Tenants Sue Landlord and Housing Nonprofits Over Deadly West Oakland Fire

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Fifteen former tenants of 2551 San Pablo Avenue are suing the building's owner and several housing nonprofits that leased the complex.

The three-story structure was destroyed by a fire last month that claimed four lives. Approximately 100 people were displaced.

According to the lawsuit, landlord Keith Kim and the nonprofits Urojas Community Services, House of Change, and Dignity Housing West, were all aware of serious building and fire code violations, but they didn't remedy the problems.

"Keith Kim made a decision not to have the fire safety and fire prevention systems in operation in the years leading up to the fire, including the fire alarm and sprinkler systems," reads the complaint, which was filed today in the Alameda County State Superior Court. "[T]here were missing smoke detectors in units, rooms, dorms and common areas and missing fire extinguishers and blocked fire exits."

The tenants claim that they also repeatedly told the nonprofits running the building about the code violations, but that the problems weren't fixed.

Kenneth Greenstein of the Greenstein and McDonald law firm is representing the tenants.

They're seeking $125,000 in damages per plaintiff, rental reimbursements, compensation for loss of personal property, among other relief.

"At this point I have not seen the lawsuit yet so I cannot comment on it," said Kim's attorney William Kronenberg in a press statement issued today. Kronenberg also said that Kim had been "unfairly criticized" in the media due to the negligence of Urojas Community Services.

In press release sent last month, Kim stated that he was "trying to protect the residents and improve the management of the building by removing Urojas as its manager and operator," when the fire broke out.

Kim claims that Urojas Community Services had failed to maintain the building, which he said the nonprofit was required to do as part of its lease agreement.

The Express was unable to reach Jasper Lowery, the executive director of Urojas Community Services, for comment about Kim's allegations and the lawsuit.

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