OAKLAND, CA – On Monday, the Oakland City Attorney sued the absentee owners of the West Grand Hotel, a single room occupancy rental property notorious for drug activity and unsafe, inhumane living conditions.
For years, the West Grand Hotel at 641 West Grand Avenue has been a nuisance to the neighborhood and a danger to the dozens of people who live there. The property has long been a center of drug activity, including sales, storage and distribution of cocaine and heroin. Since April 2013, Oakland police have arrested at least 23 people for drug sales and other drug crimes connected to the property, and officers have recovered firearms and large amounts of drugs packaged for sale inside the building.
City inspectors also have repeatedly documented dangerous building and fire code violations, including a complete lack of fire extinguishers or alarms, exposed and unsafe wiring, broken windows, infestations of mold and cockroaches, overflowing dumpsters, nonworking toilets and showers, cooking appliances used in the hallways and extremely unsanitary conditions unfit for human habitation.
“The owners of the West Grand Hotel are responsible for the appalling conditions in the building, and for allowing their property to become a public nuisance in the neighborhood,” City Attorney Barbara J. Parker said.
“Every tenant in our City has a right to safe and humane living conditions,” Parker said. “We have many responsible landlords in Oakland. Unfortunately, the owners of the West Grand Hotel treat their tenants as nothing more than ATM machines while their buildings literally fall apart.”
The lawsuit (Alameda County Superior Court Case No. RG14735473) prosecuted by the Neighborhood Law Corps unit in the City Attorney’s Office asks the court to declare the West Grand Hotel a public nuisance and shut it down for a one-year period. The lawsuit seeks damages for years of unpaid Rent Program service fees and substantial civil penalties and damages from the owners. In addition, the lawsuit asks the court to appoint a receiver to take control of the property, relocate the tenants and make all necessary repairs, with the owners responsible for all costs. The lawsuit also asks the court to order the owners to live at the West Grand Hotel until the nuisance is abated.
The West Grand Hotel is owned by a company called Oakland JMO, LLC, which is not licensed to do business in California. The LLC was incorporated in Georgia in late May 2012, just two weeks before the company bought the West Grand property. Rent checks are sent to the address of a Beverly Hills attorney who acts as an agent for the company, and who is named as a defendant in the City’s lawsuit.