By Bill Silverfarb
May 18, 2015
Every tenant, including 31 children, of an 18-unit apartment complex in Redwood City must find a new home after new owners announced they planned a major renovation of the aging building.
Every resident of an 18-unit apartment complex in Redwood City, including 31 children, had their tenancies terminated by new ownership that plans a complete interior and exterior renovation of the aging building.
Residents were notified by the previous owner April 24 that the building had been sold. They were then provided information detailing where to forward their May rent checks.
A second notification from FPI Management a few days later indicated a leasing office would be set up nearby where residents could contact leasing agents.
A final notification sent May 1, however, told residents that they had 60 days to vacate their apartments.
The plan “is to completely renovate both the interior and exterior of the building ... in a manner that is safe without disruption to our valued residents,” read the notification from FPI’s Kai Dismuke, a portfolio manager.
The next line in the letter though sent shockwaves through the building, which is comprised of mostly working-class Latino residents.
“With that in mind, we have determined that it is necessary to vacate the entire building prior to renovation,” Dismuke wrote.
The mass eviction is a growing trend pushing the working poor out of the area so property owners can maximize their profits, affordable housing advocates such as San Francisco Organizing Project/Peninsula Interfaith Action contend.
SFOP/PIA is providing counseling to many of the families living there as they scramble to find housing in an increasingly out-of-reach rental market.
One of the residents at the complex at 910 Clinton St. has lived there for 32 years and endured at least five ownership changes.
Linda Howell, 71, thought at first the renovations were to be done with the residents allowed to continue to rent the units.
But now she, too, is looking to move and hasn’t had much luck in finding a new home, especially considering she is on a fixed income.
“The bottom line ... is that we all have to move out. I just couldn’t believe it. At my age, I don’t have the funds or help to move or anywhere to go,” Howell said.
She is mainly concerned with the fate of all the children who live in the building, however.
“They will be uprooted from home, neighborhood and school. I know they are resilient but it is still difficult. They can’t afford locally and neither can I,” she said about the other tenants in the building.
Many of the parents told the Daily Journal they are trying to stay positive for the sake of their children.
Only one of the tenants in the building receives housing assistance from the county, the rest have paid their roughly $1,700 monthly rents on their own.
“It’s very difficult. None of us have found a new place. Even with good credit, it is hard to find a place,” said Lupita Gonzalez, the mother of three who has lived at the complex for five years.
The building was sold to OAMC 910 Clinton Investments, LLC for a reported $6 million from a private trust.
The building also changed hands in 2010 after which the new owner raised the rents modestly, said Miriam Pena, a mother of three who has lived in the building for 11 years.
Pena has looked for low-income housing but said the units are filled up.
Even shelters and transitional housing are full, she said.
“Everything is full. There are no units available,” she said.
For many of the children at the complex, it is the only home they have known, said Claudia Vasquez.
She feels discriminated against for being poor.
Two Fridays ago, many of the Clinton Street residents showed up to a prayer vigil and rally at the Park Royal Apartments in San Mateo, where tenants in 73 units were told they had to leave as a renovation project got underway.
FPI did indicate it would help residents to offset their moving expenses.
It offered tenants $50 a day for every day they vacated their unit before June 30.
But Howell said she needs more time, not less time, to find a new place to live.
Without tenant protections, property owners in San Mateo County can routinely terminate leases or evict tenants without cause.
SFOP/PIA is advocating for rent control in the county, which only exists in parts of East Palo Alto and mobile home parks in unincorporated county lands.
“I understand it is all about money. But what happened to humanity and the heart of the community?” said Howell, who said FPI is a company headquartered out of the Bay Area.
“They don’t know us. They are not part of the community,” Howell said.
FPI Management, Inc. did not respond to repeated calls and emails for comment.