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The Bay Area's 45 Worst Slumlords
The Bay Area's 45 Worst Slumlords, Real Estate Speculators, Gentrification Profiteers and Other Contributors to the Housing Crisis
The Bay Area's 45 Worst Slumlords, Real Estate Speculators, Gentrification Profiteers and Other Contributors to the Housing Crisis This article also appeared in SF Gate, Media Alliance and Coalition on Homelessness also several other publications.
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. We’re sure it’s not a complete list and would love for you to add to it—with 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, CA.
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, it’s 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
4. ANGELO SANGIACOMO/TRINITY PROPERTIES
"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 luxury suites.
From a tenant activist: Angelo Sangiacamo is known as "the father of rent control." That’s 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 1979’s rent control laws.
Trinity contributed $10,5000 to Willie Brown’s re-election campaign.
5. DAVIS PAUL MANAGEMENT
According to tenant activists Davis Paul Management is "buying up the Mission" and mistreating tenants while they’re at it. There are constant problems reported at their buildings. Apparently, they’re fairly brutal when they take over a building, especially with the Spanish-speaking tenants. Tenant activists say that Davis Paul employs managers who aren’t sympathetic to the tenants, who don’t provide services even when they get a direct request, and are slow and even non-responsive to tenant activists’ interventions.
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, he’s 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 he’s 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 immigrant tenants.
10. LANDMARK REALTY
Landmark owns small properties in the Mission. It’s 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. He’s very strong-willed. Tenants have taken him to the rent board, and he often won’t abide by the rent ordinance even when confronted with evidence that he’s 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 Mission—a 27-unit building—they 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, they’ve attempted illegal rent increases, haven’t provided proper maintenance for the building, have attempted to intimidate tenants into accepting leases that they didn’t 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 REALTY.
PUBLIC AND SUBSIDIZED HOUSING PROBLEM LANDLORDS
The Apartment Investment and Management Corporation (AIMCO) is the nation’s 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.
AIMCO’s 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 tenant’s 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 company’s 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 company’s 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 AIMCO’s 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 housing system.
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 building’s two dozen tenants—mostly small businesses and nonprofit organizations—that their leases wouldn’t be renewed and that they’d 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 rights organizations.
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 she’s particularly aggressive and hands-on in dealing with her tenants. She’s 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 his property.
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 base rent.
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 contractors, etc.
o Our landlord, on the other hand, realizes these benefits plus the high rental rates of today’s 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 $75/month.
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 landlord’s 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 we’ve 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 activists.
19. ROGER QUIRING
A small-time landlord who was recommended for this list by tenant activists.
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 Parkmerced’s 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 Brown’s re-election campaign.
A comment from Nancy P., Parkmerced tenant:
I live in Parkmerced. Parkmerced is unique. It’s 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 90 days.
I don’t want to pay a rent increase to cover the finance costs of my new owners. I don’t want to pay one for overdue maintenance and inflated operations either. Also, now or in the future, I don’t want to pay for "improvements" that have nothing to do with my needs or the needs of the majority of the present occupants. I don’t want to pay for any improvements planned for condominium conversion or new condominiums. I can’t 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 can’t 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. We’re 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 don’t know for how much longer. The owners’ plans for the future don’t 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 O’Donoghue* 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, O’Donoghue is the one. Through lobbying and campaign contributions, O’Donoghue 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 boom.
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 businesses—to 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 neighborhood—to 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 don’t 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.
SINGLE-ROOM OCCUPANCY HOTELS
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 living conditions.
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 doesn’t 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 don’t 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 use.
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, isn’t 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 what—even 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. It’s not only abusive toward the tenant, it’s also a waste of taxpayer money. They also enforce "one strike you’re 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 don’t keep records of their actions so they can’t be called on what they’ve 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 a year.
According to this attorney, being an OHA tenant is like being in jail except that OHA managers don’t see themselves as prison guards but as protectors of the community in the war on drugs. What’s crazy is that the OHA isn’t even the worst among housing authorities—it 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 don’t 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 manager’s OK in a gotcha game that gets em every time. Said one tenant attorney: "This man’s 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 doesn’t 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 tenants—both small claims cases in small claims court and unlawful detainers actions in Superior Court—often 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 doesn’t 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. Kahn’s 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 against him.
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 properties—many of them in West Oakland—and doesn’t 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 Fuente’s "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, doesn’t 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 minute—to get rent money and stuff it in his pockets. He did make it onto the Oakland City Council Member Ignacio De La Fuente’s "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, who’s 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 Fuente’s "Dirty Dozen" landlord list.
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 won’t 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 Fuente’s "Dirty Dozen" landlord list.
Choo building example:
Choo owns Fruitvale’s 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 she’s 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 Reddy’s 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 Reddy’s 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.
Reddy’s history as a problem landlord in Berkeley has long attracted the attention of tenant attorneys, the Berkeley Rent Board, and others:
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. They
are attorneys who evict people for a living.
This article was published in
SF Gate: San Francisco Chronicle