Civic Center Hotel Tenants Take the Plumbers Union to the Rent Board

by Emma Gerould on January 24, 2006

Civic Center Hotel residents turned in tenant petitions to the Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Board last week due to the Plumbers’ Union refusal to seismic retrofit the Civic Center Hotel. City law requires completion of the retrofit, which would make the building safe in case of an earthquake, by February 15, 2006. As this deadline rapidly approaches, the Plumbers’ Union has still not applied for a permit for the work. This action, or rather lack of action, resulted in the Department of Building Inspection sending the Plumbers’ Union’s violation to the City Attorney’s office in October 2005. If the city successfully sues the Plumbers Union would be fined $500 a day until the work is complete.

This is not the first time the Civic Center Hotel tenants find themselves at the Rent Board because the Plumbers Union is putting their lives in danger. Last year, after the Plumbers’ Union refused to comply with the city’s SRO sprinkler Ordinance, DBI sent the case to the City Attorney. But the threat of being sued caused the Plumbers Union to finally install the sprinklers. The hope is that the potential of a city lawsuit will again force the Plumbers Union to comply with city law, and that the seismic retrofit necessary to protect tenants lives will be completed.

Lack of a seismic retrofit is not the only threat tenants face. In April 2005 the Plumbers Union announced their plan to demolish the Civic Center Hotel. The Civic Center Hotel has a primarily stable working and retired population of veterans, families, people of color, people with disabilities, young people, people living with HIV and the working poor. Rose, a tenant as the Civic Center Hotel who is a retired veteran is astounded that the Plumbers Union would try to throw her out of her home. If the Plumbers Union succeeded in demolishing the hotel, many of the current residents would end up on the street, in shelters or leaving San Francisco.

The Plumbers claim they cannot afford to seismic retorfit the building. Not only have they not sought the low-cost loan offered by the city but they are currently under Federal investigation for inverting 36 million dollars to their Clear Lake resort.

As Christopher Dahl handed in the tenant petitions, he explained “the basic problem is that they don’t really care what happens to us. They just want to demolish the hotel, and throw us all out.They are trying to ignore us and hope we go away,”

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