About 50 low-income residents of the Bryant-Vanalden housing development in Northridge gathered on a wind-chilled street corner Wednesday night to chant slogans and wave placards in protest of new security measures at the development.
Some of the residents, many of them children, struggled to hold up the placards or carry lighted candles in the strong wind.
The security measures--including strict rules on conduct within the development and the closing of Bryant Street at Vanalden Avenue with a barricade--make them feel like jailed criminals, they said.
"They caged us like we were animals," said resident Berta Rueda.
One protester carried a sign that read: "We're Poor But Not Criminals."
Street Vendors Banned
The rules prohibit walking on the grass, drinking in public areas of the development, playing loud music and storing personal belongings on balconies. Children are not allowed to play on the grass or in other public areas. The rules also prohibit street vendors, thus ending the once-regular visits of a produce truck that attracted large crowds every afternoon.
Rueda and other residents also repeated complaints and accusations made earlier in their lengthy battle with the area's developer, Devinder (Dave) Vadehra.
Vadehra obtained a $4.2-million loan from the City of Los Angeles and secured $20.8 million in tax-exempt bonds from the city to buy and renovate the development's 453 apartments.
Residents contend that Vadehra wants to drive out the development's low-income, predominantly Latino population to make way for higher-income tenants.
Raul Ruiz, a Chicano studies professor at California State University, Northridge, who is working with the residents, said the barrier and rules of conduct are aimed at scaring away low-income tenants. Ruiz said the City Council should reconsider its approval of the barrier, which was endorsed by the Police Department.
Spokesmen for Vadehra have said the rules were enacted and the barrier erected to bring order to an area long plagued by crime.
Residents also charged that maintenance workers have been slow to respond to their complaints. "They don't want to give us apartments that are fixed. They want to give us the street," Maria Torres said.
Torres then turned her attention to protesters and yelled: " Ahora , griten ! Now, shout everybody!" The protesters took up a chant and paraded in a circle with their signs, some of whose slogans were in English and others in Spanish.
'Fix the Windows'
One sign referred to the alleged maintenance problem: "Fix the Windows," and another to the barricade: "Open the Streets."
A city housing official watching the protest said that, at the tenants' urging, the Community Development Department has asked the developer to provide an updated maintenance schedule.
Walter J. Clarke said tenants have been particularly concerned about problems in 19 of the units, ranging from leaky ceilings to poorly installed carpets. Clarke said the department would look into the complaints.
Clarke said some maintenance problems persist, but that the developer has taken steps to clean up the neighborhood and the apartments. The developer is focusing on fixing unoccupied units so that new tenants can be attracted, Clarke said. When that work is completed, renovation will begin on the occupied units, he said.