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Christina So
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News from:
City Attorney Barbara J. Parker

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 3, 2018

City Attorney secures $1 million settlement in Chinatown tenant rights case

OAKLAND, CA — A coalition of civil rights organizations and attorneys, including the City Attorney, has secured a $1 million settlement in a tenant protection lawsuit against the owners of a residential building in Oakland's Chinatown.

City of Oakland v. Kilpatrick, Alameda County Superior Court Case No. RG16820040

The lawsuit, which was filed in June 2016, asked the court to order that the owners of 524 8th Street maintain tenants’ Single Room Occupancy units in a habitable and safe condition and enjoin them from discarding tenants’ property and gutting their kitchens and bathrooms.  The owners intentionally made living conditions unbearable for their elderly and Chinese-speaking tenants in an attempt to force them to vacate their units so they could renovate the building and increase rents to dramatically higher market rates.

On May 1, the court approved a $1 million settlement of the lawsuit that the City Attorney Barbara J. Parker, Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus and civil and housing rights law firm Sundeen Salinas prosecuted. The settlement will be distributed as follows: $795,000 to the 14 plaintiff tenants who are represented by Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus and Sundeen Salinas, and $205,000 to the City for costs and attorneys’ fees.

“This lawsuit puts unscrupulous property owners on notice that Oakland will hold them accountable for violations of tenants’ rights and will not tolerate owners who make living conditions so miserable that tenants are compelled to move out,” City Attorney Parker said. “Displacing tenants from their homes frequently plunges families into poverty and homelessness and uproots them from the community. Every family that pays rent in Oakland is entitled to decent housing free from harassment and exploitation.”

The owners, who purchased the 8th street property in 2015 as Green Group LP, publicly expressed their hope that remodeling the building would draw a "new demographic" of tenants including tech workers, who would pay premium rents.

To achieve their goal, the owners demolished kitchens and bathrooms, leaving them gutted and unusable for months at a time, and issued notices of demolition in English, although almost all of the tenants read only Chinese. Tenants also complained that the landlords threw away tenants' clothes, shoes, a child's tricycle and other items and tore down Chinese new year decorations. Tenants also had no hot water for weeks on end.

On May 1st the court also approved a permanent injunction requiring the owners to maintain an adequate number of working bathrooms at the property, to adhere to a set policy regarding personal property in common areas, and to notify the City Attorney’s Office of any future Rent Adjustment Program petitions and eviction actions.

The court granted our motion for a preliminary injunction in August 2016. When the defendants then distributed a written notice – again around Chinese New Year – that tenants remove their personal belongings from the common areas, the court found Defendants in contempt of the preliminary injunction and ordered them to pay a fine and fees totaling $24,194.

"The struggle for justice in the housing market is happening all over the Bay Area," said Katherine Chu, Housing Rights Staff Attorney & Program Manager at Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus. "We're glad that these tenants successfully stood up for themselves and achieved a great victory. This is a big step forward in ensuring tenants' rights against malicious landlords."


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