The Housing Project
The Bay Area's 45 Worst Slumlords, Real Estate Speculators, Gentrification
Profiteers and Other Contributors to the Housing Crisis
This research was developed by a team of volunteers who interviewed
tenant attorneys, tenant rights activists, and tenants throughout
the Bay Area and conducted background research (mostly on the web)
on the landlords recommended by these people. Were sure its
not a complete list and would love for you to add to itwith
information about other landlords or more details on the ones we already
know about. A list of South and North Bay landlords is in the works,
but to begin, here are our choices for the worst actors in San Francisco
and the East Bay. Background articles on many of these landlords are
available at Media Alliance, 814 Mission Street, Suite 205, San Francisco,
According to our tenant activist sources, slumlords are becoming rare
in SF these days; they emerge when landlords want to make money by
cutting back on expenses like repairs. But these days in San Francisco,
its much more lucrative to be a real estate speculator in SF
than to be a slumlord.
REAL ESTATE COMPANIES
1. ZEPHYR REAL ESTATE
Zephyr officers and realtors have been very active as landlords
and real estate speculators. The 1998 effort to partially repeal
rent control was led by Zephyr: Ilse Cordoni-a longtime Zephyr agent
& officer and currently a Director of the California Association
of Realtors was the largest single donor to the anti-rent-control
campaign, giving $25,000. Zephyr President and founder William Drypolcher-who
had residential property holdings worth $2.5 million (in 1998 valuation),
gave the anti-rent-control campaign $5,000.
Tenant activists maintain that Zephyr's specialty is advocating
evicting tenants to make way for condo conversions. Zephyr preaches
the philosophy of DELIVERED VACANT. Zephyr denies these assertions.
However, a spring 2000 Zephyr newsletter said: "Buildings which
are delivered vacant sell for considerably more than those which
are partially or wholly tenant occupied. The question is how much
is a vacant unit worth?" 20% more, Zephyr says. The newsletter
goes to give an example of a 2 unit occupied building which for
$569,000. The sale fell through in escrow and the building was put
back on the market empty and sold for $100,000 more, for $670,000.
One Zephyr realtor's flyer lists a number of buildings bought and
then re-sold for 50-100% more in the same year, followed by "Call
and ask me about Ellis Evictions."
According to one tenant's rights activist, this philosophy is put
into practive by certain of Zephyr's agents who personally have
purchased property For example:
Tenants were evicted under the Ellis Act in late 1998 by Zephyr
realtor Bonnie Spindler. Spindler bought the property in May of
1998 for $430,000; in September, she gave tenants an Ellis eviction
notice (this is typical of most Ellis evictions: a real estate investor
buys the rental units and immediately files an Ellis eviction to
remove the units from the rental market).
By February of this year, she had sold all 4 units for a total of
$975,000 (yielding her a profit of over half-a-million dollars.
Spindler has been an active real estate speculator in the past and
besides this Ellis eviction she's doing an "owner move in"
eviction on another building in the Lower Haight which is being
converted to condos, and previously did an OMI eviction for herself
at 1550 Fell.
This six-unit buildings was bought by a Zephyr realtor in 1998 who
began converting it into condo-type units. Two tenants were evicted
for "owner move in" and then the realtor/landlords (Tuan
Tran and George Uyeda) did an Ellis eviction to complete conversions
of the apartment units into condo-type units.
Three unit building created as condos via OMI evictions in 1997.
In May Zephyr was offering one of the condo-type units for $345,000.
Evictees included a 20+ year tenant.
2. LYNCH ASSOCIATES
Lynch Associates do a lot of TIC (Tenancy in Common) evictions and
have done three Ellis evictions. They are very active in the Mission.
Various partners were involved in up to half a dozen owner move-in
evictions since 1996. They specialize in "bluff" evictions:
They give people OMI notices or Ellis notices; tenants move when
they receive the notice; then Lynch withdraws the notice. One tenant
activist calls them "bottom feeders." They buy rundown
buildings and try to drive the tenants out however they can.
3. FRANK LEMBI/SKYLINE REALTY
From a tenant activist: Frank Lembi is the owner of Skyline Realty,
a major San Francisco property management firm. Skyline is one among
several property management companies that both owns and manages
buildings. They do what tenant activists call "pretext evictions."
This means that they give tenants eviction notices on the smallest
pretext. Although most tenants who fight these attempted evictions
win, many tenants just move out when they get an eviction notice.
Thus the landlord is able to get tenants out of the building and
move in people who will pay a higher rent.
Skyline Realty is also the subject of disciplinary action by the
city of SF for major violations of lead paint law. High lead paint
exposure has been linked to stunted development of children and
circulatory and nerve disorders in adults.
From a tenant attorney: Tenant complaints against Skyline are that
when they take over a property, their property manager seeks to
intimidate tenants to vacate pay higher rent. They look for any
potential violation of lease, including when a family has a child,
they argue that the child isn't on the lease, which they say is
a violation of the lease. Either the tenants agree to pay market
rent or they move out. This may not be rampant in Skyline's buildings;
it is the practice of at least one Skyline building manager. Skyline
seems particularly interested in getting into the Tenderloin and
SOMA neighborhoods. They look for buildings that have "upside"
potential: possibility that the low-income tenants can be cleared
out and the building can be turned into something "nice."
Lembi is pretty well connected. He is the former chief executive
at Continental Savings & Loan.
PROPERTY MANAGEMENT COMPANIES THAT OWN AND MANAGE BUILDINGS
"Warlord of city apartment owners, a man whose very existence
engenders fear, loathing, and, judging by a quick review of the
civil court docket, lawsuits." (SF Chronicle 7/15/98) Sangiacomo
has been active in SF real estate for four decades. In the 1970s
he responded to the debate over rent control by raising tenants'
rents by 100%. In 1995 he was ordered by courts to return $2,68
million in illegal tenant sign-up fees to 4,500 renters.
In 1996, Trinity Properties purchased Marina Cove, a 241-unit complex
on Bay Street. He passed through more than $3 million in renovation
costs to the tenants. Tenants were hit with a 19.2% rent increase
and additional 10% increases each year for the next 10 years. According
to the SF Chronicle, renters had to endure two years of noise and
decreased service while Sangiacomo made these "improvements."
This case is an example of how ineffective SF rent control is as
it relates to capital improvements. Only 100 of the original Marina
Cove tenants have stayed in the building. Sangiacomo is also responsible
for forced relocation of tenants and converting vacated units to
From a tenant activist: Angelo Sangiacamo is known as "the
father of rent control." Thats because in the 70s he
was jacking the rents up on his tenants so severely and frequently
that they began to organize and this resulted in the passage of
1979s rent control laws.
Trinity contributed $10,5000 to Willie Browns re-election
5. DAVIS PAUL MANAGEMENT
According to tenant activists Davis Paul Management is "buying
up the Mission" and mistreating tenants while theyre
at it. There are constant problems reported at their buildings.
Apparently, theyre fairly brutal when they take over a building,
especially with the Spanish-speaking tenants. Tenant activists say
that Davis Paul employs managers who arent sympathetic to
the tenants, who dont provide services even when they get
a direct request, and are slow and even non-responsive to tenant
6. ANTONIO CASTELUCCI/HOME REALTY
They take over a property and launch a variety of strategies to
evict the tenants. Castelucci owns a number of smaller properties
throughout San Francisco. Tenant activists say that, for the most
part, hes a hands-off manager; however the management company
he employs is fairly callous in dealing with the needs of tenants.
When they acquire a building, if they discover that a tenant is
a long-term resident, a common practice is to try to find some way
to either intimidate the tenant out of the unit or to fabricate
a just cause to vacate the unit.
7. SERGIO IANTORNO
Sergio Iantorno owns Realty West and is affiliated with Vanguard
Real Estate. Tenant activists say that Iantorno is a slumlord; but
he is more notorious for his real estate speculation, OMIs, Ellis
evictions, and capital improvement evictions. One of his specialties
is to evict people temporarily while repair work is being done on
a building. To get people to move out for a short time, he tells
tenants they have the right to return. Once the tenants are out
of the building, he tells them that hes going to evict them
if they do come back, and pays them small settlements to get them
not to return. He then turns the building into tenancies-in-common.
According to a tenant activist: Iantorno has a reputation of harassing
and intimidating his tenants. One story has it that he pulled up
outside of one of his buildings and sat in a limousine staring up
at tenants all day long.
8. HERTH REALTY
See Zephyr real estate. Herth does similar types of evictions. Both
companies are active in and top donors for funding anti-tenant positions
in ballot initiative campaigns.
9. H & H REALTY
Tenant activists say that this company takes advantage of undocumented
10. LANDMARK REALTY
Landmark owns small properties in the Mission. Its a one-man
operation run by Robert Imhoff. Tenant activists say that Imhoff
often operates in a way that makes you believe that there is no
rent ordinance in San Francisco. Hes very strong-willed. Tenants
have taken him to the rent board, and he often wont abide
by the rent ordinance even when confronted with evidence that hes
done wrong. For example, illegal rent increases. He also has habitability
problems in some of his buildings.
11. WEST COAST PROPERTY MANAGEMENT
West Coast is the property management company for the Levinson Family
Trust. Tenant activists say that in one building in the Missiona
27-unit buildingthey have systematically attempted to intimidate
the tenants, all of whom are Latino. Many of them are or were long-term
tenants. The game is to get long-term tenants (whose rents tend
to be lower) to leave. Among other things, theyve attempted
illegal rent increases, havent provided proper maintenance
for the building, have attempted to intimidate tenants into accepting
leases that they didnt sign and then hold them to the terms
of those leases. Tenants say that the on-site manager is verbally
and physically intimidating.
*OTHER PROPERTY MANAGEMENT COMPANIES*
In addition to the companies listed above, there are many other
property management companies that own AND manage buildings and
practice either "pretext" evictions or otherwise try to
get low-income tenants out of their buildings any way they can.
These companies include MURPHY INVESTMENTS (owned by Bob Murphy,
one of the Rent Board Commissioners), TCO REALTY, and BARBARY COAST
PUBLIC AND SUBSIDIZED HOUSING PROBLEM LANDLORDS
The Apartment Investment and Management Corporation (AIMCO) is the
nations largest private landlord, with 370,000 apartments
in the United States and Puerto Rico. 90,000 of these units are
subsidized by the Section 8 housing program to keep them affordable.
Only the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department owns more
subsidized properties than AIMCO.
AIMCOs number one guiding principle is "the low cost
operator wins." What this means for residents in AIMCO properties
is that the company spends as little money as it can to maintain
its subsidized properties. While a tenants roof is leaking
and repair problems go unfixed, AIMCO shareholders are laughing
themselves to the bank.
The Shoreview Apartments Residents Association in San Francisco
filed a class-action lawsuit against AIMCO and named HUD as a co-defendant
for rating AIMCO properties as satisfactory and doing little or
nothing to help tenants fight the companys refusal to correct
unsafe living conditions. Tenants of AIMCO-managed Tenderloin buildings
for disabled and elderly residents (the Alexander Residence and
Antonia Manor) have joined the suit.
AIMCO is not in the affordable housing business to do a good deed.
The company is in it to make money. They do this by buying low-income,
federally subsidized buildings and converting them to market rate.
In a 1999 letter to AIMCO shareholders, the companys chairman
wrote, "As we look to 1999 and beyond, we are also buoyed by
the prospect of numerous redevelopment opportunities in the AIMCO
portfolio at attractive returns. The redevelopment opportunity is
found in AIMCOs large portfolio of affordable properties .
. . Many of these programs will expire in the next few years and
several of these properties will be appropriate for profitable redevelopment
into communities without any government assistance."
Other AIMCO owned and managed properties in the Bay Area include
All Hallows Gardens, Bayview, and LaSalle. AIMCO managed buildings
include the Marlton Manor and Maria Manor.
13. SAN FRANCISCO HOUSING AUTHORITY
Tenant activists say the SF Housing Authority may yet prove to be
San Francisco's worst evictor. Here's their case: The federal HOPE
VI program demolishes "blighted" public housing and promises
tenants that they can move back into beautiful renovated homes and
enjoy services to aid their transition from welfare-to-work. Sounds
great but here's the catch. Only Hayes Valley has been reconstructed
while Bernal Dwellings and Plaza East remain behind schedule with
tenants dispersed to the four winds of mostly useless Section 8
vouchers. North Beach and Valencia Gardens are on the chopping block.
Tenants at North Beach organized and won an "exit contract"
of guaranteed re-occupancy-which the Housing Authority and its developer
Bridge Housing immediately started to try to undo. Seems as if actual
promises of 1:1 replacement of housing was more than the developer
wanted to deal with.
On top of this the SFHA is fond of using "One Strike"
evictions which throw people out of their homes for the crimes of
others. They recently decided to implement federal rules that kick
out undocumented immigrants. The Federal Quality Housing and Work
responsibility Act mandates that everyone must get kicked out of
public housing after five years.
To make it worse it seems as if the SFHA is rife with corruption.
Two Housing Authority employees were indicted for "selling"
relocation assistance and Section 8 vouchers. The SFHA seems to
want to demolish housing then make the tenants pay for the relocation.
SFHA Director Ronnie Davis is the target of numerous investigations
alleging that he mismanaged money while directing Cleveland's public
14. ROBERT AND VERA CORT
The Corts are active in residential and commercial real estate.
In fall of 1999, they bought the Bay View Bank building on Mission
at 22nd Street. They told the buildings two dozen tenantsmostly
small businesses and nonprofit organizationsthat their leases
wouldnt be renewed and that theyd have to be out by
June 2000. The new tenant was to be Bigstep.com. The Corts are also
the landlords who whitewashed a 5,000 square foot mural from a building
on Harrison Street last year, creating an uproar.
The Corts are no gentler with their residential tenants. In 1996,
they owner move in evicted tenants from two units at 3257 20th Street.
The tenants sued that October, and the case went to trial in 1997.
Although the parties settled in 1999, a tenant attorney reports
that Robert Cort Jr., the family member who was supposed to move
into the premises, has yet to move in.
15. SUSANNA SHAW
Susanna Shaw owns property in Noe Valley and the Mission. According
to tenant activists, she became notorious for serial owner move-in
evictions before small buildings were under rent control. Activists
say that Shaw is also a slumlord and that she harasses tenants to
no end. She shows up at the top of the complaint list of local tenant
16. MONICA HUJAZI
Per one tenant activist, Hujazi has court cases a mile long. She
is somewhat infamous in the SF tenant advocacy community. Tenant
activists say that shes particularly aggressive and hands-on
in dealing with her tenants. Shes been known to personally
enter tenants units to intimidate them.
17. HERBERT JAFFE
Herbert Jaffe owns Lombard Place, 1320/40/60 Lombard Street. He
is passing through an $8.4 million capital improvements rent increase
to his tenants. Each tenant will have to pay approximately $100,000
additional rent over the next 20 years. These rent increases have
scared off tenants in 20 of the 69 apartments in the building. Meanwhile,
it seems like this was a case of deferred maintenance. First tenants
had to suffer living in a building where the landlord didn't make
repairs, now they're paying for the deferred maintenance--to the
tune of $8 million!
Comments from a Lombard Place Apartments tenant:
The Lombard Place tenants have been served with an $8.6 million
capital improvement passthrough by our landlord for work done to
The significance of this passthrough to tenants is as follows:
o We tenants are being charged $100,000 each as proportionate shares
of the total $8.6 million passthrough.
o This means the monthly passthrough amount is $818 over and above
the monthly rent until paid out.
o This results in a rate of rent increase from 40% to 170% of normal
o Approximately 28% of the original tenants have vacated since the
passthrough was presented to us. A few have signed statements citing
the passthrough as being the reason for leaving.
o Some tenants (1/3 of our building) are long term; some are seniors;
some are on fixed incomes. These tenants may find the passthrough
plus rent unaffordable therefore may need to voluntarily self-evict.
o In this way we believe our landlord creates valuable vacancies
for himself without going through the cost of eviction.
o With the magnitude of the dollar amount of our passthrough, we
tenants have virtually become silent partners with our landlord
without the benefit of tax deductions, appreciation, or choice of
o Our landlord, on the other hand, realizes these benefits plus
the high rental rates of todays market. In our complex, a
one bedroom rents for approximately $3,000; studio $2500; garage
$300; pet/dog deposit $1000 plus $50/month and cat $25/month; story
o Since there is no limit to the amount of passthroughs a landlord
can charge tenants, we may face other passthroughs given the volume
of work done on our buildings, much of which is repairs.
o Does capital improvement passthrough create a situation in which
the tenant pays for landlords fixer-uppers? Our landlord knew
that Lombard Place Apartments were sorely neglected over the years,
and he passed the repair costs through to us.
o The stress, preparation time involved, and monetary investment
weve had to deal with in order to fight the capital improvements
pass through has been enormous. At this point we can only hope to
reduce our burden by getting some "capital improvements"
classified as "deferred maintenance."
18. STEPHEN GIUSTINO
A small-time landlord who was recommended for this list by tenant
19. ROGER QUIRING
A small-time landlord who was recommended for this list by tenant
LARGE APARTMENT COMPLEXES
20. PARK MERCED
Parkmerced is owned by Carmel Development and Management,
LLC of Denver, a subsidiary of Carmel Companies, Denver and JP Morgan
Investment Company. The complex is managed by Olympic View Realty,
LLC of Delaware.
Even factoring in how many units there are, there are a disproportionate
number of tenant complaints against Parkmerceds owners and
managers. Tenants say that they manipulate the rent control law
to give tenants operating and maintenance rent increases and will
probably try to pass through capital improvement rent increases
to tenants shortly. They have a zero tolerance policy for tenants.
For example, they gave a three-day notice (under no pets clause
in lease) to get rid of a tenant who had goldfish!
Tenant complaints at Parkmerced include: decreased services (less
garbage pick up, less maintenance and pest control); broken fire
alarms left inoperative in towers for weeks; leaking roofs, unfinished
roof insulation; massive tearing up of grounds for pipe replacement
now at a standstill; stopping monthly rent notices; and reduced
night time security; giving tenants less than one week to sign new
leases which are substantially different from the old ones; passing
through nitpicking utility increases on new leases; and limiting
tenants rights to have guests in their own homes. Tenants
challenged the Parkmerced management for putting unauthorized rent
increases put on their new leases and won in front of the Rent Board
Additionally, Olympic View Realty was a top soft-money donor to
Willie Browns re-election campaign.
A comment from Nancy P., Parkmerced tenant:
I live in Parkmerced. Parkmerced is unique. Its the largest
stock of rental units in San Francisco. It was also one of the last
stocks of "affordable units." However, despite San Francisco
"rent stabilization ordinances," new units are now going
for pretty close to market rate. It looks like our new owners would
like to jack up the rents of old tenants, too. However, this diverse
tenant community of over 3,000 units, 6,000 working people and families,
retired people, and students has succeeded in organizing, protesting,
and having withdrawn a substantial "operations and maintenance"
rent increase petition. Unfortunately, a new one will follow within
I dont want to pay a rent increase to cover the finance costs
of my new owners. I dont want to pay one for overdue maintenance
and inflated operations either. Also, now or in the future, I dont
want to pay for "improvements" that have nothing to do
with my needs or the needs of the majority of the present occupants.
I dont want to pay for any improvements planned for condominium
conversion or new condominiums. I cant pay them. You see,
like many San Francisco tenants, I cannot afford my apartment as
it is. So my children and I have a student roommate. I like our
garden apartment, but if I could find cheaper, I would move. But,
I cant move: a two bedroom elsewhere in San Francisco rents
at the double of our three bedroom. A one bedroom at Parkmerced
is now renting for about the same as our three bedroom. Were
stuck here, in this apartment. We will have to pay the increase
our landlords can get authorized by the Rent Board, this year and
any year they want to petition, or we will be evicted.
I live in Parkmerced but dont know for how much longer. The
owners plans for the future dont seem to include tenants
like me. They tried to evict the Montessori school. They plan to
build a huge business center and gym. They plan to build condos
on vacant land. If, in addition, the owners succeed in increasing
our rents, our diverse community will change like so many others
have already changed in San Francisco. The moderate income families
and individuals will have to leave as will many retired people on
fixed incomes and maybe the students. Where will we go?
21. FOX PLAZA
Similar to the antics at park Merced. They give rent increases whenever
possible and try to find the slightest pretext for evicting tenants.
OTHER FORCES OF EVIL
22. THE DOT.COM PHENOMENA
When landlords evict nonprofits, arts organizations, and long-time
businesses to make way for dot.com companies that can afford to
pay exorbitant rents, who's to blame: the dot.coms? The real estate
developers like Joe O'Donahue and the Information Technology Coalition
who clear the way for them? The SF political establishment that
is doing nothing to stop the crisis in the commercial and residential
real estate markets in San Francisco? As far as we're concerned,
it's all of the above, and they all come under this category of
the dot.com phenomena. Dot.coms are the leading force in the gentrification
of San Francisco. Nonprofits including the Eviction Defense Center,
Homeless Prenatal Program, Legal Assistance for the Elderly, and
Housing Rights Committee are all being evicted to make way for dot.coms.
This is not only a problem for the nonprofits; these are the agencies
that provide services to poor people who are being evicted from
their homes. The dot.com phenomena also affects residential housing
in terms of increased property values and land use decisions.
23. JOE O'DONOGHUE/RESIDENTIAL BUILDERS ASSOCIATION
Joe ODonoghue* is the notorious lobbyist and leader of the
Residential Builders Association of San Francisco. If one person
can be blamed for the proliferation of $500,000 live/work lofts
in the South of market, Mission, and Potrero districts of San Francisco,
ODonoghue is the one. Through lobbying and campaign contributions,
ODonoghue has ingratiated himself with Mayor Willie Brown
and many of the members of the SF Board of Supervisors. He also
holds great sway with the Department of Building Inspection, which
he convinced to change the building code to allow for the live-work
What's wrong with live-work lofts? Live-work lofts go hand-in-hand
with the dot.com phenomena described above. They were originally
sold to the public as spaces that would provide housing to artists
who were having trouble finding affordable housing in San Francisco.
But they've actually allowed developers to put up residential condominiums
on cheap industrial land and sell them at top prices. In reality,
live-work lofts have resulted in the evictions of many artists and
nonprofits and long-time businessesto make way for dot.commers!
Live-work lofts have led to the gentrification of neighborhoods
like the Mission, South of Market, and Potrero. When live-works
come into the neighborhood, it's an opportunity to upscale the whole
neighborhoodto evict low-income tenants and bring higher-income
tenants into all the buildings on the block. And the live-work loft
developers avoid paying millions of dollars in school and affordable
housing fees. Unlike other residential housing developers, builders
of live-work units dont have to set aside a portion of their
property for affordable housing and open space or meet many disabled
access requirements. Live-work developers also pay about half what
other residential builders pay in one-time fees for schools. More
than 3,300 live-work units have been approved and another 2,200
are awaiting the city's go-ahead.
By including Joe O'Donoghue on this list we do not imply that
O'Donoghue is himself a slumlord, real estate speculator or gentrification
profiteer. Rather, he is included on this list because of his pre-eminent
role in promoting the proliferation of live-work loft development
in San Francisco, which as explained above,is a significant contributing
factor to the present real estate crisis.
Residential hotels are the housing of last resort for many low-income
people and thus SRO tenants are open to the most abuse. Problematic
practices at SROs include musical rooms (tenants are forced to move
out of a room before they live in that room for 30 days so that
the tenant doesn't establish tenant rights), an epidemic of hotel
fires, skyrocketing rents, housing code violations, and unsafe/unsanitary
24. BILL TAJKOR
Tenant attorneys say that Tajkor is the worst operator of residential
hotels in SF. He was running the Mission Hotel when it had all of
its problems. Tajkor was sued there and at 135 Capp Street. Now
he has problems at the Kean Hotel on Mission Street. He is also
part owner of the Justice Hotel on Clay Street. Tenant attorneys
say that Tajkor doesnt make repairs. He lets things deteriorate.
He rents to very down and out tenants who aren't likely to file
lawsuits against him and ruins the neighborhood because his properties
are so bad.
25. FATIMAH SHAIKH
Shaikh owned the King Hotel, which burned down. Shaikh also owns
the Helen Hotel at 166 Turk Street and has been leasing the Alder
Hotel on 6th Street. Tenant attorneys say that these hotels are
dilapidated: bathrooms in these hotels are out of service, there
are holes in walls, roaches, and mildew, and when things break they
dont get fixed.
26. MAX SCHERER
Scherer is the owner of the Julian Hotel in the Mission. Tenants
say that the 27-room hotel is infested with mice and cockroaches,
and the SF Department of Public Health recently visited the hotel
and found evidence of a rodent infestation. On April 20, a housing
inspector gave the hotel a "poor" rating and cited the
owner for numerous violations of the housing code. In a recent SF
Examiner story about the Julian, the reporter wrote, "During
an interview in another room at the Julian last week, a rat walked
across a kitchen table, then dropped out of sight behind a stack
of papers." According to a tenant activist familiar with the
Julian, the hotel has been in disrepair for years. The tenants are
mostly elderly Filipinos and Mexican immigrants. Tenant activists
say that Scherer has tried to intimidate the Spanish-speaking tenants
and has threatened to call Immigration on them.
EVIL LANDLORD ATTORNEYS
27. ANDREW ZACKS
Tenant activists say that Andrew Zacks is a private practice attorney
who has marketed the Ellis Act as a way to get rid of tenants. He
is the main lawyer involved in evicting elderly tenants. He also
owns Ellis buildings and is evicting his own tenants.
Zacks represents the owners of the Hotel Chronicle, a residential
hotel that is home to 16 tenants, many of whom have lived there
for decades. The owners are using the Ellis Act to get the tenants
out of the building, saying that they want to leave the rental business.
Zacks also represents the owners of the Astoria Hotel, a 92-room
residential hotel that was ordered by the court to stop renting
its rooms to tourists. In a similar case, Zacks represents owners
of the Cornell Hotel on Bush Street who want to turn almost half
of their units from residential units to tourist use. He took their
case to the Supreme Court. And he represents the owners of the Remo
Hotel in North Beach who want to convert their hotel to tourist
Under the SF Residential Hotel Conversion Ordinance, residential
hotels can't be converted to tourist hotels without a conditional
use permit. This ordinance is meant to preserve housing for seniors,
disabled people, and low-income people.
In October 1999, Oakland City Council Member Ignacio De La Fuente
released a list of the "Dirty Dozen"the worst slumlords
in Oakland. At the last minute, several of the landlords paid off
their fines to the city and promised repairs, to get themselves
off the list. As one tenant attorney told us, the Dirty Dozen list
is classic Oakland landlord-tenant politics. The white male corporate
landlords bought their way off the list; the landlords remaining
on the list were the smaller slumlords, mostly people of color.
Our list includes all of those landlords.
As you can see, the trends in the East Bay are somewhat different
from San Francisco. Being a slumlord still seems to be profitable
in Oakland. But the East Bay, as everyone knows, isnt far
behind San Francisco. One tenant attorney told us that Oakland is
now going through the owner move-in eviction craze that SF went
through several years ago.
28. OAKLAND HOUSING AUTHORITY
According to one tenant attorney: Their premises are kept in terrible
condition. They have all these housing managers who, if they decide
they have a bias against a tenant, can easily prevent the tenant
from getting all the housing authority paperwork correctly filled
out and get them tenant kicked out of the program. When they start
eviction proceedings, they keep going no matter whateven if
it's clear that the tenant hasn't done anything wrong. Since it's
not their money paying for the evictions, they don't mind pushing
these cases. Its not only abusive toward the tenant, its
also a waste of taxpayer money. They also enforce "one strike
youre out" and end up evicting long-term and elderly
tenants for something that one of their guests has done. The Oakland
HA was also indicted in a Section 8 scam in which employees and
landlords were demanding kickbacks from tenants.
Says another tenant attorney: In the 1980s, the Oakland Housing
Authority had their own police force that ran roughshod over tenants
rights. That police force no longer exists, but OHA still operates
in the same way: they enter rooms without notice and the worst managers
run their places like feifdoms. They key in on tenants they want
to get rid of and harass them until the tenants move out. And they
dont keep records of their actions so they cant be called
on what theyve done. People are set up with dope planted in
their apartments or known dopers are sent to visit, or tenants are
entrapped by prostitutes. This type of thing happens 20 to 30 times
According to this attorney, being an OHA tenant is like being in
jail except that OHA managers dont see themselves as prison
guards but as protectors of the community in the war on drugs. Whats
crazy is that the OHA isnt even the worst among housing authoritiesit
is typical of public housing, especially under the one-strike rule.
29. RICHARD THOMAS
Oakland tenant activists say that Richard Thomas shamelessly throws
out tenants, violates habitability codes, and creates homelessness
for profit, all with the blessing of the tax code. Thomas evicts
residents of some 50 apartments a year. Why? Because he can.
Working-class Oaklanders who pay their rent promptly are being evicted
by Thomas with 30-day notices for no reason. Long-time residents,
seniors, and people of color are making a forced exodus as landlords
kick out existing renters, double or triple rents, and move in the
next tenants who could be evicted for no cause.
Tenant attorneys point to Thomas as one of the worst violators of
housing codes. One of his claims to fame is just barely missing
the Oakland Dirty Dozen list of sleazy slumlords, a list of profiteers
who dont repair their buildings and create hazards for tenants
who have few options and even less money.
Tenants in Thomas buildings suffer with rat and mice infestations,
insect infestations, broken and missing windows, no lighting or
security, garbage overflows, and lawlessness. His buildings at 8821-8831
Hillside Blvd. are two such buildings, according to tenant attorneys.
Activists say that Thomas encourages his management to create whatever
chaos they like. Tenants who complain are terrorized and threatened
with eviction. They say that Thomas entraps residents: he allows
managers to set their own policies even when it violates terms of
the rental agreement. He then uses that information to evict the
tenants who relied on the managers OK in a gotcha game that
gets em every time. Said one tenant attorney: "This mans
lawless, totally lawless."
Other comments on Thomas:
oHe's unrelentlessly harassed at least one tenant who has AIDS.
oIn the words of one tenant attorney: he owns a ton of properties,
is very vindictive and sues everyone. If you complain about anything
he serves you with a 30 day notice. He circumvents rent control
laws and uses no cause eviction.
oThomas evicts people of color, moves in white people.
oThomas also owns property in San Francisco.
30. HENRY KAHN
From one tenant attorney: Henry Kahn is one of the biggest landlords
in East Oakland. He has more than 100 units and keeps his places
in terrible condition. If the tenant asks for repairs, he files
an unlawful detainer action and doesnt serve the tenant with
the papers, so he gets a default judgement against the tenant. Then,
unless the tenant is able to find an attorney to overturn it to
the judgement, the tenant gets evicted for no reason!
Says another tenant attorney: Kahn is an elderly man who frequently
works his cases in pro per (he represents himself). He files multiple
lawsuits against his tenantsboth small claims cases in small
claims court and unlawful detainers actions in Superior Courtoften
seeking the same rent. This serves to make it
extremely difficult for the tenants to remain on top of all of the
legal work. He seems to enjoy litigation as a recreation.
This attorney also says that Kahn is very sophisticated in working
the system. He pretends that he is a poor victim and doesnt
know how the system works. He rents to poor people, mostly African
Americans, and "appears to have some sort of a psychological
complex by which he rules over his buildings as a plantation master."
Has a very loyal handy man who works with him. The attorney says
that this man backs up Mr. Kahns false statements.
From another attorney: Kahn is vicious. He gets grudges against
tenants who object to his practices and sues them. In any given
year, he will file dozens of unlawful detainers. One tenant was
sued by Kahn so many times that the tenant was able to sue Kahn
and get an injunction prohibiting Kahn from filing any more lawsuits
31. WARREN MALNICK
East Bay attorneys say that Malnick doesn't make repairs to his
apartments. Raw sewage is coming up inside of some apartments. He
rents to undocumented immigrants, because he thinks they will be
afraid to make complaints against him.
32. MARVIN BUDDERMAN
Budderman specializes in distressed properties. Attorneys say that
he has a lot of slum properties and won't make repairs to them.
If tenants ask for repairs or complain, he files a 30-day notice
against them and an unlawful detainer in retaliation. Any time the
city comes down on him, he sues them. One attorney says that Budderman
does illegal conversions of spaces. In one building, he bought a
commercial space and tried to convert it into apartments. He rented
two sides of the space to different people, and told each of them
that the one bathroom in between them was their own personal bathroom.
33. GREGORY FISHER
He's the director of a nonprofit that is supposed to help people
who are in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Attorneys say
Fisher uses the people going through his program to do work on his
personal properties and doesn't pay them. He also won't make repairs
to his properties and does retaliatory evictions. He is abusive
toward the tenants. All of this while he's benefiting from having
the nonprofit tax status.
34. DENISH SAWNEE
Sawnee is a classic slumlord, East Bay tenant attorneys say. He
buys cheap distresses propertiesmany of them in West Oaklandand
doesnt put a dime into them. They're falling apart and have
rats and cockroaches. He refuses to repair anything. He rents predominanty
to people of color. A group of African American tenants sued him
a while back, so he started renting only to Latino tenants.
35. DANIEL & SARA GARCIA
On Oakland City Council Member Ignacio De La Fuentes "Dirty
Dozen" landlord list.
36. ARTHUR G. GIBSON
Gibson is a very sophisticated scam artist, tenant attorneys say.
He's constantly in and out of bankruptcy court trying to avoid debts.
He owns buildings, doesnt do repairs, and is very good at
squeezing money out of buildings. As he's inches away from foreclosure
on a property, he's still renting out units in the building up until
the last minuteto get rent money and stuff it in his pockets.
He did make it onto the Oakland City Council Member Ignacio De La
Fuentes "Dirty Dozen" landlord list.
A Gibson building example:
In October 1999, one of his East Oakland buildings was condemned
by the city after its water was turned off. The tenants had no water
for days and had to go to a nearby fast food restaurant to wash
themselves and their kids. Tenants were told by the city to relocate,
because the owner, Gibson, stopped paying the utility bills. At
that time, the building also had a leaking roof, ovens and toilets
not working, and broken heaters and windows. Now those tenants are
suing Gibson, whos filed for bankruptcy, and the co-owner
and former owners of the building. Tenants were paying rent with
utilities included, but the landlord was not paying the utility
bills or the mortgage of the building.
37 ROBERT S. & INGRID Z. MILLER
According to tenant attorneys: He's a really bad actor. Miller is
a sherrif in the East Bay. Activists say that he shows his tenants
his badge and threatens them with a reign of terror. In at least
one case, he brandished a gun at a tenant. On Oakland City Council
Member Ignacio De La Fuentes "Dirty Dozen" landlord
38. JAMES WEISS
Weiss owns lots of run down properties all over Oakland. He tries
to suck as much money out of the properties as possible. He wont
repair anything, then he will evict you if you refuse to pay your
rent. In the 1980s, Weiss was sued by a group of African-American
tenants. A tenant attorney says that after this lawsuit, Weiss hired
building managers and told them they'd get paid $100 for every African-American
family they could evict and every Latino family they could move
in. He threatens Latino immigrant tenants with Immigration to keep
them in line.
39. DAVID CHOO
Choo lives in the Piedmont Hills. His rental practices are hard
to track, because when he buys a property, he creates a phony corporation
that owns the property. Like James Weiss, he had African-American
tenants organize and file a lawsuit against him. After that he hired
a bunch of bilingual Spanish-speaking building managers and told
them to rent only to Latinos, no African Americans. He made it onto
Oakland City Council Member Ignacio De La Fuentes "Dirty
Dozen" landlord list.
Choo building example:
Choo owns Fruitvales Oak Park Apartments. The city of Oakland
has levied hundreds of dollars in fines against the owner for housing
code violations. In 1998 200 tenants in that building filed a lawsuit
against Choo and the former property owner Ken Evilsizor. They alleged
sewage floods in their apartments, cockroach infestation, broken
staircases, mold, and many other problems. In May 1999 the city
started levying fines of $1,000 a day on Choo, declaring the building
a "substandard public nuisance." On May 31 of that year,
the Oakland Tribune reported that construction crew were making
repairs to the premises.
40. CHI-KOU FAN
Owns severely run down properties.
41. DUNG FAM
Tenant attorneys say that she is a landlord who practices race discrimination.
She was caught discriminating in who she would rent her units to.
42. ELIZABETH RIGALI
Rigali has been sued for slum conditions at her properties, but
her worst trait, tenant attorneys say, is that shes a bonafide
racist. Tenants say she uses racial slurs against them. She buys
properties, gives all of the African-American tenants 30-day notices,
and re-rents to white people. She has certain buildings that she
rents only to whites, others she rents only to blacks. She has a
discrimination lawsuit pending against her right now.
43. LAKIREDDY BALI REDDY
Lakireddy Bali Reddys name hit the front page of Bay Area
newspapers late last year when he and his son were indicted for
trafficking two teenagers from India for sex. But Reddys outrageous
conduct is not limited to enslaving young women. His record as a
landlord is equally atrocious.
Reddy is the largest landlord in Berkeley, with real estate holdings
valued at $60 million or more. He owns more than 50 residential
and commercial buildings in Berkeley--more than twice as many rental
units as any other landlord in Berkeley--and his family-run real
estate firm, Reddy Realty, owns or controls more than 1,100 apartments
throughout Alameda and Contra Costa counties. He also owns two Bay
Area restaurants: Pasand Madras Indian Cuisine in Berkeley and Pasand
Indian Cuisine in Santa Clara.
Reddys history as a problem landlord in Berkeley has long
attracted the attention of tenant attorneys, the Berkeley Rent Board,
oLast February, the Berkeley City Council voted unanimously to further
investigate alleged violations of housing and rent-control laws
in buildings owned by Reddy.
o Reddy generates nearly four times as many complaints as any other
landlord in Berkeley.
o Over the past 15 years, the Reddy family has faced 50 lawsuits
and small claims court actions, ranging from allegations of unfair
rent charges and bogus owner move-ins to unsafe living conditions.
o Reddy tenants have complained to Berkeley rent board staff that
Reddy does not return security deposits, especially to foreign students
(many of his tenants are students at UC Berkeley), overcharges them,
and provides poor or no building maintenance.
o Reddy Realty makes more than five times as many errors on official
forms than any other landlord in Berkeley. In Fall of 1999, the
Rent Board sent mailings to all Reddy tenants informing them of
their tenant rights.
EVIL EAST BAY LANDLORD ATTORNEYS
44. & 45.
Bruce Reeves (Alameda) and Ed Nagy (Oakland) run eviction mills.
are attorneys who evict people for a living.
BUT DONT MOURN THE HOUSING CRISIS; ORGANIZE! Other stories
on this website tell tenants how to fight back.