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by Lynda Carson
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he tenants of Marin Way Court in Oakland have been targeted for displacement by the Arroyo & Coates real estate firm of San Francisco. The tenants have been speaking out against the activities of David Silver, executive vice president of Arroyo & Coates, and Jamie Clifford, senior vice president, since their building was taken over recently.
A “Notice To Occupants,” delivered to tenants at Marin Way Court on April 18, 2011, warned residents that the apartment complex has new management. In the same notice, tenants were accused of not having a valid lease, and were ordered to move out of the units immediately, or risk facing criminal and civil liabilities.
On April 27, tenants of Marin Way Court held a protest rally in front of the 20-unit housing complex, located at 2000 International Boulevard in Oakland. Aiyahnna Johnson, a tenant at the complex, said, “We had a great protest rally and everybody from the complex appeared, including around 30 people.”
The protest was too late to prevent their homes from being sold out from under them. “The protest was held a few days before our housing at Marin Way Court was auctioned off on May 2, 2011,” she said. The auction was held in front of the Eastmont Police Traffic Substation. It was sold for only $50,000 to Executive Vice President David Silver of Arroyo & Coates.
“But it seemed very odd that David Silver was the only one there to bid on Marin Way Court, and I have wondered if the auction notice was ever posted properly in a newspaper,” Johnson said.
Odd indeed. Marin Way Court was an affordable housing project for the poor that consisted of 20 two-bedroom townhouses developed by the now-notorious, defunct, nonprofit developer Oakland Community Housing, Inc., (OCHI) and its affiliate San Antonio Commons, Inc.
In 1986, 1987, and 1993, the Redevelopment Agency and the City of Oakland jointly loaned an amount of $1,640,500 to San Antonio Commons, Inc. for the development of Marin Way Court. On June 5, 2007, the Redevelopment Agency authorized an additional loan of $1 million to OCHI’s affiliates to operate their affordable housing developments, including Marin Way Court.
According to a balance sheet in a 990 tax filing in 2006 for OCHI’s affiliate, San Antonio Commons, Inc, it still owed $1,412,649 for its mortgages and notes payable to cover the development costs associated with Marin Way Court.
According to public records, in March 2009, an additional $1.2 million loan was made to Resources for Community Development by the City of Oakland to renovate Marin Way Court, but it has still fallen into foreclosure. Then, somehow it slipped into the hands of Arroyo & Coates for a mere $50,000, according to Johnson.
Johnson said, “David Silver and Jamie Clifford of Arroyo & Coates tried to destroy our community ever since they took over Marin Way Court on May 2, 2011. They caused us a lot of stress and anxiety in our community by trying to frighten us out of our housing. They have been trying to pressure us into signing documents in an effort to force us to move out of our homes and community.
“It feels like we are now living in a prison. We do not know what to expect next from them. Twenty apartments were occupied when David Silver and Arroyo & Coates took control of Marin Way Court on May 2, and now there are only 11 apartments that are still occupied here, and we have been accused of being squatters.”
A recent utilities bill with a due date of May 9, 2011, has the name of Aiyahnna Johnson on it for the same address at Marin Way Court in Oakland, and it confirms she is a tenant in the complex, no matter what Silver believes.
To back her statements that she is facing harassment and pressure to move out of her home, she cited an e-mail Silver sent to her on May 20, 2011, that said, “We’ve talked to you several times after the sale, we’ve posted several notices on your door and mailed you a notice. Regardless, we want to meet with you to discuss some form of an agreement for you to vacate the property.”
Johnson said that she, her two children, and others in the housing complex do not want to give up their housing to Arroyo & Coates, nor to anyone else that tries to bully them out of their homes.
After I tried to reach David Silver and Jamie Clifford a few times to ask them questions, I received an e-mail on May 23 that stated, in part: “You clearly care more about getting attention vs. getting the truth. Here is what you need to know: 1) The occupant(s) you are referencing are not legal residents of the property, they broke into the unit and are squatting. 2) The occupant(s) you are referencing are not paying rent. 3) No laws have been broken, no one has been harassed. Asking illegal, non-paying squatters to leave a property is not against the law. If you continue to produce libel and defaming e-mails, we will hold you responsible and we will contact our attorney.” — 2000 INTL, LLC.
(A search of Limited Liability Corporations (LLC) in California reveals that 2000 INTL, LLC, entity number 201106210312, did not legally exist until it very recently became active March 3, 2011. The Agent for Service of Process is listed as one “DJ Silver.”)
On April 19, 2011, the tenants at Marin Way Court said they felt abused and bullied by what they called the Gestapo-type tactics of David Silver, Arroyo & Coates, Oakland Deputy City Attorney Dan Rossi, and six Oakland cops that came by their homes at Marin Way Court, pounding on their doors and demanding to know who was living with them in their housing.
On May 6, Marin Way Court tenants received 60 Day Notices to vacate their homes, in the form of an unsigned notice from 2000 INTL, LLC. Tenants called it another brutal tactic by Arroyo & Coates to frighten them out of their housing.
Marin Way Court has already been renamed. It is now called Ventana Town Homes, and is being managed by Evans Property Management, Inc. (EPMI). Alisha Edwards is the new manager for Ventana Town Homes (i.e., Marin Way Court) and supposedly can be reached at (510) 562-1431. But, according to local sources, she also manages at least three other properties for EPMI. The tenants in three different complexes managed by EPMI have to use the same phone number when needing to speak to the management. Not surprisingly, on May 24, the voice mail box for Edwards was full, and she could not be reached for comment.
Anne Tamiko Omura, executive director of the Eviction Defense Center, wrote on April 29 to Silver: “I am the Executive Director and Managing Attorney of the Eviction Defense Center in Oakland. It has come to my attention that the tenants at 2000 International Blvd. in Oakland have been threatened with illegal lock-outs, car-towings, and criminal actions. I am very concerned about the threats the tenants have received.
“My office is currently looking into what legal action the tenants can take to protect themselves, including filing for an injunction and prosecuting claims for emotional distress, breach in the covenant of quiet use and enjoyment, and illegal lock out. I have been in contact with the City of Oakland, and they assure me that no illegal action will be taken against these tenants. My attorney colleagues at Bay Area Legal Aid have apparently received similar assurances from your company. I hope these threats of illegal action have been rescinded and that there is no need for litigation. If you would like to discuss this matter further, please do not hesitate to contact me.”
In response, Omura received an e-mail on May 5 from Jamie Clifford of Arroyo & Coates that said: “Anne, We would like to schedule a time to have a conference call or an in-person meeting with you regarding this matter. The allegations in your e-mail below are false and we would like to discuss how to best resolve this matter. Please let us know when you can make yourself available.”
Tenants of Marin Way Court are seeking community supporters to join them in the struggle to save their housing and community, from those that would profit by displacing them from their homes.
Lynda Carson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org