Napa locals raise funds to get possessions out of quake-damaged storage

"We're just left out here. Everybody cares about the downtown," renter Barbara Brazell Garcia told KTVU outside Napa Self Storage in the south end of the city.

"Move on from the quake. We all want to move on," added Garcia. "And everybody else gets to move on, but we don't!"

The exterior walls of the two-story building show the stress of separated panels and building walls. The structure tilts dramatically.

Photos taken by the owner reveal a mangled and twisted interior. The building is in danger of collapse and too hazardous to enter to retrieve anything. The contents of 223 units have essentially been entombed for seven months.

"Furniture, some stained glass that I made, all of my yearbooks," said tenant Angie Johnson, teary-eyed as she recalled the items she has stored. "Letters from dear family members," her voice trailed off, as she leaned on the shoulder of another tenant she had met minutes before.

"It's not just junk," Johnson declared. "Just because I don't have room for it in my house, doesn't mean it's junk."

Dave Graves, who is on a tenant committee working toward a solution, has heard it before.

"My own mother's wedding dress is in there. My 'Sgt. Pepper' vinyl is in there," Graves mused. "You know, it's not like it's really valuable, but to me, it's really valuable."

No one can go into the building until it is shored up. That involves anchoring one side to a concrete wall, and building scaffolding inside to hold the walls up. Only then might possessions be carefully extracted.

"We're not in a rush, as a city, to demolish it." Napa Community Development Director Rick Tooker told KTVU. "But the cost of shoring it up temporarily so people can get their personal property is substantial."

That estimated cost is $170,000.

Renters have been told that if each of them pays the equivalent of ten-months rent into a "shoring-up" fund, their stuff won't be bulldozed. But 70 percent of the tenants would have to participate for the plan to work.

"We have a huge gap between what tenants can afford and are being asked to pay and their contributions" said tenant committee leader Jennefer Keller. "So there's a gap of $40,000 to $50,000."

For tenants, looking at what's at risk, the uncertainty is difficult.

"It's my early adult life and my childhood locked in there," admitted Angie Johnson, holding photographs of a teacup collection inherited from her late mother-in-law.

"We don't want to ask people to help us," said Barbara Garcia, "and why should they? But at the same time, I would help other people if I could."

It's taken months for the tenants to find each other and band together.

They would like the building owner, RMB Management, to contribute more than the $15,000 it has pledged.

As for insurance, those who have renters policies can't be paid yet because they can't prove the damage or the loss.

The tenants have set up a GoFundMe account under the name "NSSBuilding900" in the hopes of collecting the money they need to get their possessions back.