Linda Vista renters threaten strike

Tenants demand habitability improvements, protest 15 percent hike

Rafael Bautista (left, red cap) leading Village Apartments tenants and activists on a march, September 29
  • Rafael Bautista (left, red cap) leading Village Apartments tenants and activists on a march, September 29

As many as 50 tenants at the Village Apartments complex in Linda Vista are threatening a "rent strike" beginning next week if their demands for more modest rent increases and completion of repairs affecting the habitability of their units aren't addressed.

"We've engaged with them several times," says Rafael Bautista of San Diego Tenants United. "We've asked for a fair contract and they've said they would provide one but they have yet to do so. We're left trying to figure out what's happening."

It's been a long battle — tenants have been complaining about conditions at the complex for over a year. In that time, management has replaced old wood-framed windows with modern vinyl and applied a fresh coat of paint to the building exteriors, but Bautista says significant habitability issues remain on the inside. He flips through a slide show of photos on his phone highlighting water damage and walls coated with black mold; he says all the photos were provided to him recently.

"All they did was paint over it," Bautista says. "This is what we're talking about — it's pervasive."

Still, tenants with expiring leases have been notified of pending rent hikes of as much as 15 percent. State law requires landlords to provide a 60-day notice to tenants of any intended rent hikes in excess of 10 percent, which the group says have been properly delivered. Still, they say resistance is imminent.

"We say [the rent increases] are unfair. We talk about how neglectful maintenance is; we try to itemize the issues and once we've laid them out it becomes difficult to justify a rent increase," Bautista continues. "They're trying to pass on the improvement costs — but those should be built into their maintenance budget.

"Our goal is to get new contracts. At Tenants United we're pushing for rent control with a maximum of 2 percent rent increases per year."

On Friday afternoon (September 29), tenants gathered in a complex courtyard to rally and begin a march to the management office to vocalize that objective.

Shouting bilingual chants of "Control de renta, a dos por ciento!" ("rent control at 2 percent") and "If there's a rent hike, there's a rent strike," the group arrived at the office a half-hour before the scheduled closing time to find the door locked and the shades drawn.

"They've closed the offices all week," Bautista says. "It's not like they've posted any notice explaining why they're not there."

Of the tenants poised to withhold rent, he says all have received legal advice and have legitimate habitability complaints. California law allows tenants to withhold rent from landlords who fail to address significant health and safety issues — but not if they disagree with the rate a property owner elects to charge.

"They're not withholding rent because they don't want to pay; the tenants here feel like their backs are against the wall and they don't have any other options," Bautista explains. His group will try to contact management again on Tuesday afternoon to resolve the situation.

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It looks like it could get ugly for San Diego landlords in the near future. The local housing crisis is real. It appears that a backlash may be brewing.

What is the City and County doing to address the local housing crisis in this region?!

It should get ugly. The City refuses to confront the real reason for the housing shortage. It's not a lack of housing; there are plenty of available apartments. It's just that nobody can afford them. Someone should look at the how much the rents have gone up in the last 5 years, and then compare that to residents income. The problem is not a lack of housing-- it's GREED. It should get ugly. It should get very very ugly.

You are correct. The issue is wages. San Diego has always had low wages. Employers in the "service sector" have always relied on workers from Mexico to keep the wage rates low.

The problem is a lack of housing. San Diego has under-built by tens of thousands of units for decades, given our job growth (35K/year). And let's stop blaming "The City" - the cause is NIMBY San Diego homeowners and the exclusionary zoning they've created, to keep out multi-family housing. How do local politicians stand up to these folks when older homeowners are 10 times more likely to vote in local elections than younger renters?

If "San Diego has always had low wages", then how are we ahead of 16 out of 25 large metros on this updated income list: https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2017/acs/acsbr16-02.pdf? Or ahead of 253 metros on the wikipedia list of highest income areas?

Low wages as compared to cost of living. Walmart paying $11 in San Diego is like paying $2 in Mississippi.

It was time for rent control 10 years ago.

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