Please Highland Park Say it Isn't So

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by David R. Bloom

   Thirty-eight-year-old Tony Infante, an American citizen of Mexican descent, has lived with his wife at 4930 Echo Street in a rent-controlled Highland Park apartment for the past three years. The couple pays their $1,000 rent on time each month, yet in March their landlord’s “handyman,” a side of beef by the name of Jacob Avila, claimed the money simply never got to them, Infante says.

   Tony Infante understands their landlord to be a man named simply “Rabbi Goldstein,” whom Infante has never met and only spoke with briefly over the phone once. Tony offered to Rabbi Goldstein to travel immediately to the management office to correct the rent check situation, but Infante says Rabbi Goldstein told him not to bother. "We are turning the place over," Infante claims the rabbi said. After that, Infante and his wife began receiving eviction threats, he says. Avila offered Infante three months of rent and his security deposit back on behalf of the management company, in exchange for moving out. One of Infante's dogs started barking at the moment he refused Avila's offer, and Infante says Avila then told him, "See, right there. You have animals. That's a cause for eviction." Infante says that when he broke out his lease agreement to show that his unit is pet friendly and he had the required animal deposits, Avila said, “Well things are going to get real ugly then.”

   Infante received a letter from his management company in April, stating that work needed to be done in his apartment the following week, from Monday through Thursday. But when Avila arrived at Infante’s unit that day to start the work, he was refused entry. Infante claims that Avila then called the cops, reporting him as a man with a gun. Northeast police officers arrived to investigate the claim, but wisely saw through the money grab and let Infante go. To say it’s hard to keep a rent-controlled apartment in Highland Park these days is like saying there’s some division in this lovely community of over 57,000 people. It’s too well known a fact to even mention anymore.

   Immediately after the refusal to accept his rent in March, Infante hired an attorney from East Los Angeles named Christopher Lauria. It was Lauria who instructed his client to refuse the demands of the work notice in April. Infante also hired a daytime house sitter to cover the place while he and his wife were away at work. The house sitter was outside the day the cops came. She told Infante after they left that she watched from outside as the cops entered his home in search for the reported gun that was never found. Additional police officers stood guard outside armed with assault rifles, she said. The house sitter says she heard Avila tell the police that Infante had a gun, and that Avila “was pacing around out there alongside the police the whole time,” Infante says.

   Since then, Infante also contacted a sergeant Zavala of the LAPD, and Zavala gave him useful information on how to protect himself from future victimization. Infante also noticed a recent news article posted in his laundry room, written by Highland Park activist Armando “Mando” Medina. In his article, Medina described gentrification and racism as going hand in hand. Infante called Medina right away, who put him in touch with LA1 News.

   On Wednesday, April 20, a groundbreaking ceremony was held at Figueroa Street and Avenue 50, to celebrate the start of construction of a new condominium complex for the community. While the big-wig party ensued, Infante says Avila arrived at his unit and began doing some of the repairs anyway. Infante says Avila broke a cracked bedroom window from outside, resulting in shards of glass atop his bed when he arrived home from work. Avila had changed out the window and left the mess, Infante claims.

   Tony Infante met his wife at the University of San Francisco in 2004. He was an English Literature major, then switched to Political Science, finally graduating with a degree in Philosophy. She studied Psychology. Love came next, and in 2013 they agreed to move to Highland Park to get married and live closer to her father’s home in Pasadena. They have two small dogs, Chuy and Duquesa. “I never imagined a situation like this happening to me and my family,” he says. “We are very abiding people who really cause no trouble. I am not sure why we are being targeted the way we have been.”

   Calls by LA1 News to Infante's ladlord at R&E Management, with messages to a Jacob Goldstein there regarding this situation, have not been returned.

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Darlyn Pedroza's picture

This man is a heartless and rude person, he is an ex co worker of mine and the reason why I say ex is because he got myself and another person fired. Just because he was in a horrible mood that day. We had a disagreement and he threatened to call my boss on me and tried kicking me out of the office saying "what was I doing there" and "I belong outside" he made things a big deal over me moving some files he wasn't using. Just had a mess all over the place and wasn't even his desk so I moved the stuff and he got angry over it that's when I told him I was going to put them back, I just thought it was rude how he threw them right in front of me and to top it off it wasn't his work space either. He actually proceeded to call my boss and tell him who knows what. Caused me and another co worker to get fired and the other poor girl didn't have anything to do with it she was just trying to clean up the mess he had at her desk so she can get ready and get to work. Before that he would always complain about this eviction and passed bad experiences he has had and now I see why. I wouldn't be surprised if he provocted the land lord. He got angry real fast, and it was all cause I moved some files from a desk that wasn't even his! He didn't stop to think about the fact that the other girl just moved into a new house and I am a 18 year old mother of a baby of 4 months!I wish I knew what lies he told my boss so I could have spoken myself with my boss and told him everything he said to me and threats he made to call him.