Tom Turman has been living on 9th Street in West Berkeley for well over 30 years and has loved everything about the neighborhood except one thing — the house next door.
For the past three decades, the residents of 1722 9th Street have allegedly subjected Turman to verbal insults, screaming and shouting early in the morning and exposure to what he believes might have been public drug transactions.
Turman said that he and his wife have even thought of selling their house and moving, but “who would want to live near a public nuisance and drug house?”
After years of hearing complaints from Turman and other neighbors, the Berkeley City Council will conduct a public hearing on May 15 to decide how to deal with the problematic residence, which has been owned by Roberto Alcala for over 50 years, and whose children and grandchildren currently reside in the house.
The city’s Zoning Adjustments Board deemed the house a public nuisance in February, which prompted the council to take action. The board recommends that the council evict the residents of 1722 9th Street if the council finds the household in violation of housing use permits and being a public nuisance, according to the recommendation for the hearing.
However, Turman said the council will probably give the Alcala family another chance to get proper permits for 30 years worth of violations and to stop being a nuisance to the neighborhood before the council enforces eviction.
“Although it’s a thing that is creeping ahead toward some solution, I don’t see this as a solution that has teeth to it, and the Alcalas see that as well,” Turman said.
According to the recommendation, the housing violations brought against the household include an illegally constructed kitchen in an accessory unit, converting an attic to a living quarter and extending the property both without a permit.
The board also deemed the household a public nuisance because the household has accumulated multiple counts of disturbing the peace, illegal drug activity, drinking in public, excessive noise, harassment of passers-by, vandalism, littering, noxious fumes and police detentions and arrests connected with the location, according to the recommendation.
The Alcala household was contacted repeatedly, but no residents could be reached for comment as of press time.
In a statement filed with the board, Alcala said he understands his children and grandchildren have been problematic, but he feels “overwhelmed” and needs help to deal with them.
Alcala said he wanted the board to either force his family to seek medical help or evict problematic family members, according to the statement.
For more than 10 years, multiple neighbors, who chose to remain anonymous to avoid retribution, have reported stolen items believed to be connected with the Alcalas and other detrimental interactions with the household, according to statements filed with the board.
One neighbor wrote that because of the Alcalas, she fears for her life, the life of her visitors and the safety of her own home.
Since 2009, the residence has received multiple calls for service from the Berkeley Police Department, including three calls for fireworks, seven calls for screaming and yelling, four calls for loud music, six calls for fighting, one call for drinking alcohol in public, one call for using illegal substances in public, and eight for illegal parking and working on cars in sidewalk or backyard, according to the recommendation.
A police report filed last August summarized that 1722 9th Street “has been the focus of past and present BPD resources,” and Berkeley Police Department Officer Cesar Melero said the household is also likely related to many crimes in the area.
“We’ve been working with the property owner to provide him with advice and assistance to best deal with the problems,” Melero said. “To this date, he really hasn’t followed through with any promises, and that has been the major issues regarding that location.”
Jim Smith, a member of the Berkeley Property Owners Association Board of Directors, said notoriously problematic households detract from the best of buyers and tenants while attracting more dysfunctional ones to the neighborhood.
Smith said the only remedy that works typically is to force the problem out.
“The more you can eliminate problematic households in the city of Berkeley, the more you free up your budget in terms of police and the other emergency services,” Smith said. “These problematic households … are using up police manpower and negatively impact the city budget.”
Following the public hearing, the council is scheduled to adopt a resolution by May 29 to distinguish if and how Alcala will receive help to deal with his family members who reside in the property.
According to Turman, Alcala seems like he wants to work with the city, but his children do not want to cooperate.
“I’d like them to be civilized,” Turman said. “It’s possible for them to see the light (and) stop doing the drugs.”
Jonathan Tam covers crime.