It has been a year now since DE LLC purchased Nob Hill Tower and turned over management to CitiApartments, with ties to the Lembi family, and began the process of reducing services. Some residents may have wondered for awhile what DE LLC et al were up to and given them the benefit of doubt. No longer. Let's review the year:
It began with the firing of the long-time, service-oriented doormen at Nob Hill Tower. They were union guys and CitiApartments, with ties to Lembi, could save money by replacing them with "security" guards. Unfortunately, some of those guards barely speak English, don't look up when people enter the building, and leave garage doors open so that anyone can drive in.
Then an office staff of three full-time employees was reduced to zero. And a full-time maintenance person and a full-time janitor were reduced to part-time. Did greater efficiency made up the difference in service quality? Hardly.
Cleaning of the building virtually stopped. Maintenance became minimal.
As for recycling, it became a thing of the past. Residents discovered the recyclables they placed in special bins on each floor of the building went straight into the dumpster below. When complaints were made about this, management had recyclables put in black plastic trash bags and then placed in the dumpster. Residents were not fooled, of course. How dumb does CitiApartments, with ties to Lembi, think residents are? (All of this is provable with digitally time-stamped photographs of the dumpster.)
Then of course there was the noise nuisance. When residents moved out of the building, the hammering and sawing began: carpeted floors were replaced by hardwood floors. The banging went on for one to three weeks each time someone moved out. Complaints were of course ignored. So much for "quiet enjoyment," the legal term for plain old peace and quiet. "We reserve the right to make improvements ..." stated CitiApartments representative Jeff Jurow. What about the obligation to make repairs? Higher rent would of course appear to be the motive for hardwood floors.
There has also been what appears to be an attempt at intimidation. A Lembi representative, Andrew Hawkins, was assigned to make appointments with residents and ask a lot of questions, most of which "had nothing to do with the questions," as one older woman put it. "He seemed to be trying to figure out who the trouble makers were," she said with a cackle. Initially, it appeared that CitiApartments, with ties to Lembi, had the flawed notion that if they could just get folks to move out they could jack the rent and make a fortune. What CitiApartments, with ties to Lembi, found, however, was that most people did not budge. The more CitiApartments, with ties to Lembi, pushed, the more folks pushed back.
There were other little matters of course. Elevator permits were allowed to expire and were only renewed when residents complained. (This is provable with time-stamped digital photos of the expired permits.)
Ditto testing of the fire alarms, with this exception: CitiApartments, with ties to Lembi, has still not performed required testing of the fire alarms.
There was also the matter of the "new contract". CitiApartments, with ties to Lembi, sent residents a new contract, despite the fact that by law the old contract is The Contract and can't be legally superceded by a new one. The new contract had residents responsible, among other things, for mold and lead problems in the building. CitiApartments, with ties to Lembi, has had problems with lead and mold in their other building and been cited by the city for it. Also they tried to tack on $300 per month for parking. None of this flew well with residents. San Francisco is a city of lawyers, most of them located right down the hill from Nob Hill Tower. CitiAparments, with ties to Lembi, should know that. They got backed off by legal guns downtown. CitiApartments, with ties to Lembi, are well known by the legal profession downtown. "What does Twinkle Toes think he is doing," one lawyer gleamed ready for battle.
There was also the matter of a new breed of residents in the building: the dog population grew and grew and grew. And we are not talking small dogs. It is no secret in the apartment management business that there is money to be made by renting to people with a "pet problem." Rents can be higher; ditto deposits. It is unlikely that CitiApartments, with ties to Lembi, has a fondness for dogs and their owners. Money is the likely motive for his "kindness." Unfortunately residents without pets pay the price in the loss again of "quiet enjoyment." Which is to say, on a personal level, I now live next door to two large barking dogs that upon occasion even bark to other dogs in the building. Country living is nice in the country; not in San Francisco in an apartment.
But if there is one thing that really got folks upset it was the flooding of the lower six floors of the building. It was a kind of convergence of all problems into one: The cause of the flooding: not repairing known problems with the pipes. (Note that the building has defective cast-iron pipes from Korea that need to be replaced. Due to deterioration they periodically burst and flood the building. Before DE LLC purchased the building, about one half of the defective pipes had been replaced. The repair process stopped when DE LLC purchased the building.) That the flooding went on for hours, until water started flowing into the lobby and a security guard thought that things were, well, not quite right, was due to the reduction in the staff. Cleanup (pumping equipment ...) and and repair (hammering ...) went on for weeks, of course. Once again the building became a construction zone. However residents who had personal property damaged were told that it was their problem. Don't expect compensation from CitiApartments, with ties to Lembi. This was all just before the holidays.
This is not the first time the building has been flooded. I experienced this once on a personal level when I was working out in the gym: Water came gushing out of a light fixture in the ceiling straight onto my head. And the threat of future floods still exists unless the job of replacing defective pipes is completed.
Maybe some companies and people should not be allowed to own property. Maybe there should be a screening process when it comes to purchasing rental properties. Because as things now stand, tenants have no choice in the matter. If a predatory landlord comes along and sees a nice piece of property and decides he can cut services and increase revenues, the tenant is the victim. The tenant, with limited ability to defend himself or herself, is gypped.
"Limited Liability" is an interesting concept when it comes to avoiding responsibility. We will see how far DE LLC, CityApartments, with ties to Lembi, can take it.