Marina Del Rey doesn't normally see many Latinos on its streets after sundown, when gardeners, cooks and house cleaners finish their work and head home – sometimes to crummy apartments in central L.A.'s Pico Union neighborhoods. Halloween night was different, though, as about 50 children from Pico Union showed up to trick-or-treat. They weren't here for a candy upgrade, however, but to meet their landlord – Frank McHugh, who's become a reliable bull's eye for slumlord activists who claim he operates substandard housing for about 1,700 low-income families who rent his dilapidated buildings in Pico Union and South Los Angeles.
The kids came dressed as rats and held homemade posters depicting the rodents, along with roaches and other vermin – and the bites they’ve inflicted. The Halloweeners first fanned out for a pre-protest trick-or-treating before gathering in front of McHugh’s Cape Cod-ish condo. They were chaperoned by their parents and – dressed as housing inspectors -- members of SAJE (Strategic Actions for a Just Economy), a nonprofit that has organized community actions against McHugh.
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“McHugh a la puerta!” the crowd chanted at 8 p.m. in front of the landlord’s home, but his door remained closed. Lights had been burning at the home since nightfall, but no one was seen stirring behind the windows. Eventually the kids’ posters and a giant invoice for wishful repair work to be done on “McHughville” homes were placed on McHugh’s porch and the children returned briefly to their consolation prize – more trick-or-treating in the upscale neighborhood.
“I’d tell him to fix our building,” one boy said about McHugh, after describing the holes in his family’s Figueroa Street apartment. Then, looking around at this wide, tidy street’s compact palaces, admitted, “These are pretty nice places.”