LA Housing Authority sued for overcharging low-income tenants $8 million in trash fees

Mar Vista Gardens housing project next to La Ballona Creek.
Mar Vista Gardens housing project next to La Ballona Creek.
joelorama/Flickr (Creative Commons-licensed)

Listen to story

Download this story 0.0MB

Some of L.A.’s low-income public housing tenants have filed a class-action lawsuit against the city. They claim the L.A. Housing Authority has overcharged people in housing projects millions of dollars… for picking up the trash.

Retiree Marco Galindo has lived in the Mar Vista Gardens housing projects for about 16 years. Galindo says he and others who live in subsidized housing noticed that the city drastically inflated fees for sanitation services in recent years.

“Seventy percent was increased starting two years ago," said Galindo. "So we found out... we started fighting for [the] Housing Authority to remove those charges to the public housing residents.”

The Western Center on Law and Poverty filed the suit along with other advocacy groups.

Attorney Navneet Grewal says the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles — or HACLA for short — hasn’t budged very much.

“HACLA had acknowledged that the tenants are being overcharged," maintains Grewal. "So they’re reducing rents going forward but they’re refusing to refund and they’re refusing to do the direct payments of trash which is what their lease says that they will do, which is really important for a lot of tenants for a number of reasons.”

Reasons like: they can’t afford the costs.

Emma Gullette, 69, is helping her daughter raise three kids in a three-bedroom apartment at the Pueblo Del Rio projects in South L.A. She pays just over $300 a month for rent — and now, on top of that, a $24 monthly bill for trash service.

“We didn’t know it but I guess they’ve been charging us all the time," Gullette says. "But it was you know, a couple dollars here, a couple dollars there and all of a sudden that $24 comes up on my bill... I want to know where it’s coming from.”

The lawsuit maintains that the Housing Authority owes tenants $8 million for payments they made over the last few years. Tenants contend that, under their leases, the city’s supposed to pay for trash removal.

The Housing Authority, which depends on federal dollars, has not commented on the lawsuit.