Long Beach, News

Local coalition forms to give the neighborhood a voice and put slum lords on notice

The disruptive activities surrounding a Long Beach hotel were the subject of contention on Saturday, after community members in the Zaferia neighborhood rallied on 11th Street and Obispo Avenue Saturday to protest the Grace Hotel.

The Grace Hotel primarily houses residents who are unable to afford the average rental price tag in Long Beach. According to Rocky Patel, owner of the hotel since 2005, the rooms rent at $160 per week and typically house one or two tenants per room.

A member of the Zaferia neighborhood, Robert Bergeman has started the Clean Up Zaferia Coalition. According to Bergeman, the goal of the coalition is to take back the community from businesses that foster criminal activity, which feed on the vulnerable by providing less than adequate accommodations.

“We’re sick of people doing what they want,” Bergeman said. “[The tenants] have no consideration for their neighbors. They block the road and leave trash all around. The rooms have fleas and bed bugs and people are using drugs [in the hotel].”

Despite complaints from the Long Beach community, Patel said he doesn’t agree that there have been a lot of problems within the building. Patel also stated that the reason that people always seem to be entering and exiting the building is because there are public restrooms in the building.

“People don’t realize that people are living in low-income housing because they can’t manage their finances, are going through a transitional phase or are retired and need to buy medication”  Patel said. “The public assumes that the tenants are drug addicts and criminals.”

According to the Long Beach Police Department, the January Police Reporting District 501, which is the district that the Grace Hotel is located in, had a total of 25 crimes listed. Some of the crimes were robbery and aggravated assault.

According to the Long Beach Police Department, the city average per Police Reporting District for January is 8.4 crimes. On the corner where the Grace Hotel is located, the police have responded to numerous calls in 2018, including narcotics possession and aggravated assault, according to the City of Long Beach’s Crime Incidents database.

“Three out of seven days there are cops outside of [the Grace Hotel],” said local resident Ronald Blunt. “It’s the only place in the neighborhood where the cops are consistently outside.”

Blunt said that there are often people hanging around the hotel, and screaming can be heard at night. Whenever Blunt walks by the apartment building, he said that the windows are always open and that it smells inside.  

“I feel the neighborhood is undesirable because of the hotel,” said Cindy Wiley, a local resident.

Wiley said someone had recently broken into her parking structure and vandalized her bicycle. Though Wiley doesn’t know who vandalized her bicycle, she said she can’t help but relate it to the type of people who live in the Grace Hotel.

“I love living here,” Wiley said . “I want [the neighborhood] to be desirable and safe. I currently feel safe though.”

George Newton has been living in the Grace Hotel for three months and so far, he said everything has been good.

“Criminal activity is just gossip,” said Newton. “Nobody has bothered me. This is a pretty good place to live if you’re coming on hard times.”

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