LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Ten days from now Dieu Pham expects Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies to come and knock on her apartment door.
Despite putting on a smile on her face for Spectrum News 1’s cameras, the Vietnamese grandmother is worried. Pham and five other families living in the apartment building on 920 Everett Street in Chinatown Los Angeles received notices telling them to move out of their apartments at the end of July. They were given a 60 day notice.
“I never thought this would happen. I would’ve never dreamt this would happen in America, but because I didn’t expect it to happen… it did,” said Pham.
This grandmother and the other tenants in her building are all part of low-income families. They are all either refugees or immigrants who escaped war and chaos in Southeast Asia during the 1970s, which led them to leave their homes and countries behind to resettle in the United States.
Pham has lived in this unit for the last five years with her daughter and grandchildren. Robert and Rosa Chow, a San Gabriel couple who owned this building for more than 20 years, sold it to a developer who wants everyone out by the Thursday, September 26, or else they will face eviction.
The tenants say they were blind-sided and weren’t given the chance to negotiate their rent. This didn’t sit well with Pham’s granddaughter, Charisse Pham.
“I’m very angry, but sad at the same time. Rent is so expensive and I think it’s unfair because they think Asian. We’re just going to give them paper, they’re not going to fight they’re going to move out,” said Charisse.
Instead of letting their fears and worries take over, the tenants came together and reached out to Chinatown Community for Equitable Development, an organization that rallies against many civic issues like gentrification and the lack of affordable housing. The leaders for the organization put the tenants in touch with a lawyer.
According to Craig Wong from Chinatown Community for Equitable Development, rents are rising in Chinatown and tenants are paying a higher percentage of their income on housing which creates a financial burden on them and their families. This stressor threatens their health and quality of life.
There are tenants who are forced into smaller units as more families move in with each other in order to pay rent and survive. For tenants who don’t have any other options, they move out of the Chinatown community to find more suitable housing.
Wong says these are some of the other properties in Chinatown where tenants have suffered because of property sales and rent increases:
- 1907 Johnston Street
- 636 North Hill Place
- 651 North Broadway
- 900 Block of New Depot
- 770 North Hill Place
Despite being worried about her family’s future, Pham says she can’t afford anywhere else so she is going to stay. She has looked into other two-bedroom apartments on the same street and in Chinatown, but says she can’t afford $2,500 for rent.
Spectrum News 1 reached out to Robert Chow, the previous owner of the building over the phone. Chow told us the building was “sold a long time ago” and he didn’t want to talk to us. The new owner, American Collateral Buyers, LLC, also hasn’t responded to our messages.
Pham and her granddaughter say they aren’t waiting around until the 26 when they expect to be served with an eviction notice. They are sharing their story in hopes someone can help them continue to stay in their home or help them find a decent place to live so they can maintain their American dream.
To see the petition the tenants and organization created visit the website here.