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Housing crisis: Redwood City tenants protest eviction

July 10, 2015
Valerie Schmalz

Eight families at 910 Clinton St. in Redwood City organized a June 30 rally to protest their eviction and to ask for more time to find housing – but the property owners issued a statement two days later saying all were legally required to vacate under rental agreements and California law.

Following “significant construction,” the apartments will be leased “at market rate prices to qualified applicants,” according to FPI Management Inc., the property management company for the new owners, OAMC 910 Clinton Investments, LLC. The building was sold in April for just over $6 million, double its $2.98 million sale price in 2010.

While the company did not respond to a question about whether it would file for court-ordered evictions, on July 1 a tenant who sent in July rent had it returned via certified mail, said Gabriel Banuelos, who lives in the building.

The mostly Latino and Spanish-speaking residents of the 18-unit complex are just the latest to feel the pressure of exponentially rising Bay Area real estate prices and a high-pressure rental market that is pushing working- and middle-class families out of the area.

The families at 910 Clinton St. received 60-day eviction notices in April and were to be out by midnight June 30, the day of the rally. Eight remained. While several local organizations, including St. Vincent de Paul Society of San Mateo and Fair Oaks Community Center are among the groups which provide rental assistance, they can only help once the families find a place they can afford, the tenants said.

The rally also called for rent control laws. San Mateo County does not have rent control. Of the municipalities in the county, only East Palo Alto has a rent control ordinance, said Lorena Melgarejo, a community organizer for the Archdiocese of San Francisco and also lead community organizer for the San Francisco Organizing Project.

“I am really proud to see this happening because this is happening everywhere and people are quiet,” Melgarejo said. “They are standing up.”

“We are doing this for everyone, because we don’t want their families to go through what we are going through,” said Maria Valdez, who works part time in a laundry and dry cleaner and spoke at the rally in front of the apartment complex. Valdez, her husband and three of her children, ages 14, 9, and 5, have resided at 910 Clinton for 10 years she said. Her son ninth grader Gabriel Banuelos, 14, who was one of the rally organizers, said, “We want them to give us at least a little more time, another month or two.”

Carlos Rojas, an auto mechanic, said in Spanish that his family of four was not yet sure where they would go. “We have a plan but it requires $6,500” which they had not raised.

“This is not against the law, but it should be,” said one of the protesters.

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