Arancha Gabaldon and Cecil Griffin moved in to their apartment with an empty parking lot just below their balcony, then the heavy equipment moved in.
By Jim Knowles
San Leandro Times
Cecil Griffin and his wife moved into an apartment in San Leandro in February and prepared one room for their first baby, who is due any minute now.
Griffin’s wife, Arancha Gabaldon, is nine months pregnant, so they wanted a nice, quiet place. And they found it.
“We’re starting a new phase of our life,” Griffin said. “We’ve been trying to have a baby for 3 years now. I just turned 40. I’m not a kid anymore.”
They found an apartment on Juana Avenue that’s close to downtown, separated from busy East 14th Street by a big parking lot, that was mostly empty and quiet at the time.
Griffin said he was never told anything would happen at the parking lot. And a row of big jasmine trees ran up Juana, from East 14th right to the corner of their building.
“It was peaceful and safe,” said Griffin, who works as a gaffer (electrician) on movies and commercials. “And the trees were beautiful, you could smell them all through the apartment, and there were seagulls.”
But two weeks after they moved in, the parking lot turned into a construction zone. Work started on the new Village Marketplace, home of a new CVS drug store.
“No one ever told us they were going to build a mini-mall here,” Griffin said. “We wouldn’t have moved in if we knew we were going to be in the middle of a construction zone. The noise is so bad it shakes the walls and windows.”
Now the couple’s windows and balcony look right out over the construction site where giant earth movers and bulldozers rumble through the day, making noise, kicking up dust and fumes. The trees and their scent are gone, and so are the seagulls.
“When it gets hot, I want to open the windows, but you can’t with all that noise and dust,” said Gabaldon, who is a first grade teacher with the Oakland Unified School District.
Griffin said he walked outside the morning construction started and all the trees were being cut down on Juana.
“I’ve never seen trees cut down so fast,” he said. “And Porta-Potties were lined up right below our balcony. The trucks and bulldozers rumbling all day shake the building.”
Griffin said he called City Hall and they did have the Porta-Potties moved, but he can’t do a thing about the construction.
The couple has prepared a little room for their baby with a crib and baby toys, but it’s a thin wall between the baby’s room and the construction site. Gabaldon said it’s not only distracting, it would be unhealthy for the baby.
Griffin said they took their time in finding a place they thought would be quiet. They moved from Hayes Valley in San Francisco to get away from the construction that’s going on there, and so they could get a 2-bedroom place for less money than in the city.
The couple thought they had found the ideal spot. But now they say they need to move, but can’t afford it unless they get their money back and moving expenses.
One of the managers of the building reached by phone, Paul Ram, said he offered the couple their deposit back once they move out, and was allowing them to break their 1-year lease.
The apartment has to be inspected after people move out before the deposit can be returned. “That’s the way it works,” he said.
The manager added that he would be losing money on the deal. “We’re being gracious, we’re losing money,” he said.
But Griffin said he needs his deposit back first, plus moving expenses, in order to move.
“I don’t have another $3,000 or $4,000,” Griffin said.
Griffin said he will have to find some way to move, because it would be unbearable with the baby there with all that noise, dust and diesel fumes.
“We really like this area – San Leandro is a nice, safe nook,” Griffin said. “We just have to find another place right away.”