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Open letter to Berkeley mayor from concerned tenants displaced by fire

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NOVEMBER 22, 2011

An open letter to Mayor Tom Bates — from “homeless, hopeless, and helpless tenants” of the apartment building destroyed by a fire Friday — is circulating around the city of Berkeley. The letter claims that the owner of the building has long neglected the needs of the tenants and has made no attempt to communicate with the displaced tenants since the fire. Read the full text of the letter:

On Friday, November 18 a fire of unconfirmed origin started shortly before 9 p.m. on one of the upper floors of a 39-unit apartment complex located at 2441 Haste Street. After raging for several hours, fire fighters were finally able to control the blaze around 3:19 a.m. Dozens of tenants watched from below as their homes and belongs were consumed.

Although no one was initially thought to have been hurt in the fire, the building owner has reportedly been unable to produce a list of tenants, causing some to express concern that someone may have been left in the building. Tenants have also said that concerns over building safety were not properly addressed by the building owner in the past. The following is an open letter to the Mayor of Berkeley from the displaced tenants of 2441 Haste:

Open Letter to the Mayor of Berkeley Regarding 2441 Haste

From: Homeless, Hopeless, and Helpless tenants of 2441 Haste Street

The management/owner (Kenneth Ent) of 2441 Haste Street Building has not only been neglecting the upgrades of electric wiring, pluming, and other legal mandates, but has ignored its tenants. Cosmetic enhancements during the last 6 months are no cure for issues we experienced with flickering lights, faulty elevator operation, electrical shortages and much more.

Since the fire broke out, management/owner (Kenneth Ent) has not communicated with the tenants and none of the tenants have been able to communicate with the management/owner (Kenneth Ent).

We want to remind you that as a responsible authority of the city of Berkeley your office is responsible for the following.

1. As long as the Fire and Police Departments are not sure that all tenants are counted for the Fire Department must search the building to make sure nobody has been trapped in the building. Lack of rescue efforts make the City of Berkeley responsible for any death body and/or missing individual in this tragic disaster.

2. The city of Berkeley need to force the owner/management (Kenneth Ent) of 2441 Haste Street Building to set-up a temporary office for responding to tenants’ questions and immediate reimbursement for prorated rent. Considering the circumstances Mass Media is the only source to inform tenants of such a service.

3. The City of Berkeley should prevent demolishing of the building before a comprehensive investigation of the cause of the fire including interview with all tenants, review of past electric problems, fire, and related court cases. This is a very critical instrument for finding the facts which are not yet know.

4- The City of Berkeley should make sure that the owner of the building doesn’t walk away with insurance money in his bank account without taking care of his legal responsibilities to its tenants and making the City of Berkeley the host of a burned-out building.

Adelyn Baxter covers city government.

NOVEMBER 23, 2011