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Peninsula | Health, Housing, and Public Services

Greedy Mega-Landlord May Face Criminal Charges
by Eye on East Palo Alto
Friday Mar 20th, 2009 5:48 PM
This is a story that would not have come to light without the dedicated work of tenants' rights activists in the Fair Rent Now Coalition. Coalition volunteers are determined to keep Page Mill Properties' many violations in the news. They contacted both mainstream media and indybay to provide details of Cal/OSHA's investigations and fines resulting from the electrocution death of a Page Mill employee.

Photo: Demonstrators in front of Page Mill Properties March 11, 2009 by Justin Miel. Please write for permission to use, justin [at] gotmiel.com.

Page Mill Properties may face criminal charges in the death of one of their employees. The victim of what many feel is the investor/landlord's negligence, was decorating trees with Christmas lights at Page Mill's direction when the string of lights came into contact with a high voltage electric line in the winter of 2007. The 24 year-old employee suffered death by electrocution.

Cal/OSHA determined that Page Mill had failed to train the employee to work near electrical lines and let him work near high-voltage lines without correct safety precautions. In late November 2008, after their appeal to the state office was denied, Page Mill paid Cal/OSHA more than $36,000 in penalties. They have paid an undisclosed amount to the family of the victim.

Now the San Mateo District Attorney is deciding whether to file criminal charges in the case. Tenant activists are closely following the case, and some are communicating with members of the Board of Supervisors of San Mateo County in hopes of encouraging the DA to proceed with criminal charges against the landlord. Activists want the county District Attorney takes this seriously and have expressed concern that Jim Shore, who has worked as a deputy DA in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties and now serves as general counsel to Page Mill, might try to influence his former colleagues on this matter.

Last week, tenants and activists including the groups Fair Rent Now Coalition, Youth United for Community Action, and the Raging Grannies protested in front of Page Mill Properties' headquarters in downtown Palo Alto. They continue their campaign to have Rep. Anna Eshoo and others get more involved in stopping some of the offenses the landlord has committed, including ignoring rent control ordinances, refusing to do necessary maintenance, and harassing tenant activists. This week's disclosure that the San Mateo County District Attorney's office may file criminal charges stemming from the electrocution death is a grim reminder that landlord negligence can even lead to death as it did during the winter holidays of 2007.

Mainstream media report is here: http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_11955813