Housing Startup Managed SRO Damaged in Fire

By Laura Waxmann and Laura Wenus : missionlocal – excerpt

Up until the five-alarm fire damaged the Graywood single room occupancy hotel and left 58 tenants without a place to live, the SRO was managed by a housing startup that matches roommates and manages co-living spaces for young professionals.

Under its management, the Graywood’s tenants began to include tech workers and others able to pay up to $1,400 a month for a room, compared to the $681 a month the building’s traditional low-income tenants were paying.

After the fire, the Graywood’s landlord, Dipak Patel, ended the hotel’s lease with Alon Gutman and Danny Haber’s housing startup, Negev. The two-year-old company has a history of leasing SROs and renting some, if not all, of their rooms to young professionals, students, and entrepreneurs.

Patel said he took over management from Negev so that he could begin repairs, which are now underway.

Several tenants who rented through Negev said that the company’s management was unresponsive to their inquiries and confusion arose over access to units in the hotel.

“They are not talking to us,” said one younger, newer tenant, who booked his room on a three-month contract through Negev. In San Francisco for an internship, the tenant declined to give his name, but said he only spent a week at the hotel before fire struck.

Attempts to contact Negev on Monday to gain access to the building led nowhere for the intern. He said he was told by a resident manager who lives on site and “moves tenants into the SRO rooms for Negev” that he would be let into the building at 9 a.m to retrieve some of his belongings.

But by 2 p.m., the displaced tenant was still waiting for the management to show. “I think the managers have as much info as we do — nothing,” he said.

Carlos Velasquez, the resident manager, on Tuesday that he indeed had been unable to reach Negev. “Many tenants are asking me if they will get their rent back. I don’t know what to tell them.”

Following multiple calls to Negev, a representative offered to put the intern up at one of the company’s other locations. The representative offered him a 20 percent discount on a $1,400 room that came with three roommates.

The intern, who was paying $1,200 for his own room at the Graywood, said he declined the offer.

The option to relocate was not extended to other Graywood tenants who rented with Negev. Instead, some said that they received emails announcing that they would be billed for June’s rent.

“I wrote them and said ‘don’t charge me because the building burned down,’” said a student who resided at the Graywood for less than a week and also requested to remain anonymous. “They emailed me back and said I had to write a more formal cancellation email.”

The confusion continued on Wednesday, when the SRO tenants were permitted to enter the burned building for the first time under the supervision of building inspectors.

Neither Gutman or Haber were present to answer questions about the tenant’s contracts.

Housing for Young Professionals

On its website, Negev offers five locations throughout the city with rooms renting between $900-$2,000. The hotels come with descriptions like “social, ambitious and driven interns,” aiming to match tenants with similar interests and personality types… (more)

RELATED:
Legal problems continue for two negev tech communes (from 2014 SF Examiner article)

 

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