Proactive Oakland landlord tackles lead hazards through grant

WEST OAKLAND, Ca. -- Every good deed always revolved around children.

“I love my students,” said Marilyn Reynolds.

As she flipped through her collection of class photos, memories of Marilyn Reynolds’ 25 years teaching preschool brought out her brightest smile, even remembering students by name and celebrating their success.

“She graduated with a degree in chemistry. I’m so proud of her,” she said.

She spent many years at the headstart program serving lower income families in West Oakland, dealing with a number of environmental concerns.

“I knew that in West Oakland there was a serious problem with the levels of lead,” said Reynolds.

At school she saw the effects it had on the children, firsthand.

“If we did have children that seemed to have some kind of cognitive delay, we had specialists who worked with the family and the children, and there were quite a few,” she said.

At home, she was raising children of her own, in an old Victorian home built in 1892. Any home built before 1978 is likely to have lead-based paint. Reynolds heard about a free grant with the Alameda County Healthy Homes Department to remedy lead hazards.
She had her home tested, only to discover that all the woodwork inside her home contained lead and the outside of her home had lead paint peeling off.

“All the loose and peeling lead-based paint was removed and it was painted back,” said Peter Belanger, lead project designer with the Alameda County Healthy Homes Department.

15 years later, she feared that her adjacent property being rented to a family may also be contaminated with lead so she took action.

“I didn't really expect them to find a lot of high levels in the home but they did,” said Reynolds.

She applied for the grant, and once again was approved for up to $10,000 of lead hazard removal.

“For the few days that it took them to do the work, the tenant was accommodated in a hotel and that was absolutely marvelous and none of it came out of my pocket,” said Reynolds.

“I'm lucky and fortunate to have a proactive landlord who is very invested in making sure I have a pleasant experience here,” said the tenant, Senay Alkebulan.

Not everyone is so lucky. According to the Alameda County Healthy Homes Department, some property owners don’t want to deal with lead hazards, nor do they know this program exists.

“Oh there's definitely room to put the word out,” said Belanger. “We are approved and have the funding for the next grant round which has just started.”

That means there's more than $100,000 up for grabs in Alameda County, to keep more children safe and healthy.

“The benefits..I can't even count them: the monetary benefit, the health benefit and being a good landlord benefit,” said Reynolds.

The free Lead Hazard Repair grant is available for at least the next three years. We’re told its better to apply now before the weather breaks, because the repair work is often done during the warmer months.
To find out if you qualify for the grant, go to the Alameda County Healthy Homes Department website:

UPDATE: Two weeks ago, we told you about unsafe lead levels in the plumbing at Oakland's Mcclymonds High School. It was determined that drinking fountain heads, shower heads and kitchen faucets were all lead sources. We're now learning that Oakland Unified School District has plans to work with East Bay MUD’s free water testing. In the meantime, the district's Environmental Health and Safety Department has begun testing schools.

School Sites Tested So Far:
Thornhill Elementary (tested 08-26-17)
Bridges Academy (tested 08-30-17)
Manzanita Community (tested 08-31-17)
Manzanita Seed  (tested 08-31-17)
Manzanita CDC (preschool) (tested 08-31-17)
Futures Elementary (tested 09-06-17, results pending)