I caught up with the neighbor lady Monday. It was hot, like only the Valley can be, when I walked to the corner and took a look at the house illegally converted into apartments.
There was a guy who didn’t look all that healthy trying to get his car started in the driveway and sign in front: For Rent, Westside Rentals. I wrote down the phone number.
As I talked with my neighbor I looked around her house. It was filled with memories and memorabilia of the 50 years she and husband had lived there. A good life, the house they raised their children in and sometimes look after their grandchildren in now. It was home, she said, and I knew what she meant.
I hadn’t had a home, a real home, since I was 18 until I moved into Tract 17111 as it’s identified in government documents. For my wife and I and our son, our little bungalow was home, too, a happy home. It’s what the Valley is all about, middle-class tracts like ours where neighbors know each other and look after each other, where people from all over the world, people of every race and religion live quietly and unpretentiously, in harmony.
And someone was trying to destroy that, infecting a deadly virus, a broken window, into our little piece of paradise. It’s a crime these things are happening.
That’s certainly how my neighbor feels about this. She was calm but clear as she described her frustration over months to get this attack on our way of life stopped by the city, by Councilman Dennis Zine’s office, by somebody. But to the city it was nothing but a minor annoyance, just a routine “unapproved construction” problem — no an attack on the quality of our lives, our neighborhood.
She and some other neighbors got the runaround from Zine’s office and the bureaucrats for weeks as they tried to figure out how to get somebody to do something.
Finally, they drew up a petition that says in part:: “This community and others like it will not exist if investor-buyers succeed in violating zoning laws to create multiple family dwellings in single family dweIling zones and utilize schemes such as deliberate re-sales to associates, friends, and/or family, in order to delay government action.”
I was hooked. Foul play was alleged. I loved the idea of playing a journalistic Columbo right in my own backyard but as we talked I learned my neighbor already had the part of Mrs. Columbo down pat.
She’s been doing a lot of sleuthing for a long time. She told me about
how the original owners bought the house when it was built in 1958 and
become friends and neighbors, how it was sold after the earthquake in
Property records show Charles R. Lombard and Edith
Moslares Lombard bought it in 2001, listing the price at $285,000. They
refinanced a couple of times so that by the end of 2003 there was a
loan on it for $427,500. It was during that time it became a
board-and-care facility, licensed and legal. The cop next door made
sure of that.
We lived with it, the price of living in our quiet
village in a big city. Then, in 2006, Maria Teresa Teves bought the
house for the whopping price of $750,000, partly financed by Charles
Lombard, according to the records.
I hear the story of what
happened told in a matter of fact way by my neighbor. She says some of
the residents slept in tiny cubicles and extra entrance doors with
ramps were installed. Concern was growing, she says, and then the banks
foreclosed last year. The house was getting rundown and a citation was
issued because the pool had become a mosquito-laden swamp. The Fire
Department came out to have a look. Complaints were filed with city
Six months ago the house was acquired for $500,000
by Nady Mahdavi. Workmen began showing up to fix it up, to build
partitions. Then, stoves and refrigerators. Neighbors talked to the
workmen and looked around. The single family home was becoming
apartments, three of them.
By March, neighbors’ complaints to
the city Building and Safety Department led to a citation for carrying
out construction without a permit, something that happens quite often
and is minor, fixable simply by pulling the permits. Instead, as first
notice became second notice, but before non-compliance becomes a real
problem, the house got sold again.
The price: $700,000 — a
paper profit of 40 percent in five months, a profit that comes even as
my house down the street is worth 25 percent less than a year ago. The
buyer: Claudia Perez.
According to the petition circulating in
Tract 17111, Westside Rentals listed the single family home as an
apartment house. It’s 2,047 square feet and the listing is for two
three-bedroom units, one with one bath, the other with two, and a
A lot of leads, a lot of mystery. Who are
these buyers and sellers? How come the city isn’t all over this case?
What the hell is going on here? Who is killing my neighborhood?
To be continued, click Whodunit for previous chapter