Friday, January 19, 2018

Judge Allows Squireses' Building to Be Condemned, Sets Hearing On Process

Posted By on Fri, Jan 19, 2018 at 5:21 PM

click to enlarge The Squireses' 833 H St. property. - FILE
  • File
  • The Squireses' 833 H St. property.
Judge Dale Reinholtsen today declined to block the city of Eureka’s order to vacate a dilapidated apartment building owned by Floyd and Betty Squires, meaning the 15 tenants of 833 H St. will need to be out by Monday.

The Squireses had requested a temporary restraining order to restrict city officials from entering any of the couple’s buildings and “disturbing or evicting” renters after the city condemned the H Street complex, citing “extremely hazardous electrical and other violations at the property.”

The residents — some with life-threatening conditions — have until Jan. 22 to leave. City officials told the court that all of the renters have made arrangements for where they will go when the deadline arrives after receiving $2,000 in relocation aid.

Today’s hearing in Humboldt County Superior Court was the latest chapter in a legal saga that began seven years ago this month when the city of Eureka filed a lawsuit seeking to wrest away control of 26 properties owned by the couple, saying their management was akin to that of “slumlords.”

While Reinholtsen appointed what’s known as a “receiver” in 2013 to oversee repairs at those properties, the city has argued that ostensibly little has changed in the interim, leaving officials no choice but to take proactive measures to protect the public’s safety.

While Reinholtsen told attorneys that he didn’t have anything before him to “issue a TRO at this point,” he did set a hearing for next week to discuss whether the city’s legal counsel from a private firm had previously agreed to seek his permission before making such a move.

Attorney Curtis Wright of the Irvine-based law firm Silver and Wright LLP, which is representing the city in the Squireses’ case, said the city would not have agreed to limit its ability to obtain court orders necessary to protect public safety.

“The city has proceeded with getting orders from this court, but not necessarily this department,” he told Reinholtsen during a phone appearance at the hearing.

The Squireses’ attorney, Bradford Floyd, disagreed, telling the judge that he also thought the city had subscribed to bringing all such actions before Reinholtsen.

“They are going against what they represented to us, they are going against what they represented to the court the last time, so that’s why we are here,” Floyd told the judge.

Reinholtsen requested a transcript of a Sept. 12, 2017, hearing be compiled to help determine the “propriety of the actions that occurred so far.” The judge said he thought the agreement reached by both sides — emphasizing that he did not request it — was that “all proceedings involving receivership properties would go before this court, this department.”

“Frankly, I don’t know if we have an effective court order,” Reinholtsen said.

He noted that the situation could be a matter of semantics or “maybe there was a misunderstanding by one or both of the parties or the court.”

The Squireses’ motion for the restraining order argues that the city has been sidestepping Reinholtsen, who’s had the receivership case since 2011, by going to other judges for inspection warrants.

The city has boarded up several other properties owned by the Squireses in recent months and torn down two others since August, citing public health and safety concerns.

According to a Facebook post today by Eureka City Councilmember Kim Bergel, some of the tenants have already moved out. Five found permanent housing while most of the others will be using some form of temporary shelter as they continuing to work with various agencies to secure a place to live.

The couple Don Brown and Debora Bronson, who were among those featured in this week’s Journal cover “Dying and Destitute,” were among those who found a permanent living arrangement this afternoon, according to city officials.

Meanwhile, the Squireses recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and have already lost some $19,000 in rent with the city’s code enforcement actions at other properties. That number will increase to more than $25,000 once the H Street property is also shuttered.
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Kimberly Wear

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Kimberly Wear is the assistant editor of the North Coast Journal.

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