Thanks for coming out to the march against Terence Andrews on Sunday! The Hotel Petaluma Residents appreciate all the support of the community. The struggle is ongoing, stay tuned!
Here is our latest press conference video!:
Over 70 people came out to our Tenants Committee meeting for Hotel Petaluma! It was a great success and we hope to have more of these in the future! Thanks for coming out and supporting the community!
Here is a video from the event:
For decades the Hotel Petaluma has served as one of the few, if not only, single-room occupancy buildings for low-income residents in this always-growing northern Californian suburb. Built in 1923, the Hotel contains over 100 units, some of which cost as little as $200 a month to rent. The Hotel has faced several ownership changes over the last decade, and was foreclosed on in 2011. Last year, Marin County property mogul Terence Andrews acquired the building and immediately raised rents by 10%. As the Bohemian recently reported, in December he told the Press Democrat “we’re not throwing people out.”
That promise seems to have been hollow.
Last month residents received 30-day eviction notices, while some of the longer-term residents (some have been there for upwards of 25 years) have been given until April 15th to vacate. Andrews intends on converting the old building and re-opening it as a nightly hotel charging $90 a night. He is also evicting the small-businesses (by refusing to renew their leases at the end of the year) on the ground level, including a nail salon, vitamin shop, and others. As an apparent response to these announcements, the Hotel’s office windows were recently smashed.
Not long after the eviction notices went out, several tenants contacted the Sonoma County Solidarity Network for support. We set up a few meetings with the tenants, and helped them canvass the building to find other tenants willing to stand up against the slumlord Terence Andrews. We decided to form an ad-hoc Tenants Committee and draft a demand letter to Andrews, which reads:
Dear Mr. Andrews,
As the organized tenants of Hotel Petaluma, we respectfully respond to your eviction notices by issuing the following demands:
1.) Before complying with any eviction, we demand adequate re-location assistance. This can take the form of monetary compensation for finding a new residence, or through the securing of other housing prior to the date of eviction.
2.) Every tenant who is vacating shall receive their rental deposit. Due to the proposed renovations to the rooms and to the hotel in general, we do not accept claims that tenants who have minor wear and tear on their rooms do not have a right to their deposit.
3.) Those tenants who wish to remain will be allowed to stay and continue to pay their monthly rent at current levels.
Please respond to these demands as soon as possible, or further action will be taken.
The overwhelming majority of Hotel Petaluma tenants are seniors and many are disabled or faced with mental health issues. Public housing is sparse in Petaluma, and rents have only gotten higher in the last few years as major property companies seek to “re-vitalize” downtown with expensive lofts and restaurants. One of the only other affordable housing complexes, the Greenbriar Apartments, is also currently being evicted to make way for more luxurious units. Yet so far the only assistance that Terence Andrews has offered to tenants is to post Craigslist ads for apartments in the office window.
The process of organizing tenants at Hotel Petaluma has been difficult, as many feel isolated, alone, and hopeless. Legally, there is very little recourse in these situations, except to delay the eviction as long as possible and make it costlier for the landlord to evict than to give in to our demands. This campaign would not be possible without the leadership and ferocity of some of the longer-term tenants, who at the campaigns outset (last week) would say things like “I’m not an organizer. I don’t have time.” Yet now they are taking the lead in canvassing their building, recruiting supporters, doing research, and developing contact lists of all the tenants, and helping us to develop strategy.
While the Tenants Committee (comprised of only a few dedicated individuals) is organizing inside the hotel and receiving near unanimous support from the tenants, the Solidarity Network is beginning to develop the community solidarity that will be necessary to sustain the fight against the landlord from the outside. We are developing a legal team, talking with the press, and making contacts with city officials. Our first action will be a large Public Meeting on Tuesday, March 26th at St. Vincent Church (corner of Howard and Western) (6pm). Here we will form the Solidarity Committee, form Working Groups, and hopefully come out with a concrete plan to delay or stop the eviction, and win the crucial demands that will help tenants land on their feet if indeed the eviction goes through.
Together we are slowly building the base for collective action, among a group of tenants who had before felt completely alone and isolated. Through this collective action, we can see the low-income tenants of Hotel Petaluma beginning to realize their own power and their own capacity to win and seek concessions from millionaire property owners. Whatever the outcome of this struggle, we are demonstrating that Petaluma will not be gentrified without a fight, and that the combined forces of poor tenants, with radical working-class organizers and broader community support can prove a serious threat to the bourgeois conquerors of this town, which many of us have called home for our entire lives. We are raising the stakes and we will make it costly for any slumlord to extract his profits from our small town.
We will keep our community updated on the developments of this campaign, which seems to change its character from day to day. Please consider supporting this campaign in one way or another, either by coming to our public meeting, or by spreading the word and forwarding this article.
If you are having a problem with your landlord or employer, please contact the Solidarity Network, 595-0136. firstname.lastname@example.org
On December 14th over 20 members of the Sonoma County Solidarity Network delivered a demand letter to the offices of Acacia Apartments on the east side of Santa Rosa. We organized this action together with our new member, Elodia Lopez, who contacted SoCoSol after her former landlord at Acacia refused to work with her to resolve her problem. In February of 2011, Elodia’s apartment was flooded after a pipe burst on the floor above her. Not only did she suffer thousands of dollars in damage to her personal belongings, her and her children had to spend months living in another apartment without phone or internet service, in addition to missing many days of work. Elodia was assured by her landlord that they would be sending photos and other evidence of the damage to their insurance company, Farmers Insurance. However, after months of waiting, no compensation was granted to Elodia.
Elodia has since moved from Acacia Apartments, but continued to follow-up with the company about her insurance claim, to no avail. That’s when she called the Solidarity Network. Several weeks ago, we showed up to formally demand that Acacia Apartments file an insurance claim on Elodia’s behalf, so that she can finally receive the compensation she has deserved for so long. The video below explains our recent campaign with Elodia against Acacia Apartments, which is refusing to help her seek insurance reimbursement for the flood damage. You can watch our delivery of demands below:
Acacia Apartments is owned by BehringerHarvard, a massive company that according to their website “creates, manages and distributes alternative investment programs for individual and institutional investors” (what?). They have properties and offices all over the world. Yet only a couple days after our demand delivery, an official from BehringerHarvard called Elodia and offered to resolve the dispute! They also insisted that they would only work with Elodia, and not with “that big group of people that showed up to our office.” She explained to them that they didn’t listen before when it was only her, but now that she has a big group behind her, they are responding to her reasonable demand. However, despite their pledge to resolve the dispute, BehringerHarvard and Acacia Apartments have yet to send any evidence to either Elodia or the Solidarity Network that they are indeed proceeding with the insurance claim. Consequently, SoCoSol is beginning a public campaign against Acacia Apartments. Please stay tuned to our website and our Facebook for campaign updates and any potential upcoming actions.
Those of us who rent know that our living situations are precarious at best. The housing that is allotted for workers, especially marginalized ones (young workers, undocumented workers, informal workers, the unemployed, etc.), is constantly falling apart, suffering from mold, inadequate ventilation, a hundred other problems that affect our health and happiness on a day-to-day basis. It often feels that we are at the whim of our landlords own greed and unwillingness to create housing that is adequate for human beings. Due to our situation as workers, we often do not speak up because we are either afraid of the consequences or because we don’t feel we are worth it. The action taken by Elodia and others like her ought to inspire the rest of us to stand up against the corruption of those who profit from our labor and our rent. As Elodia mentioned after the demand delivery action: “At first I felt nervous, but when I saw so many people there at the action, it gave me courage.”