Fremont Hotel residents stand in long lines to use a toilet since owners demolished bathrooms six month ago. Some resort to using pails in their rooms.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

East Bay Times – By Tammerlin Drummond

OAKLAND — When the Green Group, LP, bought the Fremont in Oakland’s Chinatown nearly a year ago, the investors had plans to renovate the low-rent single-resident occupancy hotel and convert it into studios catering to students and tech workers.

But there were already people living in the building at 524 Eighth Street. Most of them are poor Chinese immigrants, many seniors who speak little or no English.

On Tuesday, 14 of the tenants were in Alameda County Superior Court seeking relief from what they say is an aggressive campaign by the owners to force them out by making the premises uninhabitable. That included demolishing four shared bathrooms more than six months ago, creating a major hardship for tenants who have had to stand in long lines to use the toilet.

Judge Brad Seligman postponed making a final ruling on the tenants’ request for a preliminary injunction to force the owners to complete construction of the bathrooms and a common kitchen.

As the tenants sat in the back rows, Seligman said he would visit the hotel Wednesday afternoon to assess the conditions for himself. The judge issued a tentative order last week requiring the landlords to immediately repair the bathrooms, which according to court records had been gutted to the studs.

In that ruling, Seligman called the owners’ actions “unbelievably callous” and ordered investor James Kilpatrick and his co-defendants to cease all efforts to coerce tenants into leaving. The judge also banned the landlords from removing the tenants’ personal property from common areas and ordered the removal of surveillance cameras that tenants say violate their privacy.

The judge said there was “strong circumstantial evidence that the owners of the building wanted to force the tenants out or make conditions so bad, they would voluntarily leave.”

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