OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Dozens of residents enduring poor living conditions at a tenement building in Oakland’s Chinatown neighborhood may face eviction.
The dozens of tenants share just a few toilets and a single kitchen. They claim their landlord created a five-month nightmare to force them out.
Now, the City of Oakland is suing, accusing the landlord of deliberately creating unbearable living conditions.
The building is located on Eighth Street, on the edge of Oakland’s Chinatown neighborhood. Most of the tenants who live in the building do not speak English and most are low-income Chinese families and seniors.
They rent a single-occupancy room and the tenants all share bathrooms and kitchens.
The tenants are accusing the new owners of harassing them, trying to force them out.
The Chinese immigrants who live in the building say they came to America for a better life, but that the living conditions in their Oakland building are worse than a developing nation.
One woman showed KPIX 5 how the tenants have been showering for the past week. They’ve been using an umbrella because of a ceiling leak.
Tenants also say contractors gutted several bathrooms back in February, leaving three toilets for 28 families to use. Five months later, still no relief in sight.
Tenant Mark Yan Wong, said “Some seniors cannot wait. They use bucket to pee in the bucket.”
Wong has lived in the building for 25 years and he’s one of the very few tenants in the building who can speaks some English.
Wong said the kitchen was demolished five months ago and hasn’t been renovated.
Some of the units do have their own bathrooms, but all 36 families in the building now rely on one kitchen. Wong says the line waiting to cook at night gets long.
The tenants say that ever since the new owners bought the building last year, they’ve been subjected to harassment. They believe it’s a tactic to force them to move out of the building..
They say a few fed up families have already left.
“If evicted, I will be homeless,” Wong said.
The City of Oakland and tenants’ advocates are now suing the owners.
Christina Dang, with Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, said “Housing is a human right. All we’re asking the landlord is to follow the law.”
Thomas Kerbleski with Lakeside Investment Company, said “We definitely have not been harassing anybody in the building.”
The new owners blame the delays in renovating the kitchen and bathrooms on contractor issues.
Kerbleski said, “From an outside point of view, five months may sound like a long time. But any construction project that’s an older building makes it longer.”
They say they’re an investment company and intend to make money, but will do everything according to the law.
Kerbleski said the rooms in their current conditions are well below market value.
The long time tenants pay between $400 and $600 a month for a room. Their building is one of the few single room occupancy buildings left in Oakland.
“By cleaning it, rents will naturally go up,” Kerbleski said.