George Almanon was one of the last residents to remain in PQ Village.
“I’m kind of sad and my wife doesn’t want to leave this place,” he said, “because it’s a nice area and quiet.”
Peñasquitos Village (PQ Village) was a low income housing development off Carmel Mountain Road that’s slated to be demolished for a new 600-unit development that was approved by a 8-1 City Council vote on March 5.
The tenants were ordered to vacate by July 15 because it’s the 120th day after the notice was issued. And while some residents moved before the March decision; most were said to have moved within the 120 days.
On July 13, 63-year-old Almanon and his wife, were still living in the complex.
The couple is originally from Olongapo City in the Philippines, which is the former home of U.S. Naval Base Subic Bay. They miss their friends that once lived in the 300-plus apartment complex development; many, like them, emigrated from the Philippines.
“Nanay Feli is 93 years old, she lived right there,” Almanon said, “the Santiagos lived here for 26 years, and Nanay Cora and Pauline lived over there. [I think] that more than 50 percent of the residents here were Filipinos.
“…. Mindy is a half-filipino, next door is Danny and he’s a Filipino, and my friend who recently passed away — I found out he’s my kababayan (from the same province in the Philippines).”
“We’ve met with about 25 households here with Filipino-American residents, since the beginning of the year,” said Maricar. “At that time, a majority of the residents had already moved out, so there were probably many more living on the property before.”
Maricar is a 35-year-old Spring Valley resident who has visited the Philippines before. He’s a library associate and filmmaker by trade. Since the end of 2017, he’s been documenting his friends that supported the PQ residents and their fight to preserve their affordable housing, the displacement of the residents and the remaining residents (like Almanon) that couldn’t find a place to move to.
“First we don’t have good credit,” Almanon said, “we had a roommate and he left. So we shouldered the $1500 rent, then everything including our bills got behind. I got something in collection and because of these things, I can’t pay it. I hope we can get better.”
“I’m on disability; it’s not much but it’s something,” he said. “My wife works and she’s hobbling too because she’s got a leg problem.”
Maricar interviewed another Filipino family that lived here for almost four years.
“[It was] a husband and wife with a seven-year-old and a two-year-old,” he said. “They could no longer afford a two-bedroom apartment locally, so they were forced to separate from one another. The father had to stay in the U.S., while the rest of his family moved to the Philippines.”
Initially, Almanon, his wife and her kid, and their friend were looking to share a place in the area to rent.
“Everything went up in price, especially in Mira Mesa,” he said. “Every four-bedroom house that we looked at was all the same price: $2800 per month. How can you manage to pay that? And all of the apartments went up in price too.”
On Zillow, the average apartment rental in Peñasquitos was about $2200; in Mira Mesa, it was slightly less.
Kirin is a Filipina-American from South Bay. She was a community volunteer with Allies for PQ Village.
“Some of the residents who left, especially the elderly ones,” Kirin said, “just decided to go back to the Philippines. That really broke my heart.”
In March, when the city council voted for the developers to demolish PQ Village and build the new complex, the remaining residents and some previous ones were accommodated to find a new place.
“The property management sent me this,” Almanon said,” it’s a list of properties that have openings. The thing is, most of these places are far away and our doctor is right here.”
Almanon received a $500 check from the property management, which he used partially for his last month’s rent.
Some parishioners from Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which is less than a mile south from the development, helped move some of the residents out.
“They helped Nanay Feli, my 93-years-old neighbor, move to the The Hills,” Almanon said. “We used to share chicken adobo and fish with one another.”
Almanon was packing up the last of his remains in Balikbayan boxes, which are usually used to send pasalubongs (gifts and treats from the U.S.) back to the relatives and friends in the Philippines.
“When I can afford it again,” he said, “I will send home the four boxes I have saved.”
Another one of Almanon’s Filipino neighbors was still packing when I visited the complex on July 13.
“I have six Balikbayan boxes I am sending home,” she said, “I don’t have space in my new place.”
Almanon said that he and his wife found a temporary place in Mira Mesa. “It’s a living room, and it’s cheaper than here,” he said. “I have all of my stuff in front of the house waiting to move in on July 14.”
I asked him if he and his wife had a backup plan.
“No, I do not,” he said.
In the last couple of years, many came forward to aid the former residents and there was a memorandum agreement drawn up between the PQ Village residents’ allies: San Diego Organizing Project, Save PQ Village and San Diego Imperial Counties Labor Council; and the property owners/managers: Lennar Home of California, Inc. and Atlantic & Pacific Management.
Rafael Bautista from Tenants United San Diego was there on July 12 and spoke in behalf of the former residents: “Developers displacing seniors and families out of the state and out of the country shows how severely imbalanced power is in San Diego.
"Instead of approving this awful project 8-1, council should have passed a series of laws protecting tenants. Strong Just Cause protections, relocation assistance, anti-discrimination of section 8 and most importantly rent control.
“If Almanon and his wife stays on the 15th, they will be going to court to fight an eviction from the landlord.”
According to a March 6 Reader article: “Of the 276 new apartments to be built on the site (the other 324 homes will be offered for sale), 60 are to be reserved as “affordable housing.”