Watch CBS News

Lives disrupted; East Oakland residents remain out of their flood-damaged apartments

East Oakland apartment complex residents still forced out of residences by flood damage
East Oakland apartment complex residents still forced out of residences by flood damage 03:17

OAKLAND -- Skies have been clear for more than a week, but dozens of families evacuated from their flooded apartment building on New Year's Eve still can't go home.

Flood waters damaged the electrical system at Coliseum Connections apartments and townhomes in East Oakland.  The complex has 110 units and is home to more than 300 people.

The building management company, FPI, has put up the families in different hotels in the East Bay.  But almost a month later, many of the families said they still don't have a timeframe on when they can return home.

Will Smith and his fiancée welcomed their second baby boy on January 10th, while they were evacuated from their home.

"When we came home from the hospital, we were (staying) at the Courtyard Marriott in Oakland," Smith said. "Then, we found out that we were getting moved to Emeryville.  So we were like 'we've got to go pack everything up from the Courtyard, brand new baby in a car seat, stroller, 6-year-old son, all the snacks.'  It was just a lot." 

Like many of their neighbors, the family of four has been living out of a hotel room without a stove since New Year's Day.

"At our home there, we had a washer and dryer that were in our apartment," Smith said. "So now we're being charged to wash, $3 to wash, $2 to dry.  We're just blowing through our savings right now." 

He said every part of their lives has been disrupted, from his work to his 6-year-old son's school.

"At home, we were seven minutes away from his school," Smith told KPIX. "So it was real convenient for us.  Now, we're almost 30 minutes, depending on traffic, 40 minutes out."

"We need help," evacuated resident Alex Vila added. "This is time to (pick up) the phone and put pressure (on elected leaders.) Don't let our skin (color) and our accent (hurt our ability to get help.)  Come help us." 

Vila and her neighbors believed the flooding of their four-year-old building next to the Coliseum Bart Station was preventable if the city had cleaned out nearby storm drains before the New Year's Eve rainstorm.

They said their management company paid for their hotel rooms, but has done nothing else to help them.  The city also has not offered any help to the roughly 110 families evacuated.

"It's been 27 days, what do we need to do?  And we're not welfare recipients.  We are not crack heads.  These are workers.  I am a professional," said Vila.

They were told it could take up to 12 months to get the parts needed to repair the building's electrical system.  There's no power and there's water damage all over the first floor of the building.

Residents said the management company won't let them break their lease without a termination fee.  They also have to pay January and February rents.

"Not only that, but also we're being charged water, trash, and sewage," evacuated resident Josue Franco. said. "We have not been there for (almost) 30 days.  But yet, we're still expected to pay our full amounts on the 1st."  

As for Smith, he's just trying to stay positive for his family and hoping they can soon go back to their two-bedroom home.

"It's not as glamorous (as they think.)  'Oh, you're at the Hyatt.'  But like Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz, 'there's no place like home'," said Smith.

Some of the evacuated families will meet with the BART Board of  Directors on Sunday afternoon.

BART doesn't oversee the building, but it owns the land the building sits on.  And it gets some of the rent profits.

KPIX 5 did reach out to the building management company, FPI, on Saturday evening.  But we have not heard back.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.