By Ken Epstein
A group of tenants are resisting a landlord’s ongoing attempts to kick them out of their apartments, just a few blocks away from the site of the new luxury high-rise tower that will be built at the corner of East 12 Street by Lake Merritt.
The 16 tenants in 10 of the units at 1918 Lakeshore Ave. facing Lake Merritt, many of whom have multiyear leases, last year received a notice to raise their rents about fourfold.
“The rental of said premises will be the sum of $3,870 per month instead of $1,080 per moth as heretofore payable,” said the landlord’s letter to tenant Mohsin Sharif.
According to Oakland attorneys Steven Rood and Steven Schectman, who this week filed a lawsuit for damages on behalf of the tenants, the building was bought in the last year by landlord Russell Flynn, with the intention of pushing out the tenants and renting the units at a higher rate.
Speaking at a press conference in front of the building on Wednesday, the attorneys and the tenants they represent accused Flynn, as well as the previous landlord, of using harassing tactics to drive people out of their homes, like illegal astronomical rent increases, fraudulent lease forms, spy cameras in hallways to watch tenants and repeatedly turning off the water to the building.
“Flynn is one of the largest private owners of rental housing stock in the Bay Area (mostly in San Francisco), controlling more than 3,600 rental properties, and is, by his own admission one of California’s leading proponents of both ‘vacancy de-control’ and the Ellis Act (evictions),” according to the lawsuit.
One of the tenants is Cortez Pheniz, who has lived in the building since February 2013.
The harassment by the landlord has gotten bad “just recently,” he said.
“It’s really stressful,” said Pheniz, who has worked as a bus driver for Golden Gate Transit since 1998.
Another male tenant works is a fourth grade teacher in Oakland. A woman tenant does community organizing work and event planning.
Other speakers called on tenants like themselves throughout the city to organize and fight against being displaced.
Responding for the landlord, property manager of the building Lucky Stewart told the Post, “There’s a lot of tenants that have been there for 20, 30 years. They are wonderful tenants who can give more facts and truth to these ridiculous claims.”
Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 19, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)