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We Built This City on Rent Control
After suffering for years from the abuses of absentee landlords, East Palo Alto organized as a community in order to create rent stabilization in 1984. Many years later Page Mill Properties is using legal loopholes and bullying tactics that threaten apartment tenants and the very core of a city built on rent control.
East Palo Alto organized as a community to create rent stabilization in 1984 because out-of-town landlords were abusing the community and not reinvesting in it. Now in 2008 dishonest developer Page Mill Properties is trying to turn a half billion dollar profit out of deceitful use of school teachers' and fire fighters' retirement money.
Calpers, the roughly $250 billion California Public Employees Retirement System, was once called the forerunner of ethical pension funds for its aggressive stance on corporate governance reform. But Calpers has a stake in the financial success of Page Mill Properties. East Palo Alto tenants want to know: Would teachers, judges, state legislators and other public workers want to gain money for their retirement fund from injustice?
The City of East Palo Alto is taking legal action against Page Mill Properties, but this small, economically disadvantaged city has very limited legal resources. Meanwhile, tenants are being displaced daily from their homes with a constant barrage of illegal "three day pay or quit" notices. These notices are normally the first step in a chain of actions leading to tenant eviction, but community organizers report they are being used as threats to remove tenants quickly. Tenants say that when they call Page Mill to find out why they've received notice despite meeting all the terms of their lease, the company refuses to respond. "Fear is cheap," said one tenant, "and Page Mill is using the cheapest tricks in the book." Immigrant families feel especially threatened as they have little access to legal help.
Other renters have turned to the law to defend their rights, and one group has filed a class action suit against Page Mill and its CEO, David Taran. The suit argues that Mr. Taran engaged in civil conspiracy and misuse of the corporate form of the LLC to evade civic and legal responsibilities. The firm Heller Ehrman LLP has taken on the residents' case pro bono and is seeking punitive as well as actual damages.
The August 1 demonstration was just the first of upcoming monthly actions to be held in front of the Page Mill Properties office at 480 Cowper in Palo Alto. Tenants are being joined by community members and social justice advocates in the struggle; The Raging Grannies Action League has formed a Displacement Watch Team.
YOU CAN HELP
Start by visiting Youth United for Community Action's website at http://www.youthunited.net or http://www.RagingGrannies.com. These groups on both ends of the age spectrum are committed to seeing justice prevail in East Palo Alto and can put you in touch with ways to help. You can also contact Susan Martin at (650) 326-1348 (msg only) to find out about Rent Petition Events and other ways to get involved.
Stay tuned for part II of this story with a broader overview to include more on the history of East Palo Alto and a tale with huge and complex human implications.
Many tenants fear having their renting history ruined and are considering moving rather than risk such consequences; in some cases tenants have been locked out and given three hours time to get their property out of the apartment...more of Page Mill Properties' bullying tactics.
Fee Fi Fo Fum
Look Out Page Mill
Here we come!
Channel 14 Univision Spanish language television filmed at the rally. Mainstream Media has generally ignored the story, or reduced it to a local issue of "business interest".
Granny Sandy brings experience to the team.
Annie Loya of Youth United for Community Action with Raging Grannies