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Bob Roberts is a retired Pasadena high school guidance counselor. Retired since 1990, he has lived in the same apartment for 54 years—by choice.

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Kate Clark: Why did you get involved in Pasadena Tenants Union?

Bob Roberts: Not because of my own concerns. I have no problem. I’ve been treated fairly and I have put money away for when rent goes up. But I do not like what’s happening—the gentrification taking place—here in town. We are losing members of the middle class, the lower middle class, and the lower class.

So, you, personally, don't have any issues with possibly being affected by the housing affordability crisis?

Bob: That’s exactly why I’m trying to help people. I’m okay, but I don’t like what’s happening with rent increases chasing people away.

Have you seen any situations that have really troubled you?

Bob:I’ve lived here for many years. I really like the mixture of people and I don’t like the way they're being treated. They're being kicked out of here and being, told that they can’t pay, so they should just get away and move some other place.

That’s just unfair. At the supermarket, I’ve talked to people who’ve said that they don’t live here anymore because they can’t afford it. At my bank, I talked to my teller. She said, ‘Oh yeah, we live in Pasadena, but have to move out, because we can't afford it.’

At my gym, I talked to someone, a young man—I guess he was 30 or so. I asked, “Do you live in Pasadena?” He said, “Yes I do, but the only way I can is to live with a nurse. We share an apartment and we’re having trouble.”

Bob Roberts

Bob Roberts

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What do you think causes the problem?

Bob:As we hear all the time, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. It really is happening. It’s a real bad thing, a major problem. I don’t know how to solve it and I can't do it directly. The only way I can affect it is by helping with rent control.

What do you think needs to happen?

Bob: Let me say this, we have gone to the City Council to get help, and we get no sympathy at all. So we’re stuck. Unless we make some change by voting for change somehow, the only way that I know of is through rent control. It’s a big, big problem—a national problem, actually. Everyone in California knows there’s a real problem—everyone, rich or poor, knows.

You said you haven’t gotten much sympathy from City Council. So, what do you mean by that?

Bob:Well, we went to them, and we wrote to them about the problem, and they have not responded. Then we went to the Council meeting where the Mayor was talking about his plans for the year. One of our members asked whether he’d be doing anything to help rent control. He said, “Council members aren’t interested in any of that. It’s only a small percentage of the population, so we’re not that worried about it.”

The only thing we feel we can work on is rent control, to stop people from getting moved out of here.

So, what’s the next step? Since the City Council and the Mayor aren’t responsive?

Bob: We're trying to get enough people to sign the ordinance petition to get it on the ballot, so that we can vote on the measure. The City Council, if they want to, could directly put it on the ballot, but since we don’t get any cooperation, we have to take it into our own hands.

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We have applied through the City and we have permission to get signatures to put it on the ballot in this November election.

Kate Clark

ACLU Rent Control Pasadena -- 6March18 4C