The Struggle at Effie's House


root - Posted on 22 September 2003

Oakland Landlord Blatantly Defies Measure EE

by Lynda Carson

Oakland CA-Despite the passage of Oaklands new rent
law Measure EE which went into effect on December 27,
2003, some landlords choose to blatantly defy aspects
of the ordinance no matter how well informed they may
be, or pretend to be.

Renters of Effies House at 829 E. 19th Street, are
presently being threatened with demolition crews,
partial evictions, and the threat of illegal
occupations in their homes by their landlord, East
Bay Asian Local Development Corporation, known as
E.B.A.L.D.C.. An Oakland non-profit housing
organization that's been around for nearly 25 years.

The landlord planned to partially demolish 4 of the
rental units in the nearly ninety year old building,
as part of a planned illegal occupation to create 2
new common areas in the building without offering any
sort of compensation to the renters or any sort of
rent reduction. An estimated 35 square foot of space
per rental unit would be lost to each of the renters.

E.B.A.L.D.C., just planned to take what they want from
the renters in full defiance of the renters contracts
and in total violation of every law in the book
pertaining to rental contracts or lease agreements.

E.B.A.L.D.C. was so blatant about abusing the rights
of tenants at Effies House that they never even
attempted to modify the rental agreements before-hand
as a means to try to make it appear to be a legal
take-over of the rental units.

The story first broke in the April Issue of Street
Spirit in an article written by Lydia Gans, and when
the landlord received notice of the article the
planned schedule of the demolition crews were stopped
within 24 hours.

Oakland activist Vivian Haine says that this landlord
is one of the worst around, abusing Oakland Tenants
even if they do offer affordable rents, and people
need to know what these bastards are up to, Haine
said.

E.B.A.L.D.C. manages over 700 rental units, and rents
out nearly 100,000 square foot of commercial retail
space in the East Bay.

Tenant activist Sue Doyle said that some of these
landlords never learn, and that this landlord went way
beyond the norms of some of the worst landlords in
Oakland. Measure EE was passed by the voters to stop
the most blatant sort of abuse by the landlords, but,
some just don't seem to get it and continue to abuse
the renters in spite of the new rent laws, Doyle said.

In addition to the story breaking into public view
during Aprils Street Spirit Issue, Katie Davis the
property manager was informed by one of the tenants
that there was nothing in the written rental agreement
that allowed the landlord to enter the rental units
and occupy them, and that they would be sued if they
followed through with their plans.

The project was immediately halted until a new plan
could be devised, and within a week some renters were
being coerced into signing new addendums to their
contracts that allowed the landlord to claim that
parts of the rental units were no longer a part of the
premises agreed upon in the original rental
agreements. One of those tenants an employee of
E.B.A.L.D.C. (landlord), was called away from his job
to the office of the property manager Katie Davis, and
told to sign an addendum giving up part of his home to
the landlord without any compensation or any deduction
in monthly rental payments. Fearful of losing his job
and home all at once, the tenant immediately signed
the addendum without the advice or presence of an
attorney.

Another tenant advised the property manager that she
would never sign any such agreement to allow the
landlord to occupy her apartment so long as she is
residing there, and on May 14, 2003 received a 30 Day
Notice changing the terms of the tenancy. The notice
stated that the room in question (35 sq foot of space)
would no longer be considered as part of the premises
in the rental agreement, and that the landlord plans
to demolish it for a planned common area.

Not only was this notice considered harassment, but,
the notice is in total violation of Measure EE because
the landlord was informed in advance that the tenant
would not agree to signing an addendum or agree to a
material change in the terms of the existing contract.

Under Measure EE Oakland renters do not have to agree
to changes in their contracts that materially change
the terms of their contracts, and it is unlawful for
landlords to retaliate or harass tenants that refuse
to go along with such far reaching proposals to the
rental agreements.

This feud over the possession of the rental units
started after E.B.A.L.D.C. was notified by the City of
Oakland that the newly built four flights of outside
exterior stairs would not be signed off on because it
blocked access to 2 rental units out of the 6 rental
units needing access to them. The original stairs
allowed access to all 6 rental units before being torn
down due to being unsafe, and $47,853 was spent so far
on the botched stairway project.

As the new stairs were being rebuilt, tenants spoke
out when they noticed that 2 out of the 6 units were
being passed over and blocked by the new stairs.
E.B.A.L.D.C. told the complaining tenants that it was
all perfectly legal and they hired an attorney to go
after any tenants that tried to interfere in the
building of the stairs. One of the complaining tenants
was threatened with eviction by Ed Nagy of the
EVICTORS for interferring with the construction of the
stairs.

When noticed that the City of Oakland would not sign
off on the new stairs that now blocked 2 of the rental
units, the landlord stopped claiming that the stair
project was perfectly legal and started to look for
ways out of the delemma without drawing up new plans
to rebuild the stairs all over again.

A January 6, 2003 meeting took place at Oaklands
Building Department between the landlord, the building
contractor, and city officials of the planning and
building department, in an effort to cover their ass
from this botched project. A leaked memo from the
meeting details how the three parties attempted to
find a solution to the problem, with no tenants being
involved or invited to the meeting.

The leaked memo of January 6, reveals that city
officials Alain Placido and George Wonderly stated
that we could provide access to the blocked units by
either opening a passageway at the dividing walls
between the units, or remove the dividing walls all
together.

Since neither city official Placido or Wonderly ever
looked at the dividing walls in question, the memo
states that George Wonderly (3rd District Building
Inspector of Oakland) asked the contractor about the
dividing walls in question. The memo goes on to reveal
that based upon the description of one of the
contractors, a Francisco Ruiz of Jasper Design and
Construction, Building Inspector George Wonderly
concluded and stated to the group that the dividing
walls in question most likely were built illegaly
without a permit, and could be torn down.

With the problem being neatly solved by city officials
who never bothered to inspect the alleged illegal
dividing walls, E.B.A.L.D.C. quickly proceeded to
harass the tenants into giving up part of their rental
units so that their new plans to partially demolish
and occupy 4 rental units would result in the new
stairs being signed off on by the Building Inspector
George Wonderly.

Weeks later, during a curious call to Wonderly, he
stated that he never bothered to cite the landlord for
code violations for the alleged illegal dividing
walls, and said that this is what the tenants get for
complaining about the stairs.

Meanwhile, E.B.A.L.D.C. is rushing ahead full steam to
demolish their way through any resistance to the new
plan that they hope will result in the signing off of
the stairway project.

Housing activists are outraged by what is occurring at
Effie's House, and hope that by exposing the corrupt
nature of Oakland's Code Compliance Office that city
officials may be able correct the failures of the
system.

Local activists are urging people to be a part of a
phone in protest & join others to call the staff of
E.B.A.L.D.C., in Oakland, to leave a message that the
planned demolitions must stop, no occupations by
management should occur, and that the rights of
renters must always be respected.

The activists also urge the community to contact
Oakland City Council Members to demand an
investigation into what is occurring at Effies House.

Activists urge you to call now, and to call often as
part of the protest during the last 2 weeks of May,
2003.

Call, Property Manager, Katie Davis; Call; 510/5353
ext 528

Call, Executive Director of E.B.A.L.D.C., Lynette Lee;
Call; 510/287-5353 ext 596

For more info, contact; TenantNation@yahoo.com

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