El Pueblo Primero: City of Bell Residents pressure money-hungry council members to keep their homes

Over the course of many years, low-income cities in California have experienced rent increases due to new developments brought in by city council members and developers. It’s been witnessed in Boyle Heights, Long Beach, and now, new developments are approaching neighboring cities like Bell.

After a demonstration set up by a youth-led organization known as South East Los Angeles, or SELA, Chisme, @selachisme on Instagram, on April 24, in the City of Bell, greater awareness was spread toward the wrongful selling of two low-income Bell Mobile Home parks (Bell Mobile Home Park and Florence Village Mobile Home Park and RV Park) to developers. The selling of these mobile homes is both a threat to the tenants and the community members of the City of Bell as a whole.

“They’re directly affecting the City of Bell families. If we allow the city to sell the property, that literally endangers 500 families. If they get away with displacing 500 families, how can we stop any more evictions from happening when we already set a bar that allowed them to displace 500 families?” Genesis Sanchez, an organizer for SELA Chisme and City of Bell community member, said.

The City Council of Bell claims that the property on which these mobile homes are set has, “contributed to the dire financial situation [of the city],” according to a press release on the City of Bell Website.

To elaborate, both Bell mobile home parks have not provided enough money to the city for years.

“The combination of the loss of redevelopment funding in 2012, below-market rents and the on-going costs for maintenance and repair have resulted in a substantial decrease in reserves for the mobile home parks,” according to the press release, while also insinuating that the global pandemic only made things worse when it comes to renting due to certain eviction or rent control policies.

As City Council members create this narrative, being that these homes are affecting community funds, residents of the parks acknowledge that this alienates community members who live in the Bell Mobile Home parks. If this stigma is formed around the mobile home parks, the selling of the property will be framed as a solution, rather than an action that places hundreds of families in danger.

However, residents of the mobile home parks, particularly those of the non-profit organization, New Dawn of Bell Home Owner Association, who is now aiming to purchase the park as a whole to avoid displacements and evictions see through the lies told by Bell City Council members.

“The corner that is located on Atlantic and Gage was sold for 2.1 million dollars in 2017. So, how is it that the city, the council members, say that they don’t have money, and instead of saving the money, they are buying properties? They want to wash their hands on us,” Merli Albizures, the Vice President of the NDBOA said in Spanish.

This is when residents begin to question, is the city really broke or are they trying to cater to a separate group that is not low-income?

The City of Bell, similar to the City of Maywood, has a history of corruption.

For example, in 2010, Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo was making more money than the United States President. Even now, 10 years later, residents find it difficult to trust their city officials.

“On an agenda in September of 2018, the city council members in the City of Bell put the sale of both parks … the moment that Ali Saleh, the mayor at the time, was interviewed, he said that it was a lie,” Albizures said.

Saleh’s claim to update maintenance in the parks when they appeared in an agenda in 2018 quickly changed to a notice of relocation in December 2020, according to residents. This is when residents began to take action with demonstrations, holding meetings, discussing with city officials, and now possibly making the move to purchase the parks themselves to avoid eviction.

If the parks were to be sold to developers, not only would people be losing their homes in the City of Bell, but low-income families living in these parks would be financially affected, especially those whose mobile homes are old and are at risk of destruction if they were to relocate.

“It’s incredibly disrespectful, awful, and unsurprising. This is a potential threat of homelessness for hundreds of people,” Facundo, a member of the United Neighborhood Defense movement Los Angeles chapter, said.  “100%, the city only cares about getting rich, they care about helping their rich friends; they could care less about poor and working people in bell,” Facundo said.

The residents of these mobile home parks further organize to fight against America’s capitalistic society, which could potentially affect hundreds of elders, children, students and workers, community support is detrimental.

“At the end of the day, it comes to your neighbors having your back, bringing that awareness, and exposing the city council for the unjust things that it’s doing,” Irvin Lopez, another member of the UNDM Los Angeles chapter, said.

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