the rent increase notification, issued in May for the increase on 8/1, as a valid increase. The notification does not comply with State Law. We will exercise our right to withhold rents until repairs are completed. In the event that repairs are not executed within two weeks, we may choose to exercise our right to withhold rent and deduct for repairs. Hence, we are declaring a Rent Strike, effective today. Ending when you bring a fair contract to the table and all repairs are completed.
The statement ended with, “We ask for you to only reply in writing and avoid any type of retaliation against any the Morley Tenants. Thank you for your attention and consideration.”
Michael Contreras did not come out to meet with his tenants and has refused to speak with them directly. Regardless of how this rent strike’s outcome turns out, Michael Contreras and MC Properties are symptoms of a much larger issue. The commodification of housing, has paved the way for landlordism and the contemporary housing crisis in California and beyond.