In response to eviction notices at a recently sold Redwood City apartment building, tenants are holding a protest, organizing a tenants union, and asking for more time and relocation assistance from the new owners. And one Peninsula housing lawyer believes the anonymous owners might be speculators who paid an inflated price for the building and hope to quickly sell it again.
When the residents of 910 Clinton St. staged a public vigil in front of their building last week, they received help from Aracely Mondragon, a community organizer with San Francisco Organizing Project-Peninsula Interfaith Action. Of the roughly 100 people who participated in the vigil, Mondragon said several were local teachers whose students are among the 31 children who live in the complex.
“Everyone there was touched by this issue in some way,” Mondragon noted.
Mondragon said the building was sold April 24, and within six days the tenants received eviction notices from FPI Management, a Folsom-based company retained by the buyer to manage the property.
FPI Management’s employees have shown a lack of empathy in their contacts with tenants, said Linda Howell, a 71-year-old Redwood City native who has lived at 910 Clinton St. for 33 years.
“This one lady, she was always so happy, like a cheerleader,” Howell said, describing the FPI Management representative who informed her of the eviction and offered her financial incentives for leaving prior to the June 30 deadline.
Howell said the company initially offered to give tenants $50 for each day they moved out prior to June 30. But when she and her neighbors balked at the offer, FPI offered a little more money.
“The cheerleader came around, handed us the paperwork, and said, ‘Oh, you’re going to love this proposal,’” Howell said, noting that even the revised offer would not help much, given the high average rents in the area.
Howell’s current monthly rent is $1,295, and another tenant, Gabriel Banuelos, said his family is paying $1,750 for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit.
The Zillow real estate website indicates the 18 apartments at 910 Clinton St. could rent for an average of $4,818 per month. The site also estimates the building’s current value at $2.6 million, but reports the new owners paid more than $6 million for the property.
Daniel Saver, a housing attorney with Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, said the building’s inflated selling price could indicate it was purchased by speculators who hope to resell it at an even higher price.
“Often when you see such a large difference, it signals that the purchaser is speculating,” Saver said. “When a speculator overpays for a property because they think they can evict everybody and flip it, it becomes financially necessary for them to charge very high rents.”
The identity of the new owner or owners is not clear, and Saver accuses them of “hiding behind a shadowy LLC company.”
The company in question, OAMC 910 Clinton Investment LLC, appears to have been recently incorporated in Delaware, and according to the California secretary of state’s website, the company’s agent is Sophia Loh, an employee of Frank, Rimerman, and Co. LLP, a certified public accountant firm in Palo Alto.
The accounting firm did not respond to questions regarding the client.
FPI Management, which also did not respond to a request for comment, reportedly told tenants the evictions were necessary so the building could be renovated.
When asked whether property owners might be justified in charging much higher rents to pay for needed renovations, Saver said, “When your business model involves the wholesale displacement of dozens of people from their homes … your business model is repugnant to our community’s values.”