Boxes are stacked along the walls in Beatriz Ortiz’s apartment, filled with clothes, toys and other household items.
The family, which includes the 30-year-old Beatriz, her husband and three sons, is ready to move.
But there’s only one problem: They have nowhere to go.
The Ortizes are one of more than 200 families at the Greenbriar Apartments, located on Maria Drive and Park Lane, who have been forced to relocate as the complex prepares for a major renovation after being bought by a new owner this January.
History of Neglect
The apartments, now known as Addison Ranch, have a long history of neglect, including broken doors and windows, rodents and backed up sewage, first exposed by Petaluma Patch last year.
But the planned cleanup has angered and frustrated many residents, who say they don’t understand why the improvements can’t be done in sections (since many units are already empty). And, they say, they won’t be able to find comparable prices anywhere in town.
“I’ve been looking for a house for two months and can’t find anything,” says Ortiz, who begins and ends each day sifting through listings on Craigslist. “Every place wants you to make at least three times the rent, but when we try to pull together with another family, they say we are too many people.”
She has applied to four houses and has been rejected by each one.
For years Greenbriar residents lived with ripped carpets, holes in their walls and windows that didn’t properly shut. That’s because the property was run by Bijan Madjlessi, a Marin County real estate developer who many say neglected the apartments, which be broke up into dozens of separate companies and used to take out $24 million in loans.
He is currently being investigated for fraud and has been blamed for the collapse of Sonoma Valley Bank, which lent him the money.
New Look Means Higher Prices
The new owner, First Pointe Management, based in Carlsbad, Calif., has big plans for the complex, including equipping each unit with a new kitchen with stainless steel appliances, hardwood floors, an air conditioner and a washer and dryer.
But that means that prices will now increase by about $300, to $1550 for a 2-bedroom apartment, making them out of reach for many families now living here.
“So many people are competing for an apartment, meanwhile there are many units here that are already vacant,” said Oliva Carreno, another resident. “I don’t understand why they can’t remodel one section at a time and let people stay in the vacant ones?”
Darla Black, a property manager at the complex, said the renovations will begin this month and continue over the next year and a half. Families will be able to return three months after moving out, if they can pass a credit and reference check, which she admits will be much more stringent than in the past. An additional 84 units—mostly two and three bedrooms— will also be built.
But for now, residents have no choice but to find a new place to live in a tight rental market made even more competitive by people who lost their homes in the foreclosure crisis.
“It’s great that the new owners want to clean up, but where does that leave us?” says Carreno, who shares her apartment with her husband and two daughters.
While Carreno has been able to negotiate with the manager to let her stay a bit longer, Ortiz has just ten days before she has to move out. Her husband has already started moving some boxes into a storage unit…just in case the family has to stay with friends until they find a new place to call home.
*Both Ortiz and Carreno declined to be photographed.
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