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Health, Housing, and Public Services

Oakland Landlord Blatantly Defies Measure EE
by Lynda Carson ( lyndacarson [at] excite.com )
Tuesday May 20th, 2003 11:36 AM
Local Landlord Threatens Tenants With Demolition Crews, Partial Evictions, And The Threat Of An Illegal Occupation In Their Homes!
Oakland Landlord Blatantly Defies Measure EE
By Lynda Carson 5/20/03

Oakland CA-Despite the passage of Oaklands new rent law Measure EE which went into effect on December 27, 2003, some landlords choose to blatantly defy aspects of the ordinance no matter how well informed they may be, or pretend to be.

Renters of Effies House at 829 E. 19th Street, are presently being threatened with demolition crews, partial evictions, and the threat of illegal occupations in their homes by their landlord, East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation, known as E.B.A.L.D.C.. An Oakland non-profit housing organization thats been around for nearly 25 years.

The landlord planned to partially demolish 4 of the rental units in the nearly ninety year old building, as part of a planned illegal occupation to create 2 new common areas in the building without offering any sort of compensation to the renters or any sort of rent reduction. An estimated 35 square foot of space per rental unit would be lost to each of the renters.

E.B.A.L.D.C., just planned to take what they want from the renters in full defiance of the renters contracts and in total violation of every law in the book pertaining to rental contracts or lease agreements.

E.B.A.L.D.C. was so blatant about abusing the rights of tenants at Effies House that they never even attempted to modify the rental agreements before-hand as a means to try to make it appear to be a legal take-over of the rental units.

The story first broke in the April Issue of Street Spirit in an article written by Lydia Gans, and when the landlord received notice of the article the planned schedule of the demolition crews were stopped within 24 hours.

Oakland activist Vivian Haine says that this landlord is one of the worst around, abusing Oakland Tenants even if they do offer affordable rents, and people need to know what these bastards are up to, Haine said.

E.B.A.L.D.C. manages over 700 rental units, and rents out nearly 100,000 square foot of commercial retail space in the East Bay.

Tenant activist Sue Doyal said that some of these landlords never learn, and that this landlord went way beyond the norms of some of the worst landlords in Oakland. Measure EE was passed by the voters to stop the most blatant sort of abuse by the landlords, but, some just don't seem to get it and continue to abuse the renters in spite of the new rent laws, Doyal said.

In addition to the story breaking into public view during Aprils Street Spirit Issue, Katie Davis the property manager was informed by one of the tenants that there was nothing in the written rental agreement that allowed the landlord to enter the rental units and occupy them, and that they would be sued if they followed through with their plans.

The project was immediately halted until a new plan could be devised, and within a week some renters were being coerced into signing new addendums to their contracts that allowed the landlord to claim that parts of the rental units were no longer a part of the premises agreed upon in the original rental agreements. One of those tenants an employee of E.B.A.L.D.C. (landlord), was called away from his job to the office of the property manager Katie Davis, and told to sign an addendum giving up part of his home to the landlord without any compensation or any deduction in monthly rental payments. Fearful of losing his job and home all at once, the tenant immediately signed the addendum without the advice or presence of an attorney.

Another tenant advised the property manager that she would never sign any such agreement to allow the landlord to occupy her apartment so long as she is residing there, and on May 14, 2003 received a 30 Day Notice changing the terms of the tenancy. The notice stated that the room in question (35 sq foot of space) would no longer be considered as part of the premises in the rental agreement, and that the landlord plans to demolish it for a planned common area.

Not only was this notice considered harassment, but, the notice is in total violation of Measure EE because the landlord was informed in advance that the tenant would not agree to signing an addendum or agree to a material change in the terms of the existing contract.
Under Measure EE Oakland renters do not have to agree to changes in their contracts that materially change the terms of their contracts, and it is unlawful for landlords to retaliate or harass tenants that refuse to go along with such far reaching proposals to the rental agreements.

This feud over the possession of the rental units started after E.B.A.L.D.C. was notified by the City of Oakland that the newly built four flights of outside exterior stairs would not be signed off on because it blocked access to 2 rental units out of the 6 rental units needing access to them. The original stairs allowed access to all 6 rental units before being torn down due to being unsafe, and $47,853 was spent so far on the botched stairway project.

As the new stairs were being rebuilt, tenants spoke out when they noticed that 2 out of the 6 units were being passed over and blocked by the new stairs. E.B.A.L.D.C. told the complaining tenants that it was all perfectly legal and they hired an attorney to go after any tenants that tried to interfere in the building of the stairs. One of the complaining tenants was threatened with eviction by Ed Nagy of the EVICTORS for interferring with the construction of the stairs.

When noticed that the City of Oakland would not sign off on the new stairs that now blocked 2 of the rental units, the landlord stopped claiming that the stair project was perfectly legal and started to look for ways out of the delemma without drawing up new plans to rebuild the stairs all over again.

A January 6, 2003 meeting took place at Oaklands Building Department between the landlord, the building contractor, and city officials of the planning and building department, in an effort to cover their ass from this botched project. A leaked memo from the meeting details how the three parties attempted to find a solution to the problem, with no tenants being involved or invited to the meeting.

The leaked memo of January 6, reveals that city officials Alain Placido and George Wonderly stated that we could provide access to the blocked units by either opening a passageway at the dividing walls between the units, or remove the dividing walls all together.

Since neither city official Placido or Wonderly ever looked at the dividing walls in question, the memo states that George Wonderly (3rd District Building Inspector of Oakland) asked the contractor about the dividing walls in question. The memo goes on to reveal that based upon the description of one of the contractors, a Francisco Ruiz of Jasper Design and Construction, Building Inspector George Wonderly concluded and stated to the group that the dividing walls in question most likely were built illegaly without a permit, and could be torn down.

With the problem being neatly solved by city officials who never bothered to inspect the alleged illegal dividing walls, E.B.A.L.D.C. quickly proceeded to harass the tenants into giving up part of their rental units so that their new plans to partially demolish and occupy 4 rental units would result in the new stairs being signed off on by the Building Inspector George Wonderly.

Weeks later, during a curious call to Wonderly, he stated that he never bothered to cite the landlord for code violations for the alleged illegal dividing walls, and said that this is what the tenants get for complaining about the stairs.

Meanwhile, E.B.A.L.D.C. is rushing ahead full steam to demolish their way through any resistance to the new plan that they hope will result in the signing off of the stairway project.

Housing activists are outraged by what is occuring at Effies House, and hope that by exposing the corrupt nature of Oaklands Code Compliance Office that city officials may be able correct the failures of the system.

Local activists are urging people to be a part of a phone in protest & join others to call the staff of E.B.A.L.D.C., in Oakland, to leave a message that the planned demolitions must stop, no occupations by management should occur, and that the rights of renters must always be respected.

The activists also urge the community to contact Oakland City Council Members to demand an investigation into what is occuring at Effies House.

Activists urge you to call now, and to call often as part of the protest during the last 2 weeks of May, 2003.

Call, Property Manager, Katie Davis; Call; 510/287-5353 ext 528

Call, Executive Director of E.B.A.L.D.C., Lynette Lee; Call; 510/287-5353 ext 596

For more info, contact; TenantNation [at] yahoo.com