Following the recent approval of a big expansion of the Westwood Garden Apartments in Arcata – which will add 11 new buildings with 102 units to the property, among other changes – several tenants received eviction notices on Wednesday, something that was not discussed as a part of the project plans.
Raelina Krikston, a longtime resident of the Westwood Garden Apartments and a recent Arcata City Council candidate, brought the issue to the attention of the Arcata City Council during the Wednesday night council meeting.
“Today I come to you as a tenant who has just been served an eviction … a no-fault eviction,” Krikston said to the council toward the beginning of the meeting. “So, in 60 days I’m looking at being homeless, as well as all three of my adjacent neighbors.”
The eviction notice, issued by property owner Steve Strombeck on Wednesday, Feb. 1, states that the tenants have 60 days from the issued date to vacate the premises and that failure to do so will result in legal action. The notice states that the reason for the “no-fault eviction” is because “the owner intends to substantially remodel the residential property.”
You can view a copy of the eviction notice here.
Krikston told the Outpost that the notice was only sent to her unit – occupied by herself and her partner, James Taylor – and the other three units on her floor, two of which are occupied by families with young children. The apartment complex currently holds three two-story buildings, with a total of 60 units. It’s unclear what the remodel will entail and why only the tenants on the bottom floor of one building are being evicted. The Outpost reached out to Strombeck but has not yet received a response.
The eviction is completely legal, as a “substantial remodel” is considered a valid reason for a no-fault eviction under Cal. Civic Code 1946.2. Also, most building remodels only require a building permit from the City and do not necessarily have to be approved by the Planning Commission. But the eviction did come as a shock to the tenants, who did not think that the planned expansion project would force anyone to leave their home.
Krikston told the Outpost that she thought this was “funny timing,” considering that Krikston and Taylor have publicly voiced their opposition to the expansion project multiple times and were among a group of residents who filed an appeal against the project. The expansion project was brought before the Arcata Planning Commission by Strombeck Properties and its hired consulting firm LACO Associates last year and was immediately met with concern from some residents of the apartments. Krikston and other tenants had many issues with the proposed plans, particularly the layout of the new buildings, which they said were too close to each other and to the existing buildings and would cause sunlight obstruction and issues with privacy.
After the Planning Commission requested several changes to the design – including reducing the number of new buildings by one, retaining more open space on the property and cutting down less trees – the commission eventually approved the project. Shortly after, Krikston filed an appeal of the project. During a meeting on Jan. 4, the Arcata City Council denied the appeal and approved the housing expansion project. The vote was 4-0, with Councilmember Kimberley White recusing herself, and the council requested that Strombeck Properties and its consulting firm add bike lockers to the site and work with residents to establish a space for a community garden.
During the council meeting on Wednesday Krikston and Taylor urged the council to consider adopting more protections for local tenants. Mayor Sarah Schaefer said she agreed that this is a pressing issue and requested that city staff place a discussion about tenant protections on a future agenda.
“With the Gateway looming on the horizon and more and more opportunities for landlords to increase their holdings, I’d like you to really take a look at what you can do to help people like myself in the future,” Krikston said to the council.
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