“Supporters of a defeated state proposition that would have paved the way for rent control in California protested Wednesday night at the Santa Monica office of The Blackstone Group, a real estate and private equity firm that donated $6.2 million to defeat the proposition.
More than 100 protesters from Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, Democratic Socialists of America, LA Tenants Union and other groups occupied the lobby of Blackstone’s downtown office, where tenants in support of Proposition 10 spoke about their experiences with Blackstone and other corporate landlords.
The proposition’s supporters packed every square foot of the lobby, chanting and erecting tents, and were told to leave by Santa Monica Police Department officers about 30 minutes into the protest. Some stayed behind and were arrested — 13, according to the Democratic Socialists of America, Los Angeles — while the majority left the building to continue the protest on the sidewalk, flanked by police cars.
Despite the fact that 62 percent of California voters cast their ballots against Proposition 10, the protest’s organizers said the Yes on 10 campaign was just the start of the state’s tenants’ fight for rent control and called on Governor-elect Gavin Newsom to immediately advance policy to expand rent control. Proposition 10 would have repealed the 1995 Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which limits the types of rent control California cities can enact.
“We have no choice but keep up this fight until we win,” said Gloria Cortez, who was evicted by her Pomona landlord and has been homeless with her family for more than a year. “These corporate landlords are always going to ignore the needs of the people, but what about Governor-elect Newsom? Is Governor-elect Newsom going to stand up for us, or ignore the fact that every day more families are being pushed out of their homes with nowhere to go?”
Amid cheers of “What do we want? Rent control! When do we want it? Now!” and “Housing is a human right,” Cecilia Reyna told the crowd that she has been fighting off evictions and rent increases since Blackstone bought her Compton home. Reyna said her husband now works seven days a week to afford the rent, and she has been forced to work more as well.
“Prop 10 didn’t fail because voters don’t support rent control. Poll after poll has shown the majority are tremendously concerned about the high cost of housing and support rent control,” Reyna said. “Prop 10 failed because corporate landlords like Blackstone spent millions to make sure that people wouldn’t get what they want and need.”
Supporters staged a similar protest at Blackstone’s headquarters in New York earlier on Wednesday and indicated that they would continue their efforts in Sacramento to pressure Governor-elect Newsom to introduce rent control legislation.”