Activists to Block Construction Today at Marmion Royal Apartments

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by LA1 News

The organizers of the Northeast Los Angeles Alliance (NELAA) have announced a construction protest at 7:00 a.m. this morning, at Marmion Royal apartments. The tenants still residing at the Highland Park building, who were caught in a mass eviction process earlier this year after it was sold to Skya Ventures and Gelt Ventures, are dealing with a new threat. The residents are living in their units while property owners proceed with renovation construction activities. The tenants have endured the removal of their laundry facilities, disconnection of air conditioning during the summer, dismantling of their satellite dishes, and a roach and pest infestation, as they claim, at the hands of the new property management team Moss & Company.

The most recent threat to their health and safety is the sandblasting of the building's exterior. The activists at NELAA say that while it might appear to the average onlooker as a mere inconvenience, the invasive high-powered spraying process involves toxic granule particles to remove stucco and paint from the walls. It also leaves behind a fine powdered airborne dust, which can be inhaled by the most vulnerable of occupants such as pregnant women, children, the elderly and disabled.

Tenants have drawn a line in the dust. They claim the landlord’s new plan is to deny occupants access to their communal courtyard for five hours per day during the next week. The landlord's memo allegedly states that they may leave or stay indoors during this time. Several tenants are outraged, many of whom work nights and may be forced to endure sleeplessness during the construction. Others are stay-at-home moms with newborn infants. Resident Yesenia Jean described the first days of the sandblasting by saying, "I came home and there was powder and dust everywhere," while asking, What are my children inhaling? Is this asbestos?"

The normally bustling courtyard is now silent and dirty. Construction materials abound and, according to tenants, there is a lack of privacy with scaffolding reaching up to their balconies and bedroom windows. They say the owner’s security guards are often found asleep in their cars, which presents another kind of danger.

The Marmion Royal Tenants Union plan is to set up a picket line by its members to block construction workers from entering the property today. They say they will continue their protest until the landlord can provide a comprehensive plan which shows respect for the remaining occupants.

The Marmion Royal Tenants Union was formed on June 23, 2016, and models itself after a traditional union organization. Forty-seven of the 51 remaining residents signed a petition to fight for their homes. The rent strike is continued by a reported 35 of the original 47 households. They began their rent strike on July 1. The owners of Marmion Royal, comprised of Gelena, Keith and patriarch Steve Wasserman, financed the purchase of the $14.3 million building through Gelt, Inc., the venture capital company owned by the Wasserman family.

The tenants union believes the treatment of its residents by the Wassermans and their agents Moss & Co. is an injustice. The union advocates rent control for all, and supports the call for a moratorium on no fault evictions for all Los Angeles tenants.

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