Dispatches: 920 Everett St During COVID-19 – Los Angeles

by Bryan Sih.

The following is an experimental essay, combining fragments of the transcript of Khinn’s interview from the video (in italics), conducted at her home September 14, 2019 and the filmmaker’s reflections in the wake of COVID-19. 

A six-unit building at the edge of Chinatown and Echo Park is home to refugees, elderly, workers, and students. It has organized into the 920 Everett Tenant Association, becoming a loud voice of protest in the anti-gentrification movement and exposing the brokenness of LA’s housing system during the COVID-19 pandemic. As politicians claim to protect tenants with bills like AB 1482 or COVID-19-induced Eviction Moratoriums, 920 Everett’s revolving door of evictions prove the inadequacy of these efforts.

5:59 – I still remember what happened in Cambodia at that time 

6:15 – walk every single day – mile by mile, no shoe, only water 

8:00-  walk and run, lot of booby trap, mine, family, cut, die – one jungle to another 

On July 26, 2019, the tenants of 920 Everett received the first of three 60-Day eviction notices from a new owner. The previous landlords, Robert and Rosa Chow, a mom-and-pop Chinese family that lives in the San Gabriel Valley, sold the building to American Collateral Buyers, LLC, a Los Angeles-based real estate corporation, for several million dollars.

The Chinatown Community for Equitable Development (CCED) on their website states: “The eviction notices are part of a strategy for the corporation to start making a return on investment for their purchase of the building; in real estate language, American Collateral Buyers was attempting to achieve the advertised “upside potential of 120%.”

Rumor was that it was a parent’s gift to a recent graduate who wanted to get into real estate. The building was a prime target for a new predatory owner who would try to price these affordable units at market rate: it is not rent controlled, has no Section 8 units, and is not under a Rent Stabilized Ordinance (RSO). CCED states: “Since the building was naturally occurring affordable housing, as the previous landlord had voluntarily kept the rents low and stable for the working class and retired tenants, there were no legal protections in place for the tenants to maintain their rent levels.” Furthermore, its location right off Sunset Boulevard near gentrified areas of restaurants, shopping, and nightlife, as well its location near downtown, made it easy to market to young professionals with disposable income. The gentrifiers were coming.

8:51 – Our home has been destroyed. No more home we play. 

9:00 -mom found small house , so tired, so exhausted – “spend night here” 

9:23- mom found small roof but my mom sees 4 heads – killed – scared

9:44 – “kim can you go find water”

10:01 – mom clean blood off floor, bury head, pray, whoever you are give us a blessing. 

10:33- tired, no blanket – dad come because separated, dad comes, have rice, dried fish. 

11:00-  one week run out of supply, father and her walk back to countryside 

11:15 mango, any vegetable- 3 nights looking for food. 

11:30 – two sacks, pick food. 

11:41- we walk from 3am to 7pm afternoon. 

Author and Filmmaker Bio:

Bryan Sih is a filmmaker based in LA who does documentary and narrative content.

Editor’s Note:  Support the 920 Everett St. Tenants by signing this petition.

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