By Aaron Kinney
Tuesday, April 24th, 2007 at 6:13 pm in Uncategorized.
In an article published over the weekend, we examined the plight of residents at Hillsdale Garden, a 697-unit apartment complex in San Mateo where rents have been increasing by 30 percent or more under the place’s new owners, Palo Alto-based Essex Property Trust.
We say “plight,” because many of the residents there are seniors on fixed incomes. As such, they are having to decide, in short order, whether they can afford to pay an additional $300 or $400 in rent or must find a new apartment that fits their budgets.
For many of the residents with whom we spoke, the changes that have taken place since Essex purchased the complex last September for $97.3 million amount to a sign of the times: a family-owned business is replaced by a faceless corporation that cares only about the bottom line.
What we didn’t have time or space to include in the article were a few examples of Essex’s behavior that would appear to bolster those assertions.
Mike Germano, president of the Beresford Hillsdale Neighborhood Association, recalled how the association invited an Essex representative to speak at a meeting last November. When asked about rumors members were hearing of major rent increases, the representative said the hikes applied only to new tenants, not those who were renewing their one-year leases. That didn’t turn out to be true, according to reports from numerous residents.
Mark Albertson, a member of the neighborhood association’s board of directors, said the group made a second overture around January of this year, when it invited Essex to send an executive or manager to come to the local school, Laurel Elementary, and play the role of principal for the day.
“We were turned down flat,” said Albertson, who admitted he found Essex’s response “discouraging,” since the children of Hillsdale Garden residents comprise a significant portion of the students at Laurel.
We haven’t gotten a comment on this from Essex, which refers all media questions to its corporate office, but we’ll let you know what they say.
Lastly, there is an interesting post up at Apartment Ratings, a Web site that offers the public a chance to … well, you get it.
Of the 10 posts entered from March to the present, eight are negative. Of the two posts that come down on the side of Hillsdale Garden’s management, one of them claims to have been written by a former Essex employee.
It’s an anonymous post, but it has the ring of truth to it. You be the judge.
It seems this short-time Essex management employee had it up to here with the complaints from residents, whom the poster refers to as “spoiled brats.”
“This is a reality check,” the purported former Essex staffer writes. “Times change, companies change, homes change. Get over it. If you are not happy there, move. Plain and simple.”
The writer makes some valid points to the effect that Hillsdale Garden employees are simply human beings trying to make a living. But the overall tone of the note screams: Bad PR.