City shuts down West Sacramento apartment units for unsafe balconies

Published: Tuesday, Sep. 10, 2013 - 9:44 pm

More than a dozen residents of a West Sacramento apartment complex displaced for a week after the city deemed the units and apartment balconies unsafe may not be able to return to their homes until at least Monday.

Bright green handbills mark the front doors of the units at Hunter’s Point Apartments, 900 Todhunter Ave., where city code enforcement officials last Wednesday cordoned off balconies attached to upstairs residences, shut down the apartments and told residents to leave buildings city officials are calling their top code enforcement priority.

“We’re putting together a plan and the balconies are one of the highest priorities,” said Charline Hamilton, West Sacramento community development director.

Building owners Sharma Holdings Co. of Sausalito and Sacramento is planning to make the repairs and open the apartments for tenants. Hamilton said the repairs should be completed and tenants moved in by Monday or Tuesday.

“They need to be in contact daily. We want to expedite it, obviously,” Hamilton said. “We want the work done right so we don’t have these issues in the future.”

In all, 15 residents are calling other apartments in the complex home for now or sleeping at a nearby Motel 6 until the needed repairs are completed, said Sharon Gomez, the building’s on-site manager. Gomez has been working closely with the city and with Hunter’s Point residents.

“We want to make sure there’s progress on the balconies and get them back to where they need to be. We don’t question the city – we want to take care of it and make it better,” Gomez said Monday.

“We tried to take care as many as we could” at the complex, Gomez added. “It’s important to make sure they’re comfortable.”

William Craig is one. On Tuesday, contractors again began work on one balcony where years of dry rot have eaten away at the beams. Dry rot damage also compromised two other nearby balconies that are condemned and awaiting work. City officials have “identified others that need attention,” Hamilton said. “It’s possible that all 10 (balconies) over there need to be replaced.”

Meanwhile, two tall plywood posts temporarily support the deck that hangs over the downstairs apartment Craig shares with his wife and two young children.

Craig and family are marking time in a nearby vacant unit at Hunter’s Point, but Clark has been shuttling back and forth between the two apartments.

“I’m just trying to want to get into my house. They put us in another apartment. They’re doing what they’re supposed to do,” he said. “We’ve been out for about a week – it’s an inconvenience, but it’s not a big thing.”

Moving has been a hardship, but some tenants at Hunter’s Point defend Gomez. They recall what the complex was like when she arrived four years ago and how she has helped tenants along the way.

“She’s helped a lot of people here. She’s a good landlord and a good friend,” said Samara Kilgore, who said she was homeless for a time before moving to Hunter’s Point. “They’ve got a good team – it’s like everything is going to be all right.”

Hunter’s Point is among the oldest apartment buildings in the city. Home to low-income, working-class families and others struggling on the margins in one of West Sacramento’s grittiest neighborhoods, it’s also no stranger to code enforcement officials.

Inspectors have been at the complex on Todhunter and Sacramento avenues since July, monitoring work nearing completion on one apartment building damaged in a fire nearly four years ago, Hamilton said. She added Hunter’s Point has had “miscellaneous violations here and there” over the years. Most recently, she said, those included a lack of working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in units.

The same inspectors found the problem balconies during a “building by building” sweep of the decades-old, 80-unit complex in late August, Hamilton said.

City officials on Aug. 30 gave Sharma Holding approval to secure permits and hire a licensed contractor to shore up the balconies.

Sharma Holding went another route, Hamilton said, leaving the permits waiting at West Sacramento City Hall and hiring a handyman to perform the balcony work. Three days later, on Sept. 2, the unlicensed handyman was injured in a mishap on one of the balconies and West Sacramento firefighters were called to the building. By Sept. 4, the apartments and balconies were sealed, work was stopped and Sharma Holding, again, was ordered to find a contractor to do the work.

“We were frustrated that they hadn’t hired a licensed contractor,” Hamilton said, “but they’re a little more responsive now.”

Sharma Holding representatives did not return calls for this story.

Read more articles by Darrell Smith

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