Tenants get together and fight slumlord


STOCKTON, Calif. - Doyle Gardens sounds like it might be a pleasant apartment complex, where residents stroll down walkways between flowerbeds surrounded by greenery. Its name is a lie.

In this large apartment complex in downtown Stockton the residents, mostly poor and working-class African American families, instead live with terrible conditions. Patricia Norman points to the trash outside her door. Yolanda Jackson's sink is on its last legs, and the insulation on the door of her refrigerator can't keep the cold locked inside. Tomoro Hooper sits disconsolately beneath the broken towel racks of his bathroom, while his grandmother, Patricia Perkins, stares at the cracks in the linoleum.

In Laronda Trishell's apartment the bathroom is also falling apart. One of the drawers in her kitchen has a bottom that doesn't slide. If she forgets when she pulls it out, all her utensils wind up on the floor.

Vicky Robinson used to live in the complex too. She still feels a commitment to the friends she made there, and today helps them get organized to force the landlord to fix the many problems. Some have even complained of bedbug and cockroach infestations. Robinson points to a hole in a window made by a bullet. Instead of replacing the glass, though, a plywood sheet sits in the frame behind to broken pane. Robinson meets with tenants around a table in the courtyard, to talk about these and other defects. 

Disabled resident Ricky Cobb reads a notice taped to his door by the landlord, so nervous now about the organizing that people from the manager's office keep track of the meetings and visitors. This fall the tension came to a head, when 20 current and former tenants filed a suit against George Garcia and Starr Property Management. The management firm says it no longer handles the Doyle Gardens property for Garcia, who operates a local bail bond company and owns the complex.

While conditions at Doyle Gardens seem extreme, they reflect the high level of poverty in the San Joaquin Valley, especially among African American families. According to a report by Sarah Bohn of the Public Policy Institute of California, Central Valley counties around Fresno (Merced, Tulare, Kings, Kern, and San Joaquin) were among the poorest, with poverty rates in excess of 20 percent. Stockton is the largest city in San Joaquin County, where 22 percent of the people live below the poverty line. In California as a whole, Bohn says, African Americans have a poverty rate of 22.1 percent.

The 35,000 African Americans living in Stockton make up 12 percent of its population. With a rental vacancy rate of 9.4 percent, you'd think people might find another place to live. But many tenants are trapped in Doyle Gardens by the restrictions on the Section 8 subsidies, for which they qualify because of their extremely low incomes. In effect, housing authorities are acting as Garcia's enablers by allowing him to continue to collect the subsidy while making few, if any repairs.

Even city code enforcers seem lackadaisical. Richard Dean, program manager for code enforcement, told the Stockton Record after the suit was filed that Garcia is "working pretty well with us," that he has a "management plan" and has made changes. "At this point, we're comfortable we're heading in the right direction," Dean told the Record. Garcia called the suit a "shakedown."

Many residents are clients of California Rural Legal Assistance, which is helping them to sue Garcia. "We believe the housing conditions to be substandard," explained Marcela Diaz, the directing attorney in CRLA's Stockton office.

Photo: David Bacon 


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  • I wish they would come to the Hacienda Apartments on gateway these apartments are just like that one roaches mice rats bed bugs and even termite the pipes here are so disgusting that the water is brown go and when you run it in a glass it is so foggy you can't you can't even see your fingers through it it is so disgusting here frigerator don't work holes in the walls leaky roofs that leaked all over your carpet smell like pee and dog feces rats and mice p*** in boo boo in the drawers it is so so disgusting there is mildew all in the bathroom my room you can smell it the minute you walk through the front door it is truly nasty the owner does not care he charges people in this place different amounts everyone pays different amount but I believe all black people pay 725 spandex pay 600 I can say with others pay however I can say that this is the nasty is apartment building I have ever lived in my life I move down here blindly from Oakland and if I could I would go back running on the highway with my children and tote I really need help so if anyone can please contact me I would love to form a lawsuit against the owner from what I know every manager is fire within a month that works for him he tells people that they still rent money but it's not them it's him he even tried to say that I owe him money will my receipts say otherwise but yet and still I still have three day notice that states that I need to pay him a thousand dollars for this might rent so that means that my rent went from 725 a month two extra five hundred and twenty seven dollars this is not fair at all I hope to work on all this on Monday and I pray that my phone starts raining like crazy for help going to take a chance to impose my email for people that are seriously going to help me deshonnabrown4@gmail.com

    Posted by deshonna, 09/08/2013 1:12am (2 years ago)

  • Good point, but in this case these are tenants and not owners of the property. Mr. Garcia is receiving regular and timely payments from the government, on behalf of his tenants, so there should be no reason for him not to maintain the apartment complex properly. These people are living under hardship and suffering from a high level of poverty, but Garcia is not afflicted due to this circumstance, so why should he further demean these people by allowing them to continue living in such squalor?

    Posted by Richard Dillon, 09/05/2013 3:20am (2 years ago)

  • It was my impression of section 8 housing the owners were required to keep the property up and viable. While this is a traversty of the Government employees not protecting the people or the Governments money,one should also look into the interest being paid by some low income home owners. If one runs the numbers the "owners" will never own the home even though they will pay double to triple its original value in interests.

    Posted by SwampFox2U, 12/15/2011 8:59pm (4 years ago)

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