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July 27, 2010

CES Tenants Take Action To Force
Landlord to Eradicate Bed Bugs

(Left to Right) Elizabeth Gomez, Rosa Lopez, Anita Aguilar, Jolanda Flores and children, City Council Field Deputy Vincent Burditt and Senior Deputy of Code Enforcement John Harmon

On July 27, 2010 representatives of Los Angeles 10th District Council Member Herb Wesson, visited CES tenant leaders at Park Norton Apartments in the Arlington Heights area of Los Angeles. City Council Field Deputy Vincent Burditt and Senior Deputy of Code Enforcement John Harmon met with the tenants to discuss the severe bed bug infestation at their building and the fact that the landlord has refused to take effective measures to eradicate the infestation or meet with tenants. The tenants are primarily comprised low-income of Latino families with children under the age of 8.

For over the last four months, CES has been assisting tenants in organizing an effort to pressure the owner to address problems at the building. Within two weeks after tenants sent a demand letter to the landlord and management, a building-wide fumigation treatment occurred.

As a first step, this was a great victory because the landlord finally recognized the infestation to be building-wide problem, rather than an individual problem. In the past the fumigation treatment would only occur in a couple units at a time, but for the first time the fumigation occurred throughout the building. Still, the treatment was not successful.  Bed bugs do not respond to traditional pesticides, a largely misunderstood problem; to date, the only effective treatment to eliminate bed bugs is professional steam treatments.

After special training and technical assistance was provided to CES staff by the Healthy Homes Collaborative, an association of community-based organizations committed to eliminating health threats in homes of which CES is a member, a new game plan was developed.

(Left to Right) City Council Field Deputy Vincent Burditt, Senior Deputy of Code Enforcement John Harmon, Gabriela Lopez, Nancy Quezada, children and CES Tenant Organizer Joel Montano

Tenants then informed the landlord that if he did not hire a Green Shield Certified contractor (an independent certification program that promotes effective, prevention-based pest control while minimizing the use of pesticides) a complaint would be filed with the Los Angeles County Health Department. The landlord agreed but has been dragging his feet in taking the action.

The tenants then contacted their City Council Member to solicit the support needed to bring additional pressure on the landlord to follow through with his commitment to exterminate the bed bugs in their building with service that uses safer alternatives to pesticides.  Tenants were extremely optimistic about the meeting and the commitment the Council office representatives made to them in regards to supporting their efforts to get their landlord to ensure healthy homes that are free of bed bugs.

Tenant leader Elizabeth Gomez stated, "I am glad that by working with my neighbors and CES we were able to get City Council Member Wesson’s representatives to come out to our building because we've had enough and would like the bed bug infestation to end already. This fight is something all tenants can benefit from and I am confident that the City will work with us to pressure the landlord in bringing positive change to our building, Park Norton."


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