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Activists pressing demands to help Hotel Petaluma tenants

  • Hotel Petaluma (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Low-income tenants facing eviction from Hotel Petaluma have turned to Occupy activists to press their demands for assistance.

The former single-room occupancy residence changed hands in October after the previous owner lost the 1923 building to his lender. The new owner, Terry Andrews of Marin County, initially said he planned only to renovate the building.

But last month, he decided to return the Petaluma to its roots as a traditional hotel, issuing eviction notices to the 104 tenants.

Although not officially low-income housing, the hotel has traditionally housed tenants of lesser means. The small rooms, which have no kitchens, have rented from $200 to $795 a month. Many share bathrooms.

Some tenants lived there short term, while others stayed for years. With little management oversight, the hotel gained a reputation for having a dodgy clientele.

An Occupy Santa Rosa offshoot called Sonoma County Solidarity Network delivered to Andrews last week a "list of demands" that seeks relocation funds, the guaranteed return of rental deposits and the option for tenants to stay at the hotel at their current rent.

The activists are planning to picket in front of the hotel Wednesday at noon.

Andrews said he is complying with all laws in asking the tenants to leave. He said his staff is issuing the return of most deposits the same day the tenants move out, earlier than the law requires.

About 15 or 20 tenants are represented by the Solidarity Network, group spokesman Carl Patrick said.

He didn't dispute Andrews' assertion that he is acting lawfully. But he said Andrews should do more.

"He's upending people's lives and he doesn't have to," Patrick said. "He's doing it to gentrify downtown Petaluma and to try to make a killing off this building that has been people's homes forever. It's the responsible thing to do."

Patrick said if Andrews doesn't pony up with financial assistance, "he's going to be single-handedly responsible for worsening poverty. . . . It's the least he could do as a wealthy man, to provide some kind of assistance. It would be irresponsible not do that."

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