Flooded out Oakland tenants left in housing limbo for months
OAKLAND, Calif. - For three months, Jaleesa Williams has lived out of a hotel room in Oakland with her 3-year-old twin boys after a flood destroyed the electrical system at their apartment building, displacing 300 people.
Wednesday’s heavy rain is reminiscent of disaster day at Coliseum Connections Apartments in East Oakland, which still sits uninhabitable and in need of major repairs.
"It smells, it’s dark, it’s cold, there’s mold growing in certain areas," Williams said. "It just feels like almost a scene out of a movie."
The damage was caused following the New Year’s Eve storm that drenched the Bay Area. The parking garage flooded, causing storm drains to back up and subsequently took out the electrical system.
The building located along 71st Ave. near the Coliseum BART station opened in 2019, has 110 units with affordable and market-rate apartments. The city of Oakland put forth $12 million in support of the project. State and county money was also used.
But repairs could now take another two months so at least 96 households are still in East Bay hotels, Oakland city leaders said.
The city said it has contracted with a re-location services company to provide benefits to displaced tenants to wait for their old apartments at a hotel or assist in finding alternative permanent housing.
"It’s really unfathomable that we’re here and there are no better options for us," said Williams. "I’m at my breaking point mentally."
Her kids were dressed alike Wednesday and appeared both curious and happy, despite Williams expressing disappointment they couldn’t have their own space to run and play. They’re also not able to sleep in their Mickey Mouse beds, she said.
While Williams’ apartment doesn’t have any major water damage, she did lose her car in the garage flood. Roughly a dozen others were totaled. Williams said her insurance wouldn’t cover the cost and she’s on the hook for $16,000.
"It’s impacted my credit score so I can’t even go and rent other places and so I’m just feeling like I’m at rock bottom and not knowing what to do," she said.
She’s not alone.
Several tenants tell KTVU they’ve been stuck in hotel rooms with no guarantees they’ll be able to move back to Coliseum Connections or find alternative permanent housing.
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The owner and developer, UrbanCore Development, LLC said the building does have property insurance but not flood insurance since it is not in a flood plain.
"Our owner group and the city have been and are still paying for the temporary hotel housing for the tenants," UrbanCore President and CEO Michael Johnson said in an emailed statement. "The repair work has begun and we are targeting completion of the work so that the tenants are able to move back in the building by the end of May."
It’s estimated roughly $2 million is needed to repair the building’s electrical system, elevator, fire alarms, boiler and address water cleanup. The city is contributing $300,000 and Alameda County has set aside $950,000 from its bond fund. Both are hoping to be reimbursed through a FEMA disaster declaration loan, according to city documents.
But tenants like Williams have no desire to return to Coliseum Connections. She worries she won’t qualify for alternative permanent housing and has lost faith and trust that she will get relocation benefits in the months ahead.
"That’s my biggest fear that I’ll be sleeping in my car with my 3-year-old twin boys and not having an end date in sight to when we will be able to be housed again," Williams said.
Brooks Jarosz is a reporter for KTVU. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Facebook and Twitter @BrooksKTVU