Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Landlord with a Roach Problem



It's a fairly indistinct three-story building a block up from Broadway, in the area becoming increasingly known as Oaksterdam. If you're not familiar with that part of Oakland, let me just say that you need to imagine Amsterdam. Got that image in your head? Good. Now, put a bunch of street people and extreme low-income folks into the mix. Add the Occupy Oakland people. Throw in some thugs. There. That's where I go into work a couple of days a week.


The landlord is an idiot. He's a business owner whose parents apparently bought him the building where he had his office when the previous landlord put it up for sale. He probably thought it was an easy way to make bank. He puts almost no effort into the upkeep, making up excuses as to why, for example, the elevator isn't repaired in a timely fashion or why the lock on the ladies' bathroom isn't fixed or why one of the toilets in said bathroom is out of order for nearly two months. [That last one was only fixed when I posted a sign on the door to the restroom saying "Women Held Hostage Day 42," and updated the number each day.]


In the dead week between Christmas and New Year's, when I was under extreme deadline pressure, I let a handful of interviewers come in and work a project while I was in the office anyway. On the first day, we spotted a brown paper bag outside the men's bathroom. As I'm asking people about it, the door opens and out come two guys, who scoop up the bag, wave to us and go about their merry way. We're the only tenants on the third floor as the landlord -- the other business on our floor -- was closed for the week. So these guys came from who-the-hell-knows-where. And that's when we first noticed the smell of pot. [And when I noted that the idiots couldn't be bothered to flush the toilet. Yeah, I checked the men's room after they left. The toilet seat was up, too, but I guess that's immaterial to the story.]


Someone tried to break into the landlord's office the Monday after New Year's. The person breaking in was cognizant of the cameras and entered the building backwards, with his hoodie up. He didn't reckon on the third-floor camera, though, so his face was visible as he exited the elevator...before he ripped out the camera, that is.


Long story short: the landlord has rented offices on the second floor to a guy saying he owns an urban farms business. The landlord was suspicious enough that he never gave the new tenant a key to the building or a code to get in. He only told him when the building opens. At precisely the moment the building's door automatically opened that Monday after New Year's, that would-be thief entered the building. I wonder how he knew the hours of operation?


We've had more run-ins with the tenants. Their clients hang outside the building after-hours, waiting for one of the interviewers to come out so they can come in. As they wait, they smoke dope in the vestibule. It's clear they are selling pot and smoking it, too, in their offices. The smell wafts up to us.


The lawyers with offices on the second floor have apparently also complained to the landlord. The poor spa on the ground floor isn't likely to get much business with folks standing in front getting high. And we've got staff -- almost all women -- who feel absolutely intimidated when asked to let scruffy-looking dopers into our building.


God bless the urban farmer.




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