News

City declines to interfere in President Hotel evictions

With their tenancies set to end Jan. 31, residents ask for extensions

With their eviction deadline nearly two weeks away, residents of the President Hotel Apartments made a last-ditch plea on Monday night to the City Council to help them obtain an extension, a request that city officials indicated they are unlikely to entertain.

The residents received a notice a month ago from the building's new owner, Adventurous Journeys Capital Partners, informing them that they have to vacate their units by Jan. 31. The Dec. 13 notice followed a decision by the City Council not to immediately approve two zoning revisions that would have enabled AJ Capital to move ahead with its plan to convert the historic 75-unit apartment building into a hotel.

An investigation by the Weekly found that the tenants had reached an agreement with AJ Capital that would have allowed them to stay in their apartments until June had the council approved by Dec. 17 two zoning revisions: an elimination of the downtown cap on non-residential development and the deletion of a "grandfathered facilities" clause that bars historic properties facing renovation from being converted to different uses. The council plans to consider both changes in the coming months.

Meanwhile, residents are calling for city officials to reach out to AJ Capital and encourage the Chicago-based real estate company to let the tenants stay for another few months. Dennis Backlund, a former historic preservation planner for the city and a longtime tenant, was among those who made the request, noting that the AJ Capital isn't anywhere close to getting the city's approval for the conversion.

"The June eviction date would not interfere with the AJ Capital's project and would bring $1,000 a month in tenant rent payments for extended tenancy," Backlund said.

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Palo Alto Online for as little as $5/month.

Learn more

Michelle Kraus, a tenant, said that about 25 residents still remain in the building at 488 University Ave. Even if the extension is until April, it would really help some residents find a new place to live.

"I'm hoping that you will start talking to AJ, you will urge them to have a leniency and that we can continue on with the dialogue of what to do and how to move forward," Kraus said.

Karen Kao, a Santa Clara County food inspector and physical therapist, pointed out that she and all the other tenants are living in the building under a month-to-month agreement. This, she said, is in violation of a city requirement of one-year leases. She joined her neighbors in requesting the council's assistance in prolonging their stay.

"I hope you will confirm for yourself that this failure to uphold the law is unambiguous and inherited by AJ Capital as the new owner," Kao said. "Like the rest of us here tonight, I can truly ill afford the consequences of the eviction."

Residents and their supporters had also met with new City Manager Ed Shikada last week to request more assistance from the city. To date, the city's focus has been on ensuring that residents facing eviction will receive relocation assistance. Last September, the council passed an ordinance that enabled tenants to receive from AJ Capital between $7,000 and $17,000 in relocation assistance, depending on the size of the units.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Sign up

When asked about the city's position, Shikada told the Weekly in an email that he believes the city has done what it can and that the issue is now "between the landlord and residents." The city, he said, has chosen not to implore the landlord not to proceed with ending tenancies because it has a "responsibility to respect property owners' rights and ultimately make regulatory decisions based on applications submitted, without being predisposed to an outcome outside our authority."

"If the City were to weigh in on tenancy, that could be misinterpreted as setting some expectations for future actions," Shikada wrote.

The city also isn't rushing to start enforcing the one-year lease requirement. City Attorney Molly Stump noted that the ordinance provides for enforcement "in an eviction proceeding in court."

"I'm not aware that the City has ever attempted to take an enforcement role, and doing so here would require careful evaluation of legal issues," Stump told the Weekly in an email.

Iqbal Serang, an architect who has been living at President Hotel for 30 years, lamented the city's positions on evictions. Serang said the city's response to his and his neighbors' requests makes him feel like they hadn't gotten through to the city.

"We don't hear anything from anyone on the President Hotel and that's sad, because it's really affecting some real-life people," Serang told the council.

Related content:

VIDEO: President Hotel resident Dennis Backlund reflects on uncertain future

Facing tight housing market, tenants worry over uncertain future

Craving a new voice in Peninsula dining?

Sign up for the Peninsula Foodist newsletter.

Sign up now

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

City declines to interfere in President Hotel evictions

With their tenancies set to end Jan. 31, residents ask for extensions

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, Jan 16, 2019, 10:38 am

With their eviction deadline nearly two weeks away, residents of the President Hotel Apartments made a last-ditch plea on Monday night to the City Council to help them obtain an extension, a request that city officials indicated they are unlikely to entertain.

The residents received a notice a month ago from the building's new owner, Adventurous Journeys Capital Partners, informing them that they have to vacate their units by Jan. 31. The Dec. 13 notice followed a decision by the City Council not to immediately approve two zoning revisions that would have enabled AJ Capital to move ahead with its plan to convert the historic 75-unit apartment building into a hotel.

An investigation by the Weekly found that the tenants had reached an agreement with AJ Capital that would have allowed them to stay in their apartments until June had the council approved by Dec. 17 two zoning revisions: an elimination of the downtown cap on non-residential development and the deletion of a "grandfathered facilities" clause that bars historic properties facing renovation from being converted to different uses. The council plans to consider both changes in the coming months.

Meanwhile, residents are calling for city officials to reach out to AJ Capital and encourage the Chicago-based real estate company to let the tenants stay for another few months. Dennis Backlund, a former historic preservation planner for the city and a longtime tenant, was among those who made the request, noting that the AJ Capital isn't anywhere close to getting the city's approval for the conversion.

"The June eviction date would not interfere with the AJ Capital's project and would bring $1,000 a month in tenant rent payments for extended tenancy," Backlund said.

Michelle Kraus, a tenant, said that about 25 residents still remain in the building at 488 University Ave. Even if the extension is until April, it would really help some residents find a new place to live.

"I'm hoping that you will start talking to AJ, you will urge them to have a leniency and that we can continue on with the dialogue of what to do and how to move forward," Kraus said.

Karen Kao, a Santa Clara County food inspector and physical therapist, pointed out that she and all the other tenants are living in the building under a month-to-month agreement. This, she said, is in violation of a city requirement of one-year leases. She joined her neighbors in requesting the council's assistance in prolonging their stay.

"I hope you will confirm for yourself that this failure to uphold the law is unambiguous and inherited by AJ Capital as the new owner," Kao said. "Like the rest of us here tonight, I can truly ill afford the consequences of the eviction."

Residents and their supporters had also met with new City Manager Ed Shikada last week to request more assistance from the city. To date, the city's focus has been on ensuring that residents facing eviction will receive relocation assistance. Last September, the council passed an ordinance that enabled tenants to receive from AJ Capital between $7,000 and $17,000 in relocation assistance, depending on the size of the units.

When asked about the city's position, Shikada told the Weekly in an email that he believes the city has done what it can and that the issue is now "between the landlord and residents." The city, he said, has chosen not to implore the landlord not to proceed with ending tenancies because it has a "responsibility to respect property owners' rights and ultimately make regulatory decisions based on applications submitted, without being predisposed to an outcome outside our authority."

"If the City were to weigh in on tenancy, that could be misinterpreted as setting some expectations for future actions," Shikada wrote.

The city also isn't rushing to start enforcing the one-year lease requirement. City Attorney Molly Stump noted that the ordinance provides for enforcement "in an eviction proceeding in court."

"I'm not aware that the City has ever attempted to take an enforcement role, and doing so here would require careful evaluation of legal issues," Stump told the Weekly in an email.

Iqbal Serang, an architect who has been living at President Hotel for 30 years, lamented the city's positions on evictions. Serang said the city's response to his and his neighbors' requests makes him feel like they hadn't gotten through to the city.

"We don't hear anything from anyone on the President Hotel and that's sad, because it's really affecting some real-life people," Serang told the council.

Related content:

VIDEO: President Hotel resident Dennis Backlund reflects on uncertain future

Facing tight housing market, tenants worry over uncertain future

Comments

BP
Barron Park
on Jan 16, 2019 at 12:18 pm
BP, Barron Park
on Jan 16, 2019 at 12:18 pm
34 people like this

If only the residents were employees of Palantir, Facebook, or Google, then certain city council members would surely be helping them stay longer.


Curmudgeon
Downtown North
on Jan 16, 2019 at 1:00 pm
Curmudgeon, Downtown North
on Jan 16, 2019 at 1:00 pm
24 people like this

Beggar the tenants. Shikada is acting in the best interests of his staff, who can move on to lucrative employment with the developers they serve during their city hall stints (a la former Planning Director Steve Emslie) only if their resumes boast of promoting enough lucrative development projects.


Just Move On...
University South
on Jan 16, 2019 at 1:29 pm
Just Move On..., University South
on Jan 16, 2019 at 1:29 pm
27 people like this

The City of Palo Alto should not get further involved with the plight of the displaced President Hotel tenants.

The evicted tenants received extended time frames to vacate + a generous relocation bonus from AJ. Of the 75 tenants, about 30 whiners remain...what is their problem?

Grow up folks and start acting like an adult.


Landowners rights
Barron Park
on Jan 17, 2019 at 8:21 am
Landowners rights , Barron Park
on Jan 17, 2019 at 8:21 am
94 people like this

The truth about the prez residents is they’re not low income....they live there for many of the other reasons — community, location, low rent, etc.

One only needs to Google search each person’s name to better understand. There’s a very good NYT article from 2004 on a person mentioned in this article....


Joel
Barron Park
on Jan 17, 2019 at 11:24 am
Joel, Barron Park
on Jan 17, 2019 at 11:24 am
23 people like this

Business before residents. Oh if Joe Simitian could only parlay this no brainer.
Shame to the Council.


almunday60
Registered user
another community
on Jan 17, 2019 at 12:31 pm
almunday60, another community
Registered user
on Jan 17, 2019 at 12:31 pm
43 people like this

since the city bailed out buena vista mobile home park, those residents should open up their park to accept some from the prez....unless buena vista wants to keep
their mobile home park non-diverse


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2019 at 2:57 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2019 at 2:57 pm
7 people like this

It turns out that it was mistaken to consider the President, Casa Olga, etc, to be "housing", just because people lived there, paid rent, and considered these places their "homes". If we want a property to remain housing, it needs to be zoned as housing, and, the zoning needs to stay housing. And, it turns out, hotels are not "housing".

I'm still angry about Casa Olga. Web Link


YSK
Downtown North
on Jan 17, 2019 at 3:44 pm
YSK, Downtown North
on Jan 17, 2019 at 3:44 pm
7 people like this

Of course they deny help.

Care about non super wealthy Palo Alto residents?

Nah.

Regard less of zoning, people have made that hotel their home for many many years.


Another Giveaway
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2019 at 5:39 pm
Another Giveaway, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2019 at 5:39 pm
16 people like this

Headline should read:

"City agrees to interfere in President Hotel redevelopment, but declines to interfere in President Hotel evictions"


Anon2
Ventura
on Jan 17, 2019 at 9:20 pm
Anon2, Ventura
on Jan 17, 2019 at 9:20 pm
3 people like this

To Anon: The President is, in fact, zoned as housing, and has been for the past 60 years.


Resident
Ventura
on Jan 18, 2019 at 2:45 am
Resident, Ventura
on Jan 18, 2019 at 2:45 am
Like this comment

[Post removed.]


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2019 at 10:52 am
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2019 at 10:52 am
Like this comment

Posted by Anon2, a resident of Ventura

>> To Anon: The President is, in fact, zoned as housing, and has been for the past 60 years.

Second try: We have learned that "hotels" =/= "housing" and, zoning for each needs to be non-interchangeable.


Name hidden
Charleston Meadows

on Jan 19, 2019 at 2:43 pm
Name hidden, Charleston Meadows

on Jan 19, 2019 at 2:43 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.