Dozens of Beauregard-area residents marched in solidarity Monday night to protest plans by the city and developer JBG Companies to demolish their homes as part of efforts to revitalize the corridor.
The protesters, organized by the Beauregard Tenants Association and Arlandria-based Tenants and Workers United, held the candlelight vigil and short march from the William Ramsay Recreation Center to the corner of Sanger Avenue and Beauregard Street on Human Rights Day, celebrated globally Dec. 10. Local residents argued that displacing so many families from their homes is a violation of basic human rights.
Residents protested escalating rents and utility costs in apartments owned by JBG Companies and the planned demolition of nearly 2,500 affordable housing units as part of the Beauregard Small Area Plan. Hector Pineda, president of the Beauregard Tenants Association and member of the Beauregard Rezoning Advisory Group, said housing is a basic human right.
“By standing up, we’re here to tell Alexandria city and JBG about the displacement here,” Pineda told Patch. “We have a right to be here. We have a right to have our families here. … We want our voice, our community to be listened to.”
Protester Veroneca Carzava, who lives in Meadow Creek Apartments, which are slated to be torn down, said Monday was a day to celebrate human rights.
“We’re fighting for the right to have a house to live in,” she said. “I don’t know where we would go, and I don’t want to go nowhere because I’ve (been) living here for more than eight years, and I have two children, and they go to the school here, and I want that they (are) educated here.”
Esteban Garces, who lives in Hillwood at Mark Center, said his rents have been skyrocketing in recent years.
“A lot of my friends who live here in this area have been affected,” Garces said. “Many of them are starting to move out. JBG is essentially pushing people out with the raising of the rents, and so we’re turning to the city right now for solutions, for a hand, for them to represent the democracy that lives in this area.”
Garcas said he wanted the city to offer 2,500 units of subsidized housing for low-income residents under the small area plan and stop all rezoning until the housing is guaranteed.
JBG Companies released the following statement in response to the protesters' demands:
“We have met and corresponded multiple times with this protest group, which is asking that rents be rolled back to 2010 levels and that energy rates be fixed. That is completely impractical if we are to continue to maintain this property to satisfy resident needs and meet City of Alexandria standards. Most residents in Mark Center know and understand that.”
The statement continued: “Likewise, the plans to redevelop are gradual and long-term. As always, we will treat each individual fairly and honestly, and we will operate with complete transparency and City oversight.”
The tenants and workers’ organization held a similar protest in October at an awards luncheon honoring JBG in Washington. However, the city has already adopted the Beauregard plan and is moving forward to bring property owners together to redevelop the area to include higher-priced residential units and new retail.
The city has negotiated with developers to include at least 800 units for affordable and workforce housing in the new development.