A pilgrimage of sorts departed from Venice to the nation’s capital on Friday night, March 20, to meet with Obama administration officials over the weekend to advocate for sweeping federal housing policy reform and ask top officials to reverse a plan that could lead to the loss of 246 units of Section 8 housing in the historically working-class, Black, and Latino Oakwood neighborhood in Venice. The group of 10 emissaries represent a community organizing group called People Organized for Westside Renewal (POWER). They had a 6 p.m. send-off that night at the First Baptist Church of Venice, where several dozen residents of the Holiday Venice Apartments and neighboring communities gathered at a prayer meeting. Pastor Williams told the assembly that their prayers in Venice were even more important than the people traveling to Washington.According to POWER, the Holiday Venice Apartments represent the last multi-family Section 8 development within the coastal zone of California (approximately one mile from the beach). The project’s for-profit owner, Gregory Perlman of GH Capital, has requested to prepay his HUD mortgages and lift the restrictions guaranteeing low-income affordability. U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, Congresswomen Jane Harman, and L.A. City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, among others, have urged HUD to deny the owner’s application to prepay the mortgages, fearing the reduction in affordable housing in the community that might result and citing prior HUD denials of prepayment applications for the property.POWER leaders have devised a plan to buy the development with the help of nonprofit Mercy Housing California, which is part of a national organization that develops, finances, and operates affordable housing. The Mirror’s call to Mr. Perlman for comment was not returned. At the prayer meeting, two of those making the trip to Washington spoke to their supporters. Kendra Moore said that a group of ladies began working toward buying the buildings in Venice in the 1980s and she wanted to “keep this dream alive.” She promised to come back and “teach other community leaders” and to challenge property owners on Sundays “at their churches, at their golf courses, and at their homes – after waiting until they’ve finished dinner.”Jaime Zeledon, a Mar Vista Gardens resident, decried the loss of public housing units which were being demolished at a faster rate than they were being rebuilt, and he called for a “one-for-one replacement.”The March 20 gathering also featured introductions and exhortations by community advocate Ron Weekley, prayers led by Pastor Williams and Senior Pastor Horace Allen, and live music.
In Washington, the POWER delegation was scheduled to join community organizing groups from throughout the nation to demand that HUD adopt a moratorium on the demolition and sale of public housing projects and HUD mortgage prepayments nationwide. The groups are coming together for the National People’s Action Conference, an annual gathering of community organizing groups hosted by the National Training and Information Center (NTIC).