200+ Families Evicted! Continued (2) - Posted by RT in CA

Posted by RT in CA on February 17, 2002 at 15:07:16:

More news on the Sacramento Bee on the mass evictions in Sacramento, CA.

Landlords may come to rescue

An area association calls mass evictions 'repulsive.'
By Andy Furillo – Bee Staff Writer
Published 5:30 a.m. PST Saturday, Feb. 16, 2002

The head of the region’s largest landlord association asked members Friday to waive fees and provide a month’s free rent to the hundreds of families ordered from their homes by a billionaire real estate investor.

Jim Lofgren, executive director of the 75,000-member Rental Housing Association of the Sacramento Valley, characterized Gensiro Kawamoto’s notices as “repulsive” and said they have spawned a crisis in the regional rental housing market.

“We are outraged by this guy’s actions,” Lofgren said. “This perpetuates the image of rental property owners and managers as just greedy landlords, insensitive to their residents, and we want people to know this is unacceptable and that it is incumbent upon our industry to help these renters because we need to police our own industry.”

Carol Asai-Sato, Kawamoto’s Honolulu attorney, said he was on a “very strict timetable” to take advantage of other investment opportunities. She also said each tenant will receive a letter explaining that they will have an opportunity to purchase their homes.

Lofgren announced his group’s four-point rental-assistance plan in a meeting Friday at Citrus Heights City Hall.

The session was attended by about 35 government officials, community activists and finance and housing industry representatives who met to discuss ways they might help the estimated 420 families in Citrus Heights, Orangevale, Antelope and Rocklin facing eviction.

The Lofgren plan called on rental property owners to waive or reduce rental application fees; to waive, reduce or extend payments on security deposits; to freeze rents; and to offer evicted tenants a free month’s rent.

Also Friday, about 50 tenants shouted slogans on the west steps of the Capitol, seeking support from the greater Sacramento community in their efforts to delay or postpone the evictions.

“We, as tenants, object to this strategy of evicting children, families, disabled, and forcing us possibly into the streets,” said spokeswoman Lourdes Ordona.

“We feel like we are being treated very shabbily. We feel we would like more time to make arrangements for our families, and we hope to get the support of the community behind us. Please help us,” Ordona said.

A spokesman for the Japanese consulate in San Francisco, meanwhile, expressed concern and sympathy.

“We are looking into the details of this case, and we have contacted Tokyo regarding this incident,” said spokesman Masaya Sagawa. “And we are now considering anything we can do. We hope that the incident will not adversely affect the friendly relationship between California and Japan.”

Two Japanese business groups called the evictions “unconscionable.”

The Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California and the Japanese Business Association of Southern California asked Kawamoto to withdraw the notices altogether.

“Japan has historically been California’s largest investor, creating jobs and economic opportunity for hundreds of thousands of California families,” the groups said in a joint letter to Kawamoto. “This action may be within your legal right, but it is deplorable to provide families such short notice.”

Whether the notices are within Kawamoto’s legal rights has been called into question, however, by Sacramento attorney George F. Allen.

Allen has been retained by the Sacramento Human Rights/Fair Housing Commission.

He has written Kawamoto’s representatives charging that the notices are unlawful because none of the attorneys listed on them is an active member of the State Bar of California.

Therefore, he said, none is permitted to practice law in the state – or issue such a notice.

He called for Kawamoto to rescind the notices and to provide a timetable for valid notices to be issued.

Such a move, he said, would avoid the time and expense of a legal fight and provide the renters additional time.

Kawamoto’s representatives delivered the 30-day notices to his renters in the Sacramento area on Feb. 8.

On Friday, his property managers delivered additional notices to tenants in Kawamoto properties at the Stony Point development in Santa Rosa.

“It makes me feel terrible,” said Jim Walker, a construction worker who pays $990 a month rent on his 1,320-square-foot, three-bedroom home. “You’re kind of defenseless. … I have no idea what the heck I’m going to do. It’s pretty bad, actually, that there is nothing we can do about it.”

In the Sacramento area, Lofgren said, as many as 40 income-property owners have told him that they will go along with his four-point plan or that they already have offered other discounts to Kawamoto tenants.

He said some of those landlords plan to attend a fair and legal housing forum from 1 to 8 p.m. Monday in Rusch Park, 7801 Auburn Blvd., Citrus Heights.

Lofgren said landlords in the region should consider applying the four-point plan to all renters.

“It’s hard to pick and choose,” Lofgren said. “I don’t think every owner or manager will do this, but this is an emergency. We’re dealing with a crisis.”

The proposal by the rental housing association official drew strong support at the Friday meeting in Citrus Heights chaired by Rob Kerth, former Sacramento city councilman.

“Housing advocates, government officials, the lending industry and the rental industry came together today to figure out what tools we have to make this situation better, to figure out what we can collectively do to help these folks out the best we can,” Kerth said.

“People who normally aren’t working together were doing it today. They were all there trying to help.”

Kerth said officials will set up a “disaster relief” center next week in Citrus Heights, where families facing the evictions can go over what assistance is available.

The former Sacramento councilman, echoing the thoughts voiced by tenants at the Capitol rally and comments of a variety of officials in recent days, said the main thing the evicted tenants need is time. But one tenant who had asked Kawamoto’s Honolulu law firm for an extension on her eviction notice showed a letter she received from the lawyers. The letter told her to forget about it.

“(I)f an exception were made in your case, then exceptions would have to (be) made for others,” the letter said. “We are on a very tight sales schedule, and all deadlines must be adhered to.”