Olaiha Fonua Sr.’s San Mateo home was not only ground zero for loud parties that bothered neighbors, but it also served as a “safe house” for criminal and gang activity, according to opening statements in San Mateo County Superior Court Monday.
Attorney Lance Bayer is representing the City of San Mateo in its effort to evict Fonua and up to 50 others for one year from a house at 107 North Grant St. — a last-ditch effort by the city to curb what police say are ongoing problems at the home. Neither Fonua nor any of the members of his extended family were present in the courtroom as Bayer called witnesses to the stand.
Among those witnesses was San Mateo Police Lt. Alan Parisian, who ran the police department’s street-crimes team in 2004 and has led the city’s effort to gather evidence against the house’s residents.
Parisian described loud parties in front of the house that could be heard up to a block away, and showed photos from MySpace in which members of the household stood in front of the house and made hand signs allegedly associated with the West Side Tongans gang. He also described short-term visits he said were consistent with narcotics sales.
“We’re dealing with a nuisance that stems from the property owner allowing this to be a party house in the worst sense,” Bayer said.
Attorney John Hartford, representing the Fonuas, has consistently declined to comment on the case, as have the Fonuas.
One of Bayer’s witnesses, Tyrone Gadson, described an encounter in February 2004 with a crowd gathered in front of the house in which he was chased down the block and shot in the side.
Two residents of the house, Jared Fonua and John Tonga, were arrested for Gadson’s shooting; Tonga was convicted of attempted murder, while Fonua was acquitted.
“The family feels that it can rule that area of San Mateo,” Gadson said. “I have friends who have been threatened, but I’m the only one who will not let someone push me off the block where I was raised.”
The court trial is expected to continue through Thursday or Friday, and will be decided by San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Beth Freeman rather than a jury.