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Oakland Renters Win Anti-Eviction Struggle
by Lynda Carson (lyndacarson [at] excite.com)
Sunday Jan 19th, 2003 12:28 PM
Oakland Renters Are Winning Victories While The Ruling Class Attack Their Staunch Supporter Councilwoman Nancy Nadel In An Attempt To Speed Up The Gentrification Process In Oakland!
Oakland Renters Win Anti-Eviction Struggle

by Lynda Carson 1/18/03

Oakland, Ca--On December 26, 2002, in a stunning courtroom verdict reversal, sixty seven Oakland renters have been spared from the eviction for profit system that had them slated for removal from their apartment building in Oaklands Fruitvale District as soon as January 1st, 2003.

In what court watchers and activists hail as a victory for the largest group of tenants facing mass expulsion and homelessness during the history of Oakland, members of 47 families won a repreive after a long drawn out court case involving eviction notices being served to 21 units of the Crandall Apartment Building in Oaklands East Side have been set aside.

In the Superior Court of Alameda County, the consolidated case NO. 2002-0619525, known as Horizon Management Group versus Florencia Rojas, et al, reached it's conclusion on December 26, 2002. According to court documents, being read as follows; IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that judgement be entered for the defendants on the sole ground that the building permit was not attached to the 30-day notices to terminate tenancies, as required by Oakland Rent Stabilization Ordinance No. 8.22.130.

In other words; Dan Lieberman of Horizon Management Group failed to get the needed Permits to renovate the property located at 1757 26th Ave, before trying to evict all of the renters in the building. As a result of Leibermans failure to seek a Permit to renovate before trying to evict, in an appeal of the case the Judge ruled in favor of the tenants who fought against the unlawful evictions despite an earlier jury decision ruling in favor of the landlords attempt to unlawfully evict.

Judge Horace Wheatley, a Judge of the Superior Court of Alameda County presiding over the above mentioned case, reversed the recent past jury verdict that put so many families at risk of imminent homelessness. Court watchers of this case state that Judge Horace Wheatley should have done the right thing by ruling against the mass evictions right at the beginning of the case before allowing it to go to trial, because, he had already known that the evictions were improperly served to begin with. End of story.

However, in a blunder that caught up with him after a public outcry denounced the hearing proceedings, Judge Wheatley was publicly exposed for allowing the case to go forward, and later had to reverse the wrong decision of a jury that ruled in favor of landlord Dan Lieberman, an owner of Horizon Management Group which specializes in maximizing profits.

Community anti-eviction activists in support of the brave renters struggling to keep a roof over their heads appeared outside of the Alameda County Court House for a noon time demonstration during one of the many hearings that took place before the trial finally came to a close. At this point, community outrage weighed in on the case as attorney John Murcko fought against attorney Susan Luten in court over the never ending struggle of poor people fighting against the profiteers demanding the right to maximize their profits by evicting poor people onto the streets of Oakland.

Renters, Javier and Rosa Corral were ecstatic that their "January 1st, deadline evictions" were overturned, but, still are very concerned that Lieberman refuses to accept their rent money. Rosa Corral spent much time organizing with the other renters of the Crandall Apartments to fight against their imminent evictions and I'm very proud of her, says husband Javier Corral when speaking of his wife.

The many renters of the Crandall Apartments had a victory toast with attorney John Murcko after their evictions were over turned by the Judges ruling.

Attorney John Murcko, with assistance from attorney's Ira Jacobowitz and Anne Omura helped the renters to fight back these evictions that were threatening to make so many low-income renters homeless. Dan Lieberman served faulty notices to the renters claiming that he was having repairs done at the property, but, failed to file for a permit or attach it to the 30 Day Notices to evict, says Murcko.

Murcko, an attorney of 32 years who loves to play the accordian and sing union songs, is originally from Passiac New Jersey and states that he gained his self confidance from working with famed attorney Tony Serra for a year or more. Now a part of the East Bay Tenants Bar Association, Murcko has been a pro-tenant attorney for the past 17 years, and helped to form the Eviction Defense Center with Ira Jocobowitz, which is being Directed by Attorney Anne Omura.

In another on going mass eviction case involving Murcko, Lieberman and Horizon Management Group at 7630 Lockewood St, 24 tenants were served eviction notices on July 31, 2000, between 11p.m., and midnight. Long term renters of the Lockewood Apartments believed that they faced retaliation and threats of violence from Lieberman because they refused to sign a new contract after he took over the property. A press conference was arranged for the tenants facing eviction outside of the Alameda County Court House, where tenants showed the media a home video of a man in a referee's jersey with a holster serving eviction papers to a tenant of the Lockewood Apartments.

Dan Lieberman, the owner of Horizon Management Group does not shy away from being an outspoken advocate for the realty industry, investment groups, and landlords who try to maximize their profits. Records show that Horizon Management Group manages at least 22 properties, ranging from low-income areas to wealthier neighborhoods. Apartments such as the Regency Towers and Lakeview Towers parade their list, as well as properties in low-income areas such as the Lockewood Apartments or Crandall Apartments of East Oakland.

Dan Lieberman and Horizon Management Group are known as specialists in maximizing profits in so-called under performing properties. A search revealed that Dan Lieberman has 2 books on the market titled; Getting The Most For Your Home In A Down Market Or Any Market, and Renovating Your Home For Maximum Profit.

In an article written by Dan Lieberman for the Moison Investment Company, Lieberman laments the "Dot. Com" bust and how so many "Prime A Properties" fell from glory with a loss of high rents, and then goes on to promote "B & C" counterparts ( middle to low-income properties ) as properties experiencing a surge in recognition once a little paint is dabbed around and some flowers are planted to make the place look new, as a means to maximize profits on new renters being lured in.

In a different article by Lieberman called; Getting Rid Of Problem Tenants, written for the Apartment Owners News Magazine, Lieberman explains how he gets rid of renters by accusing them of selling drugs or buying them out by offering money to get rid of them.

During one of the recent hearings over the mass evictions involving Lieberman, a Tribune Article quotes Liebermans attorney Susan Luten in court as stating; "if landlords can't remove tenants to improve property, then how is Oakland going to improve housing stock?" Attorney Luten is the darling of the landlords and insurance companies offering coverage to the landlords who get into trouble with unlawful evictions. While trying to defend the rental housing industries poor track record during another recent court case known as "Rios Versus Horizon" in Judge McKivven's Hearing Rm, Ms. Luten claimed that the landlords were about to put 4,000 units back on line to be rented out in Oakland. The implication of this is that rents in Oakland are being manipulated by the landlords who are organized well enough to realize that if you withold 4,000 units from renters in a town that has a 2.7% vacancy rate (Census Report of 2,000), the housing market can maintain artificially created high rents while they actually should be dropping in price. The 2000 Census Report reveals that the vacancy rate in Oakland was 2.7% or equaling 6,718 units available for rent. Take 4,000 units from the 6,718 units that were available, and the renters become desperate enough to pay super high rents in a market where the rents were dropping because of the dot.com bust.

The results of the high rents taking such a bite out of Oakland are visible for all to see. During the past 4 years, investors have driven up the value of real estate in Oakland by 34% or $6.7 billion. During this same period, Oakland has also become the 4th most expensive U.S. City to rent an apartment in, according to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. This all being done in a town according to the 2000 Census Report, where 13.2% of the households only earn less than $10,000 per year. Worse yet, to be added to this Misery Index is the Governors latest budget proposal which may result in the loss of nearly $22 million in affordable housing funds for Oakland, on top of the proposed $51 million giveaway to billionaire Forrest City Enterprises to build housing for the rich while Oakland is facing a $20.5 million deficit this year.

In another blow on top of the bleak outlook for Oakland renters, an Emergency Oakland City Council Meeting took place on Tuesday January 14, 2003, while most Oaklanders were not aware of the meeting that was taking place. During this council session, pro-tenant Councilmember Nancy Nadel was removed from her board seat on the Community and Economic Development Agency (C.E.D.A.) in a move by Councilmember Ignacio De la Fuente to replace Nadel with Councilmember Henry Chang who is totally pro-development and anti-tenant.
C.E.D.A. is the powerful agency in Oakland controling the re-development of Oakland, with a huge staff, budget, and the power to make or break the Rent Adjustment Program used by tenants to fight residential rent increases.

Long known as a city (Oakland) more corrupt than most in the nation, Oakland Councilmember Henry Chang has a bad reputation due in part to past ownership of a notorius Crack House in East Oakland at 5650 Bancroft and the sleazy land deal that he has been caught up into with local landlord Ted Dang, resulting in a lawsuit against himself, Henry Chang and his wife Constance. The case is known as; "Amresco Financial I, L.P. a Delaware Limited Partnership --Versus-- Henry Chang, Jr. and Constance P.Chang".

More on the Chang/Crack House story may be found at the url listed below.

http://www.oaklandnews.com/archives/000019.html#000019

The city council voted 6 to 2 in favor of replacing Nadel with Chang as board members of C.E.D.A., and in an January 16, 2003, Tribune Article regarding the firings and changes made in C.E.D.A., Oakland City Manager Robert Bobb had this to say, and I quote;

"city officials are not satisfied with the pace of development, especially downtown, where large retail outlets have shied away."

While other communities flourished during the economic boom of the late 1990s, Oakland failed to capitalize on opportunities as much as it should have, Bobb said.

"We've done well the last two years, but obviously, the pace of things must pick up," Bobb said. "All around city government we must become more entrepreneurial than we've ever been, and we have to cut the timetables down on how we do everything," he added.

"Oakland does not have the luxury to wait for mother time. We can't be on the sidelines waiting for things to happen. We have to make them happen." End quote.

C.E.D.A. has recently put most of their apples ($51 million) into the proposed 10 K Plan of Mayor Jerry Brown who wants to replace the low-income renters of downtown with 10,000 new wealthy renters in the proposed city subsidized Forrest City Enterprises deal for a gated community known as the Uptown Project.

In a discussion with Councilmember Nadel after being dumped from C.E.D.A., Nadel says that Councilmember Ignacio De la Fuente was the one with the power to replace her with Henry Chang on the board of C.E.D.A. Most of the projects affected by C.E.D.A. are in her district and now the voters in her district lost their representation on the board of C.E.D.A., says Nadel. I am very concerned about what has occurred here, says Nadel.

Already, many Oaklanders are also concerned that with Councilmember Nadel removed from the board of C.E.D.A., that the Rent Adjustment Program is vulnerable to being torn apart now that Nadel is no longer there to block moves by other board members who may want to end the program meant to protect the renters of Oakland from unfair rent increases.

I am concerned that Measure EE may now be in jeopardy when the rules and regulations to enforce Measure EE are written and go before the C.E.D.A. board members, says Nadel.

A friend to the tenants of Oakland, Councilmember Nancy Nadel has been on the City Council for the past 6 years, spent 2 years as a board member of C.E.D.A., and remains as board member on the committees of Finance, Public Works, and Public Safety.

In a closing statement to the readers of Street Spirit; it's very important to be vigilant about grooming new progressive candidates for office in Oakland, says Nadel.

Tenant victories may be short lived if the developers and landlords continue to have it their way in Oakland by weakening the rules in place to protect Oakland renters from greedy landlords.