OAKLAND (CBS SF)— Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker said on Wednesday that her office has secured settlements that will require landlords to address what she says are unsafe and inhumane living conditions at two rental properties, one in East Oakland and one in West Oakland.
Last August, the City Attorney’s Neighborhood Law Corps filed a public nuisance lawsuit against the Beverly Hills-based owners of the West Grand Hotel at 641 West Grand Avenue in West Oakland.READ MORE: 2 Suspected Gang Members Arrested In West Berkeley Shootout, Guns Seized
Parker said the facility is a single-room occupancy rental property “notorious for drug sales and appalling living conditions.”
Later in August, the City Attorney filed a separate lawsuit against the Walnut Creek-based owners of the Hillside Apartments, located in the 8700 block of Hillside Street in East Oakland, near Castlemont High School.
Parker said Hillside is a large apartment complex “known for unacceptable living conditions and rampant crime.”
She said the Oakland Police Department has described Hillside as a base of operations for a violent gang known for robberies, shootings and other crimes in East Oakland.
Both lawsuits charged the owners with failing to maintain basic standards of habitability and security at their properties as required by law.
Parker said her office secured settlements in both cases in February that will improve conditions for tenants and neighbors of the properties.
She said the settlements require the owners to clean up the properties, hire professional management and pay major payments to the city: $40,000 in the Hillside case and $100,000 in the West Grand case.
Parker said in a statement, “These settlements are a clear victory for tenants and neighbors of these properties, and they are an unmitigated loss for slumlords who exploit tenants in Oakland.”
She said, “Landlords have a legal and moral responsibility to ensure their properties are a public asset, not a public nuisance. Every family that rents a home in Oakland has a right to humane living standards, whether they live in the Hillside Apartments or a condo in Rockridge.”
Parker said the West Grand Hotel “has long been a center of drug activity, including sales, storage and distribution of cocaine and heroin.”READ MORE: Man Who Crashed Vehicle In Walnut Creek Struck, Killed By 2nd Vehicle After Walking Into Roadway
She said city inspectors also repeatedly documented dangerous building and fire code violations, including a complete lack of fire extinguishers or alarms, exposed and unsafe wiring, broken windows, infestations of mold and cockroaches, overflowing dumpsters, nonworking toilets and showers, cooking appliances used in the hallways and conditions unfit for human habitation.
Parker said the settlement calls for a court-appointed receiver who will oversee improvements at the hotel, including the prevention of drug sales. The settlement also requires the property’s owners to pay for a professional property manager for the next five years.
Parker said at the Hillside Apartments, stolen vehicles are often stripped, abandoned and sometimes burned in the property’s parking lot.
She said police report that robbery suspects sometimes flee into the complex, where they can duck into apartments and hide from officers, and gang members openly carry firearms and intimidate tenants on the property.
Parker also said there was at least one shooting on or near the property every month during the four months leading up to the filing of the lawsuit in August.
According to Parker, Hillside owners Grant Alvernaz and Douglas Moore have both also pleaded guilty to unrelated federal criminal charges for their participation in a real estate bid-rigging scheme involving foreclosed properties in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
She said Alvernaz and Moore bought the Hillside Apartments at a foreclosure auction during the time period when they admitted to participating in the criminal conspiracy.
The Hillside settlement also requires the owners to hire a local professional property manager and licensed security guards to patrol the complex.
In addition, the settlement includes a requirement for the owners to install security gates and 54 high-definition security cameras and maintain the property free of blight and building code violations.
Parker said the city’s lawsuit is still ongoing against Parawest Community Development, the current property manager for the Hillside complex.
Parawest has offices in San Jose, Phoenix and Houston.MORE NEWS: UPDATE: Witness Claims Oakland Police Searching for Wrong Car in Road Rage Homicide
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