OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) -- In the face of a lawsuit and increasing pressure from the City of Oakland, the owner of the Empyrean Towers agreed to a deal that could provide $500,000 for a long list of overdue repairs at the troubled residential hotel.
The owner, Alice Tse, also agreed to give up control of the property to a court-appointed receiver while repairs are made. 2 Investigates first exposed a number of health and safety concerns at the seven story downtown hotel in February 2015.
"If there's something wrong, we've always been present and willing to do whatever's necessary," said Tse's attorney, Steve Whitworth. He did not allow his client to answer any questions posed to directly to her by KTVU after Tuesday's hearing.
The Oakland City Attorney's Office sued the Empyrean Towers and Tse in April, accusing management of illegal evictions, failing to make repairs and for creating a public nuisance. Inspectors documented dozens of problems including broken windows, faulty plumbing, and an elevator that was frequently out of service.
In an Alameda County courtroom on Tuesday, both sides told a judge they reached a deal where Tse agreed to not oppose an earlier decision to place the property into receivership. Mark Adams of the California Receivership Group announced that Tse was also securing special financing to pay for comprehensive repairs.
"This is essentially what we wanted in the beginning. It's unfortunate we had to push it this far," said Supervising Deputy City Attorney, Richard Illgen. "We expect property owners to act responsibly toward their buildings and toward their tenants and it's unfortunate that this particular property owner had not done so."
After the hearing, several tenants of the Empyrean Towers expressed relief that permanent repairs might finally be made.
"We've been fighting and we are actually happy that change has come," said Kiaora Henson.
Adams told the court the hotel could be brought up to code and fully rehabilitated within six months.
While the judge commended all sides for working together on a deal, Tse's attorney still seemed to suggest tenants were to blame for some of the problems at the Empyrean Towers. Steve Whitworth said tenants have withheld $13,000 in rent during the ongoing dispute over habitability issues.
"I don't know if they have financial motivation to create habitability issues where habitability issues don't exist," said Whitworth.
Tenants who attended the hearing disagreed.
"If anybody's fixing up the place, it's us. Not them," said Logan Mendez.