A March Protesting Rent Increases
By Henrietta J. Burroughs
East Palo Alto Today
Posted: August 3, 2008
It was an afternoon that Youth United for Community Action (YUCA) and its supporters dedicated to protesting the rent increases that Page Mill Properties had passed on to its tenants. The Friday, August 1 protest started at the West Park Apartments at 5 Newell Court in East Palo Alto and ended at Page Mill Properties’ headquarters at 480 Cowper Street in Palo Alto.
The protesters chanted such slogans as “The rent you need to lower it, because I can’t afford it,” as they stood in front of the West Park Apartments holding picket signs. The apartment complex is just one of Page Mill Properties' rental buildings. The firm, which has 1,700 units, is now the largest holder of apartments in East Palo Alto. Page Mill Properties announced another round of rent increases this past June and its representatives argue that the rent increases are justified to cover the upgrades and general improvements that are being made to its apartment complexes.
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Protesters at the West Park Apartments in East Palo Alto.
Drivers of cars, pulling into the West Park Apartments parking lot, honked their horns in support of the protest. The protesters promised to organize an action every month until Page Mill Properties agrees to their demands, which include the requirement that the firm roll back its rent increases and abide by the East Palo Alto Rent Board ordinance that sets annual rent increases at 3.2 percent per year.
Many of Page Mill Properties’ tenants, including some of the protesters, said that they had received rent increases that were far beyond the 3.2 percent requirement. Several of the protesters even said that they lived in the West Park apartment complex with their families and had received exorbitant rent increases.
Etivise Latu said that the conditions in the apartment complex were deplorable. She shouted above the group that the building was infested with roaches and had contaminated water.
After protesing in front of the building for about an hour, the group marched several blocks to University Avenue. Once there, they proceeded down University Avenue to Page Mill Properties’ Palo Alto office, where they met the Raging Grannies, a female group of seniors, who were already in front of the building chanting.
East Palo Alto resident Arnold Hart tried to enter the building to present Page Mill Properties’ management with 500 petitions, which demanded that the rent increases be rescinded. But the building was locked and no one came to let any of the assembled group in. Hart is a member of the Fair Rents Now Coalition, a group that consists of East Palo Alto tenants, YUCA and other organizations and individuals supporting the rights of East Palo Alto’s renters.
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Dr. Eric Oberle and Arnold Hart standing in front of the Page Mill Properties' office in Palo Alto.
“You cannot hide from the law,” Hart shouted. “We passed a law that forbids these kind of increases. We’re here to tell you this cannot go on. Page Mill is in violation of the law. Justice for tenants is what we want now,” he said.
Dr. Eric Oberle, who is a tenant in one of Page Mill Properties’ apartments, joined Hart in the building’s doorway. Oberle had 47 letters to present to the Page Mill Properties’ management. The letters were gathered during a community petition drive, which was held on July 26 to get documentation to show that the rent increases were illegal. Both Hart and Oberle seemed indignant that the doors to the building were locked. More letters were gathered on August 2, the second day of the rent petition drive.
Before the protest ended, Hart said, 'I think we should be here every Friday giving them petitions and keeping this situation in the forefront." The group’s members agreed that they would come back.