Santa Rosa mulls enforcement action at apartment complex without hot water
Santa Rosa may force a large apartment complex to house tenants in a hotel after property managers offered up two vacant units for showers to make up for days without hot water, despite the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Code enforcement staff Monday and Tuesday investigated two separate water-related issues affecting residents of the 390-unit Annadel Apartments complex on Jennings Avenue in north Santa Rosa, according to Jesse Oswald, the city’s chief building official.
Not having running water, in the cold of December or in any month, flies in the face of California’s health and safety codes for habitable spaces.
“For something like this, we would want them to get it taken care of as immediately as possible,” Oswald said.
The problems affect at least two of the complex’s 21 three-story buildings, according to one tenant. Each of the buildings appear to have about 20 units. More specific details on the number of affected tenants were not available Tuesday from the city or the apartment managers.
Management told the city that they had been having trouble ordering the parts necessary to make repairs, leading to extended water outages, Oswald said. Their solution appears to have been to convert two unused units into shared shower facilities and have residents schedule times to bathe — a workable stopgap during normal times, but a potential health risk because of the coronavirus pandemic, Oswald said.
“In COVID times, those units have to be sanitized after every use, and that's what we're going to see — if that's happening or not,” Oswald said Tuesday afternoon. The city could act to remedy issues at the complex as soon as Wednesday, he said.
One resident, Laura Palmer, told The Press Democrat her hot water had been out since Dec. 21 and wasn’t expected to be restored until New Year’s Day. She considered showering at the shared unit at first but found the lights on and a used towel — a sign, she said, of quick turnarounds for tenants without adequate time for the cleaning and ventilation needed to curb COVID-19.
“I just feel like that is potentially dangerous for our community, because if you do have a respiratory illness in our community, the potential for that to spread in a densely populated area is really high,” Palmer said. “I just thought it was unbelievable that there wasn't reasonable accommodations for tenants.”
Representatives for the Annadel complex and FPI Management, the complex’s Folsom-based property manager, did not respond to multiple messages left Tuesday afternoon.
Complaints about periodic water problems at the complex, one of Santa Rosa’s newer and larger apartment projects, date back to June, according to Oswald’s records.
The Annadel Apartments were built in two phases and opened in 2015 and 2018 as a market-rate complex, but that changed upon its purchase in 2019 by the California Community Housing Agency, an unusual government entity staffed by Bay Area consultants and formed by the Kings County Board of Supervisors in the San Joaquin Valley.
The new ownership brought in FPI Management and imposed restrictions so that new tenants would be low to moderate-income renters while allowing existing tenants to remain. Bond documents drawn up ahead of the sale indicate that typical presale rents ranged from $2,150 for a one-bedroom unit to $3,250 for a three-bedroom apartment at the Annadel.
Palmer, a care coordinator for a local health care organization who moved to the Annadel with her husband in August 2019, said she was aware of hot water outages in two of the buildings, including hers. While she and her husband were able to rent hotel rooms to shower, Palmer expressed concern that less well-off tenants would unfairly be forced to confront a health risk for lack of a better option.
“Some of those people may not be well resourced,” Palmer said, “and that's who I'm worried about.”
You can reach Staff Writer Will Schmitt at 707-521-5207 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @wsreports.