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Santa Cruz Indymedia | Health, Housing, and Public Services

Santa Cruz allows disabled woman to be smoked out then publishes Fair Housing pamphlet
by John E. Colby
Sunday Jul 22nd, 2012 12:34 AM
Using HUD Community Development and Block Grant (CDBG) funds, the City of Santa Cruz published a guide to Fair Housing which is available, as per the link below, on the Santa Cruz city website.

Yet a little more than a year ago, between May and June 2011, the City of Santa Cruz discriminated against my sister Patricia Colby at the Mission Gardens Apartments by denying her a reasonable accommodation for the effects of secondhand tobacco smoke used by recalcitrant smokers at the Mission Gardens Apartments to kill her based upon her disabilities. These were hate motivated crimes on the basis of disability. The Santa Cruz City Council not only ignored her accommodation request, but Santa Cruz Housing Programs Manager Carol Berg retaliated against my sister by removing her unit from the HUD HOME program which afforded her extra affordability protections in case Mission Gardens ever loses its Section 8 subsidy.

Furthermore, the Santa Cruz City Council, City Manager, City Attorney and City Housing Programs Manager all stood by, doing nothing, while my sister and I were harassed, intimidated, threatened, coerced and retaliated against by Mission Gardens management — The John Stewart Company — for advocating for her disability rights.

In 2005, my sister Patricia Colby moved into the Mission Gardens Apartments. Unknown to her, the neighbor in the unit below hers was an extremely heavy chain smoker. The intrusion of cigarette smoke into my sisters's apartment was so bad that her apartment smelled like she, a nonsmoker, was a chain smoker. My sister asked for a transfer to an apartment away from smoking neighbors in November 2005.

Soon afterwards, her downstairs neighbor moved in a boyfriend who was and still is a heavy chain smoker, doubling the amount of deadly secondhand smoke entering her apartment. Her health began deteriorating. The onsite manager, a chain smoker, refused to transfer my sister into the apartment below mine which became available around March 2006. This manager told my sister she would never gain a ground floor apartment — my sister has mobility disabilities. My sister patiently waited while her health quickly deteriorated even more. By August 2007 her health was so compromised that she had several episodes in which she almost stopped breathing. She took on the services of attorney Ed Frey to gain an accommodation.

The management callously ignored Ed Frey until he prepared in November 2007 to file a federal lawsuit against the management and HUD. Before then the onsite manager coerced my sister to "just move on", telling her that she would never gain a transfer to an apartment away from smoking neighbors. The manager wrote my sister a letter in which she called Mission Gardens "a smoking property". This manager ran Missions Gardens as a smoking property for the benefit of smokers to the detriment of non smokers. Any resident who acted in a way that seemed to infringe on the perceived "smoking rights" of the manager's friends was harassed and run out of Mission Gardens.

Finally Ed Frey was able to gain my sister a transfer away from the deadly smoke of her two downstairs neighbors, but still to an apartment which had adjacent smokers. My sister moved, her health improved and she lived there without further health problems until her new upstairs neighbor, a "light" smoker, was cited by the Santa Cruz Fire Department for being a dangerous hoarder. Her upstairs neighbor blamed my sister for being cited and increased her smoking until her secondhand smoke began intruding into my sister's apartment, once again affecting her health.

When The John Stewart Company (JSCO) became the new management, my sister asked for an immediate accommodation. She asked that her upstairs neighbor be transferred to an apartment away from her. Instead of doing this, JSCO announced a property wide smoking ban to become effective a year later on January 1, 2010. My sister patiently waited while her health continued to decline. She noticed that suitable apartments for her upstairs neighbor became available, yet her neighbor was not transferred. Public records requests showed that neither my sister nor her neighbor were placed on a transfer list. My sister asked the management for immediate action, which was ignored. My sister's health seriously deteriorated. In December 2009, her upstairs neighbor died from a drug overdose, just before the property wide smoking ban took effect.

By presenting the property wide smoking ban as an accommodation to my sister, JSCO turned an angry gang of smokers against us, who blamed us for them losing their perceived "smoking rights". Yet JSCO did not effectively enforce this smoking ban. These smokers merely moved their smoking indoors, except for smoking and leaving half smoked cigarettes — to stalk my sister — near her car and apartment. In January–February 2011, my sister suffered back to back bronchial infections and then pneumonia, which her allergist believed could be attributed to exposure to secondhand smoke. My sister made two accommodation requests to JSCO to install smoke monitors in other apartments and to surveil her car and apartment with security cameras to prevent smokers from smoking there. JSCO refused to implement these objective measures to effectively implement their smoking ban.

After reading the terms of the City of Santa Cruz's contract with the owners of Mission Gardens to receive about 1.2 million dollars in HUD HOME grant funding, I advised my sister to request the same accommodations from the City of Santa Cruz, per their requirements under the HOME program. This accommodation request is attached. The Santa Cruz City Council ignored her. They even refused to enforce the Santa Cruz nonsmoking ordinance in the common areas of Mission Gardens which is a requirement of that ordinance. About six weeks later, Santa Cruz Housing Programs Manager Carol Berg informed me that my sister's unit had been removed by agreement between the City of Santa Cruz and Mission Gardens owners from the HOME program. That illegal removal is being investigated by the federal government.

The upshot is that now the City of Santa Cruz, after denying my sister and I our Fair Housing rights, has the chutzpah to publish a pamphlet advising Santa Cruz citizens of their Fair Housing rights under the very same laws which the City of Santa Cruz violated in discriminating against us. See the link below. How can anyone take the City Council and City officials at their word? Obviously they never intended to enforce the Santa Cruz nonsmoking ordinance in the common areas of apartment complexes.
§JSCO didn't enforce smoking ban at San Lorenzo Park Apartments
by John E. Colby Sunday Jul 22nd, 2012 12:34 AM


§Santa Cruz Housing Programs Manager retaliates against my sister
by John E. Colby Sunday Jul 22nd, 2012 12:34 AM

§My sister's original smoking and harassment accommodation request to JSCO
by John E. Colby Sunday Jul 22nd, 2012 12:34 AM