Wednesday, September 21, 2011

2011-09-21 "Wells Fargo Now "Zells Fargo"? E. Palo Alto Residents Rally to Protect Affordable Housing" by Alison Moreno
Angered that Wells Fargo is not keeping its commitment to honor tenants' concerns, E. Palo Alto residents rallied in front of City Hall Chambers ahead of a City Council meeting on the evening of September 20th. That meeting's agenda: discussion of the sale of a bulk of the housing in the city to “Vulture Investor” Sam Zell of Equity Residential.
Activists loudly demanded at the rally in songs and chants that the City publicly oppose Wells Fargo’s imminent sale of nearly half of the multi-family housing in the City to Equity Residential. Residents were joined by volunteers from Community Legal Services (CLS), Youth United for Community Action (YUCA), and the Raging Grannies.
Demonstrators will hold a second protest at Wells Fargo Corporate Headquarters in San Francisco on Wednesday September 21 at 3pm.
In 2006 Page Mill Properties purchased nearly 2000 units on the western edge of the City of East Palo Alto, to further a secret plan to extract the west-of-Bayshore property from its East Palo Alto home and have it incorporated into wealthy neighbors, Palo Alto and Menlo Park. At the peak of Page Mill’s ownership, almost two thousand families, approximately twenty-five percent of the total population of the City, were under the control of Page Mill. With much of the rental properties in the City under the sole control Page Mill Properties, PMP raised rents, flouted the City’s Rent Control Ordinance and sued the City and local agencies. Their actions resulted in immense financial cost to the City of East Palo Alto and massive social cost to its residents.
Renters were hopeful when Page Mill defaulted and abandoned their control of these properties to Wells Fargo bank, which held the mortgages on these properties. In meetings with community members, Wells Fargo committed to working alongside the East Palo Alto residents. Tenant rights activists urged Wells not to sell to a single buyer in order to avoid the monopolization of rental apartments that occurred under Page Mill.
Yet something bigger than Page Mill may be waiting in the wings. Equity Residential, led by Chairman Sam Zell, is a well-known company with nationwide holdings and a market value of approximately 16.9 billion dollars. Zell, who once said that low-income homeowners need to be “cleaned out” and not given sympathy, seems determined to treat low-income renters in East Palo Alto with the same callousness. East Palo Alto residents are determined to not allow Wells Fargo to break their promise. And if they do, Wells Fargo will be sorry...their name will be forever synonymous with corporate greed in the eyes of those watching.

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