One Family’s Saga: Our Eviction from the Woodfin Suites Hotel

August 17, 2008

by Juanita Carroll Young

My activism was born out of personal experience. You see, my 11-year-old daughter and I were evicted from the Woodfin Suites Hotel in Emeryville last year. We resided there for close to three years while waiting for our Emeryville condo to be repaired of a construction defect. In that time, we became friends with many Woodfin employees, and I voted for Measure C, Emeryville’s Living Wage Law, because I saw firsthand the hotel’s difficult working conditions. Measure C passed, but the Woodfin refused to comply. When the workers took to the streets in protest, they were fired. The whole time, my daughter and I stood in solidarity with the workers, joining them in protest marches, at community or city council meetings, in delegations, and at the big “Let My People Work” march, the largest march in Emeryville’s history.

Since we didn’t work there, the Woodfin couldn’t fire us. Instead, they threw us out — they evicted a mother and daughter because Mommy had spoken out in support of the workers. Woodfin General Manager Hugh MacIntosh gave us one month’s notice, and no explanation, but he told the media, “We can’t afford to have her here any longer” because, he said, my actions hurt the Woodfin’s business. Mr. MacIntosh was not concerned that my actions were peaceful, lawful and protected free speech under the First Amendment. My family’s treatment appears to support the popular belief that Woodfin’s management is retaliatory in nature.

The Woodfin is the only hotel in Emeryville that has not complied with the law. Perhaps as a privately-owned hotel group, led by Samuel Hardage, a major player in San Diego’s Republican circles, the Woodfin feels it moves to the beat of a different (more conservative) drummer.

What inspired me to keep going every day through that dark period was the bravery of the 12 hotel workers at the Woodfin (many of them single moms) who lost their jobs after a protracted battle. Like me, they saw their children cry because of the actions of Woodfin management. These workers then held their heads high and continued to talk to the Emeryville City Council and the media, despite many threats from the Woodfin. I feel compelled to continue to do the same.

UPI story (filed under “Odd News”) about our eviction:

The pertinent eviction law:
If the tenant can show that the landlord is trying to evict him, raise his rent, or otherwise increase his burdens of tenancy in retaliation for his exercise of a legal or constitutional right, then the landlord cannot recover possession from him, or enforce the rent increase or other action. Where the tenant has acted in the exercise of his rights within the past180 days, the landlord is presumed to be acting in retaliation, and the landlord has the burden of proof of a reason for the eviction or other action. Where the eviction is for non-payment of rent, or the notice of termination of tenancy, or rent increase, specifiessatisfactory cause for the action, then the tenant may still raise a defense of retaliation, but the tenant has the burden of proof of retaliation {Civil. Code Sec. 1942.5}.

Juanita Carroll Young was born in a naval hospital in Norfolk, VA to a boilermaker and a registered nurse. She was taught at a young age never to cross a picket line. She works raising funds and writing grants for a local nonprofit and lives in Emeryville with her 13-year-old daughter, her husband, and a little red dog.

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