Berkeley City Council votes tonight on leasing University Avenue Cooperative Homes for $1 a year

by Lynda Carson

Berkeley – University Avenue Cooperative Homes (UACH) is to be leased to Resources for Community Development/UACH, LP, in a “ground lease” agreement with the City of Berkeley for only $1 (one dollar) a year for 55 years. The sweetheart deal will be voted on later this evening by the Berkeley City Council. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley.

The $1 a year ground lease agreement for 55 years includes 13 residential buildings located downtown in the heart of Berkeley that have a total of 47 units of occupied residential housing, plus one commercial space at 1450 University Ave. These are residential buildings with one, two and three bedroom apartments.

University-Avenue-Cooperative-Homes-Berkeley, Berkeley City Council votes tonight on leasing University Avenue Cooperative Homes for $1 a year, Local News & Views Item No.1 on the Consent Calendar for tonight’s City Council meeting, titled “Ground Lease: UACH, LP for 1450 University Avenue (‘University Avenue Cooperative Homes’),” is to be voted on as a second reading of Ordinance No. 7,310-N.S., an ordinance that allows the City of Berkeley to lease UACH to Resources for Community Development (RCD) for only a dollar a year for 55 years in a 67-year ground lease agreement. During the last 12 years of the 67-year ground lease agreement, RCD/UACH, LP, is required to pay fair market rent to the City of Berkeley.

UACH, LP, is an affiliate of Resources for Community Development (RCD), which is located at 2220 Oxford St. in Berkeley. The address for RCD and UACH, LP, are one and the same, and Daniel Sawislak, who is the executive director of RCD, is also listed with the California Secretary of State as the agent for service of process for UACH, LP. The incorporation papers for UACH, LP, were filed as recently as Aug. 5, 2013.

Resources for Community Development (RCD) is a so-called affordable housing developer that hired the John Stewart Co. to manage most or all of its housing projects located in Berkeley and the Bay Area. On its website, RCD claims that they provide housing to 4,000 low-income people and claim that they have developed over 1,900 rental housing units since 1984.

Residents at UACH are concerned they may be displaced

UACH was developed in 1981 as a limited equity housing cooperative. RCD gained control over UACH in 1999. Allegations of corruption and fraud have arisen at UACH since RCD took control.

Despite the fact that the low-income residents of UACH, who pay monthly carrying charges instead of rent every month, have repeatedly been told through the years that they can take pride in being part owners of the limited equity housing cooperative, the plan to convert the City owned property to a limited equity cooperative housing project was never completed, according to several residents of UACH.

Currently, RCD is planning to do a massive rehabilitation project at UACH that is estimated to cost $15,745,508, or around $325,980 per unit, and is pressuring the residents to sign a new lease agreement. Some of the residents are afraid of being displaced and made homeless by the massive nearly $16 million rehab project that is expected to begin around the end of 2013, after the 67 year ground lease agreement is signed with the City of Berkeley.

According to residents, a meeting was held in the community room of UACH on Aug. 13, where RCD exerted its power and control over the tenants while explaining the scope of the renovation plans. Around 40 UACH residents appeared at the meeting that included property manager Charles West of the John Stewart Co. and Alicia Klein of RCD. The meeting was controlled in such a way that it was difficult for the tenants to have their questions answered, and when David Richman of Auto Temp arose to talk about plans to relocate the tenants from their housing, he had nothing to tell them.

Roitissa Davis is a long-time resident of UACH who plans to be at tonight’s 7 p.m. council meeting. She says: “I think it’s unfair and unreasonable for RCD to ask any of the residents here to move even temporarily without an exit contract. RCD does not guarantee that the residents can move back into their apartments after the rehab project is finished, according to the new lease agreement that they want us to sign. The only guarantee that we are getting is that RCD wants us to move or be relocated somewhere else before the huge rehab project begins.”

The residents of UACH also say that Resources for Community Development has weakened the board of directors at UACH. According to the residents, RCD says the nine board members cannot operate as a board any longer, and RCD is currently in the process of dissolving the board.

Tonight’s Berkeley City Council meeting is located in the Council Chambers at 2134 Martin King Jr. Way at 7 p.m., and people are being urged to arrive half an hour early to sign a speaker card if they have anything to say about the $1 a year ground lease agreement that lasts for 55 years. See item No.1 on the Consent Calendar for tonight’s council meeting titled “Ground Lease: UACH, LP for 1450 University Avenue (‘University Avenue Cooperative Homes’) on the Berkeley City Council meeting agenda.

Lynda Carson may be reached at