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Disgruntled in San Mateo: The Hillsdale Garden story

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.

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4 Responses to “Disgruntled in San Mateo: The Hillsdale Garden story”

  1. San Mateo Renter Says:

    I am writing to you today about Hillsdale Garden Apartments, by Essex Trust,
    Do not rent here. Upon moving in you will notice the price increase from online and what is quoted to you and the amount you pay, they play games with pricing, at each lease renewal your price will go up around 100-400 dollars. You will also be charged your entire deposit upon move out for painting, cleaning, carpeting even though you left the place immaculate.
    I would like to see a class action lawsuit for all the people whose security deposit was wrongfully held, We are working on a case with lots of evidence if your Newspaper would like to publish it.

  2. Gail Says:

    I’m sorry to hear they have changed their policies. I rented there in the early 90′s and for the most part the management was really nice. Example, I called one morning to say the blinds in my bdrm came down, by the time I got home from work not only were the blinds in my room redone as well as all the rooms in the townhouse.

  3. Gail Says:

    Story continued: Also,upon signing a new lease for the next year, within about 2 weeks you would receive a 2lb box of See’s candy…. Again I’m sorry to hear the new way they’re doing business. The only bad part was during the dot.com decline and real estate in S.M became a premium, I think that was probably in 1999 or 2000, our rent tripled all at once.

  4. Previous Hillsdale Garden Renter Says:

    I have recently left hillsdale gardens, like san mateo renter, they took my whole deposit as well for cleaning and painting fees. If a class action suit is performed I would like some information on it. I also have an eviction problem with them. I was evicted and received my pay or quit document for hillsdale and chose to quit. However they have sent me a statement to pay a blance of 3550 which originally was a little over 5000 but deducted my deposit. Included in my charges was 2 months rent after I was evicted. Again I chose to quit and yet they still send me a statement saying if I do not pay this will go to collections. I am not gonna pay this ridiculous amount.

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