Pledge to Fight the Gentrification and Displacement of Los Angeles Chinatown!

Pledge to Fight the Gentrification and Displacement of Los Angeles Chinatown!

March 9, 2022
Signatures: 369Next Goal: 500
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Why this petition matters

Calls to Action (full details below)

#1 Boycott the ROW DTLA
#2 Boycott RedCar's Properties
#3 Boycott Inequitable Housing
#4 Defend Dynasty Center
#5 Hold Gil Cedillo Accountable
#6 Demand LA Build Affordable Housing
#7 Show Up for Chinatown!

Chinatown’s future is at stake—gentrification is threatening its survival and we all must decide what our responsibility is to defend it. 

Gentrification is the latest episode in the legacies of violent exclusion and displacement that has shaped Chinatown. The first Chinatown in Los Angeles, formed in the 1800s by immigrant laborers excluded from other areas by racism and restrictive housing covenants, was destroyed for the construction of Union Station. It was in the late 1930s that residents began rebuilding Chinatown in its current location. Chinatown was and remains an essential hub for many immigrant communities, born of necessity and strengthened with networks of care. 

In the late 1990s, artists from outside the community began to open galleries, attracted by Chinatown’s proximity to Downtown and relatively low costs (a result of decades of governmental disinvestment). Another, more insidious form of destruction had arrived: gentrification. Gentrification has since accelerated with the construction of the Metro Gold (L) Line Station, LA State Historic Park, bars and restaurants catered to affluent professionals and creatives, and predominantly market-rate apartment buildings such as Blossom Plaza and Jia Apartments. 

Of course not all of these things are inherently bad! You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone whose goal is destroying Chinatown. But then why is Chinatown increasingly unrecognizable and inhospitable to the people who need it most? Why does this “revitalization” come with skyrocketing rents, the displacement of the culturally relevant goods and services people rely on, and the devastating evictions and forced removal of poor and low-income residents from their homes? No more hospital, no more full-service supermarkets, not even a single laundromat— revitalization is a funny word for something that operates like suffocation.

Gentrification and displacement are the result of decisions by policymakers and developers to pursue profit for the few and wealthy with blatant disregard for any cost to the masses. Gentrification does not require intent, only complacency—complacency with the status quo prioritizing profit over people, the comfort of white people (and increasingly, wealthier people of color) over the survival and dignity of working-class immigrant communities, and the narrative that this cruelty is just the way things have to be.

We refuse to accept gentrification as inevitable, and we refuse to allow people’s complacency to be used to enact it. Let’s demand communities where we can thrive—we have a Chinatown to defend and a world to win. 

Chinatown Station (aka College Station) is an example of everything wrong with how the City approaches development and “revitalization.” The proposed apartment complex would be the largest ever in Chinatown with 725 units—enough to house every tenant our organization Chinatown Community for Equitable Development (CCED) organizes with, many of whom (like elderly and disabled residents living in 651 Broadway and Cathay Manor Senior Apartments) are forced to live in substandard conditions by exploitative landlords. But this development will have ZERO affordable units. Over 95% of Chinatown residents are renters already severely burdened and disproportionately at risk of being displaced by rising rents, which this development will undeniably exacerbate. Chinatown community members have opposed this project at every step of the city planning process. We have made countless public comments and hosted press conferences. We have met with, protested, and demanded Atlas Capital build a project that would actually meet the housing needs of our extremely low-income and working class community, and even filed a lawsuit against the New York-based corporate developer and the City of Los Angeles for fully supporting a project that so evidently fails to do so. 

College Station was approved in 2018, so under Measure JJJ it should be required to include a significantly miniscule 11% affordable units. However, Atlas Capital repeatedly refused to add any affordable units and Councilmember Gil Cedillo helped push the project through city approval. Despite fierce community opposition and the councilmember’s supposed commitment to affordable housing, Cedillo chooses to actively participate in the destruction of Chinatown by continuing his long history of colluding with predatory developers like Atlas Capital, who he receives campaign contributions from. In a 2020 trial and again in our 2021 appeal, LA's court decided to exempt College Station from this 11% requirement because certain plans were filed before voters passed Measure JJJ in 2016. In this decision, the court effectively allows Cedillo, Atlas Capital, and the City of Los Angeles to skirt accountability and ignore their constituents' wishes at great expense to the Chinatown community’s future. 

While this may be allowed by the legal system, it is unjust. City officials shouldn't be able to disregard constituents in service of profit. We will not let them off the hook and are petitioning the CA Supreme Court to hear our case.

As we continue to fight Atlas Capital and the harm that College Station will bring, we also want to bring attention to Redcar Properties, a major investor in the gentrification of Chinatown. Redcar has purchased and destroyed a growing number of commercial buildings in Chinatown, including the site previously home to the shopping center The Shop (世界商场). Redcar forced commercial tenants of the longtime businesses to pack up their bags and leave at the end of thirty days in order to construct a massive development of co-working office spaces in Chinatown. 

Redcar now owns Dynasty Center (朝代广场), Chinatown’s last community shopping center, which houses over 100 small businesses that are vital to the community. Immediately upon purchasing Dynasty Center, Redcar raised commercial tenants’ rents, began harassing and threatening them, and informally notified tenants of looming 2022 and 2023 evictions. Redcar’s ownership of this property is a direct threat to these business owners’ livelihoods, and to Chinatown as a whole. Redcar’s bulldozing of Chinatown small businesses to build office space is directly enabled by the promise of hundreds of market rate units like those Atlas Capital wants to build at College Station.

LA city officials, time and time again, fail to prioritize the needs of our communities. They welcome, incentivize, and proactively collaborate with vulture for-profit developers like Atlas Capital and Redcar to greenlight one luxury development after the other—while claiming to care about affordable housing and tenant struggles. 

Gentrification is a policy choice. Affordable housing is a policy choice. The difference is that housing that is truly and permanently affordable does not line city councilmember’s pockets. These politicians must be held accountable for the immeasurable harm they continue to enact on the people they claim to serve.

Preserving Chinatown as a culturally significant neighborhood that serves low-income and working class communities requires us to take action against predatory developers, vulture landlords, and economic forces that seek to erase us. It requires us to fight against forces that are powerful but not at all unstoppable. Our collective power can defend our community and ensure that there are material consequences for anyone who sells out Chinatown. 

By no means is this a comprehensive list of everything you can and should do, but here are a few concrete actions that will be impactful right now. By signing this pledge, you commit to:

  1. Boycott the ROW DTLA, refuse to rent from Atlas Capital’s properties, and demand College Station project be 100% affordable housing. The ROW is Atlas Capital’s massive flagship commercial property in Los Angeles where the outdoor food event Smorgasburg is held. Their other properties in the LA area include: LA Times Printing Plant, 712 South Olive, Chatsworth Business Center, 101 S Marengo in Pasadena, Southbay Pavilion in Carson, 2030 Maple in El Segundo, 18455 S. Figueroa Street & 501 W 190th Street in Gardena, Westlake Commons in Thousand Oaks, and Eagle Rock Mall.
  2. Boycott businesses that contribute to the gentrification of Chinatown, especially those located in market-rate developments and commercial properties owned by predatory developers. This includes Redcar’s commercial properties: Oriel Wine Bar, NAC Architecture, GIPHY, Contend Media, and Salon Placement.
  3. Refuse to rent from existing and proposed market-rate developments in Chinatown, and demand housing and commercial spaces be made affordable for extremely low-income residents and community-serving businesses. This includes: Jia Apartments, Blossom Plaza Apartments, Llewellyn Apartments.
  4. Support the campaign to defend Dynasty Center. Small businesses in Chinatown’s last community shopping center are fighting to stay in the face of evictions from Redcar. Sign their petition to uplift their demands.
  5. Hold Councilmember Gil Cedillo accountable for the harm he has created for low-income immigrant neighborhoods in Council District 1. No peace & no profit for politicians who support gentrification! Cedillo must support efforts to preserve existing affordable housing by transferring ownership to the city and community land trusts (this includes Hillside Villa’s fight for eminent domain), and to build housing that is truly affordable for residents. Cedillo must ensure all proposed and approved projects be 100% affordable with the majority of units reserved for low-income and extremely low-income residents. Send an email to Cedillo.
  6. Call on the City of LA and LA County to invest in truly affordable housing. This includes supporting initiatives to take both private and public land off the speculative market and transfer ownership to community land trusts and community-driven affordable housing developers. This also includes strengthening rent control, vacancy control, and tenant protections.
  7. Support and show up for Chinatown residents organizing for community control, tenant power, and housing justice. This includes CCED’s All Chinatown Tenant Union and tenant associations at Hillside Villa, 651 Broadway, 920 Everett, and Cathay Manor. We are fighting for equitable development, decommodified and permanently affordable housing, and collective ownership of land.
Support now
Signatures: 369Next Goal: 500
Support now