It’s not the swankiest address in the county. Nor will the three-story stucco painted the rare shade of brown win any aesthetics awards. But the Pacific Terrace Apartments in Midway City are a comfortable home to 150 low-income senior citizens who have but one small request.
They’re not asking for six months’ free rent. They aren’t demanding French cuisine at dinner. They don’t need a doorman and chauffeur service.
They just want cable TV.
It’s not clear when they first tried to get it, but the scuttlebutt is that the request goes back at least 10 years. Mary Hann is 72 and has lived at Pacific Terrace for five years. She says the issue has percolated from time to time for as long as she’s been there.
“We had the sweetest little Chinese man who lived here,” Mary says. “He was the chaplain for the building. Every time we had a big meal or a party in the rec room, he would do prayers beforehand. He tried and tried and tried, up to about six months ago. He died of cancer. That poor man wanted cable so bad.”
Now, Mary is the designated thorn-in-the-side of the building’s owners, and there’s just enough Texarkana gumption in this former bookkeeper to make her the perfect choice.
“Our managers have worked as hard as they can for almost three years, but they could only go so far, because they get their pay from those people,” she says. “There’s not much more they can do, so they came to me and said, ‘You’re the only one in here who has any spunk and get-up-and-go. And you can talk.’ And I can talk to anybody.”
Since accepting this so-far Mission Impossible assignment last September, Mary has gone to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s office, petitioned former Supervisor Roger Stanton, notified the state fair housing office, written to G&K; Management Co. in Culver City, which owns the building, and contacted Time-Warner Communications, the cable company.
“Believe you me,” she says, “I’ve contacted everyone who’s contactable.”
Apparently, the snag involves a contractual dispute between the cable company and the building owners. A Time-Warner official told me this week the company would love to wire Pacific Terrace and hopes an agreement can be reached. A G&K; official, apprised of my call on the matter, left word she would be unavailable for comment.
So, Mary and her fellow residents wait. At least, as long as they can. “I have seven people on this row who have died since I moved in here,” Mary says. “Every one of them said, ‘We’re going to get cable, we’re going to get cable.’ ”
Mary once sent around petitions to gauge interest in cable and got 70 positive responses from the 98 units. Not having cable, she says, prevents residents from staying in touch with the outside world as much as they’d like. Mary’s particular passions are sports (“That’s the first piece of the paper I pick up in the morning”) and governmental programs. She wants ESPN. She wants C-SPAN.
“I told G&K; we may be seniors and some of us may be senile, but, dammit, we’re not stupid. A lot of these old people are semi-kept in their apartments and not able to get out. And they don’t own cars and a lot of them have said, ‘Gee, I’d like to see some of the old movies.’ Like I was in San Diego the other day and ‘Auntie Mame’ was coming on. Hell, I’ve seen it 50 times, but I enjoyed seeing her again.”
Conspiracy theories abound as to why there is no cable, but they don’t really matter to Mary. She says the cable company tells her wiring the building won’t cost G&K; anything. Meanwhile, while the clock ticks on getting cable, G&K; has spent money on a big-screen TV and new carpeting. “Did you see the big TV set in the rec room?” Mary asks. “We needed that like we needed seven holes in the head. We all have TVs in our rooms.”
What they want, doggone it, is cable.
“You get a lot of old movies on cable,” Mary says. “A lot of people in here don’t care about these modern movies. I have a VCR, but every time I hook it up, it messes up all my other stations, so I unhooked the bastard.”
Mary had cable for the 10 years before moving into Pacific Terrace, and going without it is maddening. “Look at that TV,” she says, pointing to hers in the corner of the apartment. “Sitting there with rabbit ears. This is like 1950. When I hooked into that thing [the apartment building antenna] they got up there for plain old TV, I can’t get one UHF station. I can only get [channels] 2 through 13.”
What kind of TV is that? I ask.
“It’s a JVC,” she says. “Cable-ready.”
Dana Parsons’ column appears Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Readers may reach Parsons by writing to him at The Times Orange County Edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626, or calling (714) 966-7821.