Google Translate: University of San Diego, Universidad de San Diego. Linda Vista. Pretty view. Housing, alojamiento. Problems, problemas.
Kelsie Currie: Linda Vista. It literally translates to pretty view. People love this place. They want to live here, but lately it's becoming increasingly difficult. Vanessa, someone that lived in Linda Vista not lives, lived, and this is her story on how she got to Linda Vista and why she had to leave. Since she immigrated here from Mexico, 12 years ago, she's lived in five different places with her family, five places in 12 years. That's so many. Vanessa, someone that wanted to talk about this issue, about this placement and the journey she has been on to find affordable housing for her family. We met with Vanessa on a Saturday afternoon at USD. She came with her younger son and we set up in a quiet room. Because Vanessa felt comfortable speaking only Spanish, we worked with another USD student, Anais, who translated for us. As my team set up the room, I watched the two, Anais and Vanessa sitting next to each other and they instantly started chatting just like old friends. There was maybe a minute of introductions and small talk. Then all of a sudden it seemed like they'd known each other forever. Vanessa became so animated and Anais even told her to save some of that for the interview. It's funny how sharing a common language can do that for a person, how it breaks down this barrier, how it's this common connection that can make the unknown a little more comfortable. This is what Vanessa found in Linda Vista. After all of the displacement, the moving around from place to place, the struggles with landlords and living conditions, she and her family finally found somewhere that they felt like they could be comfortable, somewhere that they belonged.
Vanessa: We lived here in Linda Vista in these apartments for six years, and this is where I found a lot of friends, people who spoke my language, my culture, different cultures, Filipinos, and I found a lot of friends and that's where my kids grew up. And it was really where I started building a community.
Kelsie: Vanessa had been through a lot. At that point, she lived in different places around San Diego that were just not working out. Each place they moved before Linda Vista seemed to come with its own challenges,
Vanessa: Like I said before, we lived in my husband's apartment for seven years. He had lived there, sorry, for seven years. He never really lived there. He just sleeped because all day he would be working. But it was, it was horrible to say that it was in, there was a lot of cockroaches and just not well for living.
Kelsie: It seemed like moving would solve the problems that Vanessa's family faced. But when one problem seemed to be solved, a whole slew of new problems presented themselves.
Vanessa: After six months of being married, we rented another apartment in, in Imperial beach. And it was a lot better. But the rent was 1,700 and back then it was a lot of money that was really pricey. It had a pool and they didn't have cockroaches, but they had a lot of rules and regulations and it was just too strict to live there. We lived in the apartment in Imperial Beach for two years. And then we moved up more North because that's what was more convenient for my husband's job. And that's when we came to Linda Vista and we were living in a two bedroom apartment, the rent was 1,300. But the, the state of it wasn't good either. It was for low income and not enough or low resources. It wasn't like luxurious. It was okay, but it wasn't good either.
Kelsie: But the price and the conditions weren't the reason that Linda Vista was an ideal place to live. It was the culture, the community and the resources that were offered there.
Vanessa: We have two community centers here and the community centers really help a lot to build that community. We have Access and Bayside. And after the bilingual classes, we would get together at someone's house and just, you know, just talk and hang out.
Kelsie: Bayside community center is a pillar in the Linda Vista community and it's through their programs that Vanessa found people that made her start feeling like a part of that community. There's one woman in particular named Tomasa Ruiz who works to make everybody feel included.
Vanessa: There's a lady actually, her name is Tomasa Ruiz and we have programs for parents so that their kids could advance in their school, academics every Wednesday. And it's a class and, you know, in the community center where we really talk about that really helps us help our kids. And she was the first one to contact me and to invite me to her house. And, you know, we had a knitting group and in the community center. So she was, she was my first contact in the community and who got me involved into the community. She's, she's like an angel to the community. She's always helping people and giving, giving them just help.
Kelsie: Vanessa did find a home in Linda Vista, not just literally a roof over her head, but also, and more importantly it seems, she felt the feeling of being at home. But unfortunately, while the sense of community was amazing, there were other problems that Vanessa was running into, problems that were just too big to ignore, problems that eventually pushed Vanessa out of Linda Vista.
Vanessa: And then once I started living here and my kids started going to school, I saw all the necessities that the community had, and that's why I started to get more and more involved. And what was most ending, was that the academic level wasn't good enough. My kids' education was really isn't good. The academic schools here aren't aren't that good of quality. Yeah.
Kelsie: And perhaps the biggest issue that drove Vanessa us out of Linda Vista was the cost of housing. The rising price of living in Linda Vista did not only affect Vanessa, but so many of the people that made up the Linda Vista community. This was such a prevalent issue that the community took actions
Vanessa: When I was here in Linda Vista. I was in a community group and we helped the community and I had friends and community members come and we had them come and ask us what they could do to really like prevent those higher cost of living, what they could do to stop that increased rent. And we did protests. We did marches, but nothing has happened. Nothing ever happened.
Kelsie: There's a long history of protests in San Diego, especially around housing issues. Specifically renters have been asking for completion of their repair requests to make their own more livable. They are calling for landlords to put a stop to the rent hikes that are causing people to leave. People like Vanessa and the community that she's grown to love are being pushed out. But they are not going down without a fight.
Vanessa: I never organized a protest, a March, but I would just attend them. And one of them was by the McDonald's on Linda Vista road, they were protesting against the man who owned a lot of the land here. One of the things that really struck me was that my friends would always say, you do have problems, but you're the only one that's living just you and your family, just your four members. They, on the other hand, had to rent out room with other families with other people. And it was always that, that insecurity of, you know, who am I taking into my home. And I have children, so that like lack of security and the kids growing up with strangers in their home, just so that they can meet the prices of living. And that really just diminishes the quality of life because you're, you're, you're sharing your home. You're not, it's not your home and you're sharing it with someone else. So that's something that always just, that's why I got involved with housing and, and all, all my experiences are from Linda Vista, because that's where I really got involved into the community. And it, it, it just, it's sad to see that.
Kelsie: The community was United and was fighting. Vanessa was a part of it. But part of her feels exhausted from the constant struggle of rising costs. Think about the people you surround yourself with. Who makes up your community? Who do you go to when you need support, advice, or just someone to share a laugh with? That's what Vanessa found in Linda Vista. She found people that shared a common culture and who made this new place feel like home. Now, imagine that being taken away from you because while friends may be free, the housing to be near them is not. Vanessa's inability to afford the housing in Linda Vista has removed her from her community, but no matter where she moves to Vanessa runs into similar struggles. She currently lives in Carmel Valley, and while the price is more manageable, she feels like her peace of mind and sense of culture has been sacrificed,
Vanessa: Moving to Carmel Valley, the rent is 200, a hundred, $200 less than it was here. And that's really what, you know, it's sad that that's what had to happen. The prices go up so that I, cause I, I was forced to move out. I pay less for a better apartment. It's brand new. It has a pool and everything and a better quality for my kids' school, but it's just that, you know, removal of my community, of my culture. That's just really hard to get used to.
Kelsie: There isn't a place there that Vanessa feels she can connect with people. At the end of the day, that's what we're all looking for. Right? Connection, the underlying force behind community. And to give that up, to give up connection with other people, that is giving up the feeling of home for affordable housing.
Vanessa: And now that I'm in Carmel Valley, there's no community centers that I know of. And so, it's, it's really different to have that experience where you're not having people to socialize with too. You're not in your comfort zone. You're not comfortable in the community that you live in because there is no community really that you have. And I really miss that in it's something that it's like, it's really important to have.
Kelsie: We checked in with Vanessa again, after the first time that we spoke with her and she mentioned to us that her rent went up again, $90 in the last 10 months, not even a full year, it goes to show you that even affordable housing, isn't always going to stay so affordable, the prices and the places themselves aren't the only problems that Vanessa's facing. Another thing that she and her family struggle with are the landlords of the places that they rent.
Vanessa: I don't know if it's a common thing for landlords to just be inhumane. The way that they treat us just is not how we should be treated. They, they don't have any customer service kind of training or anything. You just don't know how to treat us. The one that I have right now, we have visual inspections of your home two times a year. And it's really, it's not, it's not nice. You know, you don't feel comfortable with the stranger coming into your house and looking at your house in the state that it's in a lot of like, things like that, that just make you feel like a thing rather than a person or invasion of privacy. Just always the landlords, just don't all of them, all of the ones that I've had, just don't know how to treat us.
Kelsie: While rising rents continue to threaten low income residents of Linda Vista and San Diego, both Vanessa and the community she left behind still struggle with living on low wages.
Vanessa: It's really difficult to be living by paycheck and just that every paycheck is just to go to your rent because there's nothing that's for the future. And so it's, it's really hard and it's really sad to see. I don't know. I don't know how my friends, my community members do it because it's just really hard to just have that pressure on you. Always.
Kelsie: The problems Vanessa had with housing and Linda Vista still follow her everywhere. In the end, she exchanged community culture for a roof over her head and her families. After 12 years of this, it's not just a sense of insecurity over prices. It seems inevitable that people get displaced from their homes.
Vanessa: It was really frustrating. It's just really frustrating to know that there's nothing you can do to stop those. And that it's just going to increase. The prices are just going to increase, and it's really like housing is a necessity. You have to stop buying clothes or food to meet the prices. Because if, if you don't pay the rent, then you're out on the streets and you don't have somewhere to live. You don't have a roof over your head. It's just really frustrating to have that. You know, there always, and you know, my friends, they were working by the hour, they made minimum wage or maybe a little bit more if they had more time in wherever they were working, but it was never a high salary. Not one like a professional or whatever, of that matter. But it was just minimum wage always. And it's not, they, you can't meet the price of living with that salary.
Kelsie: But here's the thing. Sometimes you could put a bunch of work in and it doesn't end up helping you. A minimum wage paycheck minus overpriced rent doesn't leave you very much. Vanessa once dreamed of owning her own home. Something to be proud of something to pass down to future generations, a sense of security in a changing world, but running into these constant struggles isn't leaving Vanessa very optimistic for the future. You start to wonder if Vanessa and the other people that are experiencing these housing issues think that there's ever going to be a change.
Vanessa: Another thing that's really frustrating is that you're working in, you're working and all you're working for is for the rent. And you're never going to see once you're old, you're never going to see what that, what all your hard work was paid off, because it was all, it all went to the rent. Your you, it's really hard to become a home owner here because of that, because you're just always paying rent and you can't get out of that. So it's, it's really, sad to think that once you're old, you're never going to see what all your hard work went for. Yeah.
Google Translate: Will there ever be a change?