Residents of the Hotel Petaluma and their advocates Monday sought help from the City Council in their campaign against the hotel owner, who is converting the residential hotel back into traditional overnight lodging.
Terry Andrews of Marin County purchased the single-room occupancy residence last year after the previous owner lost the 1923 building to the bank. Andrews said he initially planned only to renovate the building, but later decided to return the hotel to its roots as a traditional hotel, and he issued eviction notices to the 100 or so tenants.
The requests for help were made during the public appearances section of the council meeting and thus were not part of the council agenda for review or decision-making.
Although not subsidized low-income housing, the hotel traditionally has housed tenants of lesser means. Rents were well below market, partially because the rooms don't have kitchens and many don't have bathrooms.
About 20 tenants or former tenants are working with the Sonoma County Solidarity Network, an offshoot of the Occupy Santa Rosa advocacy group, to protest changes.
They have picketed in front of the building and issued a list of "demands" to Andrews that includes up to $1,000 in relocation assistance for each tenant, return of all rental deposits and allowing tenants to stay if they wish.
Activist Carl Patrick said the group wants Andrews to devote 15 percent of the rooms to affordable housing rates. He said the group would escalate their protests with civil disobedience if their demands aren't met.
Most of the tenants have moved out, some with help from social services organizations.
Andrews has said he is complying with all laws and has allowed a few tenants to stay under new terms. The hotel is being marketed as overnight accommodations.
Council members, while expressing sympathy, said the city is limited in its role.
"Although it's filled a niche of affordable housing in the community, there's nothing that requires it to be affordable housing and there's no city money in Hotel Petaluma," Mayor David Glass said. "So there's no leverage the city has other than to make a request that the new property owner work with these people as best he can."
The Petaluma People Services Center has worked to relocate several tenants and is continuing to offer support, Executive Director Elece Hempel said.
You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or Lori.firstname.lastname@example.org.