‘Tenants Can’t Breathe’ In Inglewood: Union Rep Says

INGLEWOOD — More than 60 people joined the Lennox Inglewood Tenants Union as they rallied and marched against gentrification directly across the street from SoFi Stadium June 27.

“Mold on the inside, COVID on the outside, tenants can’t breathe,” chanted Tiffany Wallace, an organizer with Lennox Inglewood Tenants Union. “That’s literally the situation that Dolores is dealing with right now.”

Hundreds of vehicles passed by, many of them honking their horns in support, as the demonstration took place outside the Stadium View Apartments in the 900 block of Prairie Avenue.

Dolores Hernandez said she has lived in her one-bedroom apartment for 10 years. When she first moved into the Stadium View complex, it was called the Inglewood Garden Apartments.

“It’s hard because my roommate is the one who works. I’m not working right now,” Hernandez said.

On the outside, the Stadium View Apartments is remodeled with new paint and a modern entryway, featuring a keypad for security. Management said vacant apartments are being renovated. But for Hernandez, the renovations are just a facelift.

Hernandez said when she factors in past rent increases for her unrenovated unit, combined with her living situation of mold and leaky pipes, she may be forced to leave Inglewood soon.

“I feel it’s important [to speak out] because there’s a lot of people in there but they are afraid,” Hernandez said. “I’m not afraid and I need everybody to listen and everybody to understand what’s going on inside the apartments, not what you see outside.”

“It’s heartbreaking to hear that she is dealing with asthma and dealing with mold in her apartment and the pandemic,” Wallace said.

However, Bryan Russo of Alfa Investments Apartments, who is a part of the new ownership group of the Stadium View Apartments tells a different story.

Russo said Alfa Investments purchased the property less than a year ago. He said the apartments have passed all subsequent inspections by the city of Inglewood.

“The idea that we’re trying to displace anyone is completely false,” Russo said. “We’ve replaced all the plumbing [in all].”

Russo would not reveal what market rent is for the Stadium View studio and one-bedroom apartments.

However, he said the complex accepts housing vouchers and is following rent control laws in Inglewood, by not raising rent on current tenants by more than 3% a year.

They have also offered to move Hernandez to another unit but she didn’t accept their offer.

“There’s a little bit of distortion here,” Russo said in terms of the tenants union’s messaging when it comes to this specific instant of gentrification.

The Lennox Inglewood Tenants Union is a self-described grassroots community activist organization “dedicated to fighting for the rights of renters” in Lennox and Inglewood.

The union is focused on working with individual renters and groups of tenants in apartment complexes. Union officials said their members are facing improper evictions, unlawful rent increases and landlords who refuse to do necessary repairs.

Activists ultimately believe those issues have been and will continue to drive long-term, working class renters out of our Inglewood and Lennox, unless residents organize and demand changes.

They see SoFi Stadium, which is the centerpiece of Hollywood Park’s LA Stadium and Entertainment District, as the catalyst for gentrification in Inglewood and nearby Lennox.

Wallace, a longtime resident, who has lived in Inglewood since elementary school, has been active in the fight for rent control in Inglewood.

Now she’s turned her attention to helping empower tenants in the age of COVID-19.

“It is important for my community and for other working class communities, in particularly communities of color who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 and to gentrification to be protected,” Wallace said.

Wallace is pushing for more public housing and stronger rent control protections in Inglewood and Lennox, which is a census-designated place in unincorporated Los Angeles County.

“This is an important opportunity for tenants and people to come together all over the country and to organize ourselves as a class as people who are fighting against landlords and gentrification,” Wallace said.

“I feel good because finally somebody is supporting me. I’ve been going places by myself. Nobody listens. Finally somebody is helping me,” Hernandez said.