Thursday, February 01, 2007


Because the tenants were not supportive, and the permit process felt arduous, by the time I had a workable team of a good architect, a good contractor, an empty apartment and possible funding, I was at a tipping point. I had had the building for over 12 years. I was ready to finally make the dream of wheelchair accessible housing in a beautiful building come true when I got a hostile letter signed by ALL the tenants accusing me of neglecting the building! This was evidently done on the advice of an attorney who must have been an amateur to allow the language they used - or maybe they didn't show the lawyer the draft they sent me.

One of the tenants later asked if his friends could move into the empty unit. "Why, if you think I don't take care of it?" I asked. "Because," he said, "It's the best building in Berkeley." Both he and his roommate had signed the letter of complaint; they stated 2 problems: a rusty battery in the smoke alarm (which is the tenant's responsibility anyway) and a loose hinge on a kitchen cabinet. We kept the available unit vacant until the sale of the building.

I also learned that the manager (whom I had been subsidizing since illness prevented her from working as she had before) had contributed to cheating me out of $17,000. This was such a betrayal I had no further interest in working with her. So when a fireman told me "You need to chill out" after I reported candles burning after a tenant had left the building, that was the final straw. I quit. A fire department that doesn't back me up with a safety issue, the hate mail from the tenants, the missing thousands of dollars and the protracted wait for the permit, fugetaboutit.

The permit board called the architect after I'd moved the project to another city. The permit board told him, "Ok! She's got the permit for the wheelchair ramp!" He answered, "She sold that building six months ago." The person from the city said, "Oh, no! She was the only one voluntarily doing this!"

Hopefully I'm still doing it. But not in Berkeley. Let's hope someone who can tolerate what they have to go through to create wheelchair accessible housing gets it done.

I have not given up entirely however; I continue working with the architect and a consulting architect on a building in a different city. Because we've been at it for over a year and it's not yet complete, I'll postpone further information at this time.

It still seems like a good idea: creating wheelchair accessible housing. I've used up my savings and retirement accounts and we're not yet finished. I told my friend Andree I was ready to give up. From her wheelchair, she said "Don't."

If I ever do give up, I hope someone else decides to create accessible housing so that our friends in wheelchairs have options other than facilities and hospitals. If you care about this situation, keep it alive.


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