On Tuesday Marcy-Holmes residents won a significant victory in their fight to hold landlords responsible for problem properties they own that are being used as shelters for criminal activities.
The occasion was a hearing before the Rental Dwelling License Board of Appeals to uphold the revocation of the rental license for the apartment building at 729 Eighth Ave. SE, which is owned by Hyder and Asgher Jaweed under the name of Minneapolis Apartments Association LLC. In the last year, neighborhood residents have complained bitterly that the building has become an obvious center for drug dealing at all times of the day and night, and that, left unchecked, those drug activities have led to a dangerous escalation of armed robberies and prostitution in the surrounding area.
At the hearing, City Attorney Lee Wolf made a strong case for upholding the city’s revocation of the Jaweeds’ rental license, stating that the Jaweeds had not responded to warnings from the city about narcotics arrests at the property. Tom Lincoln, chair of the Marcy-Holmes safety and livability committee, and Brad Bellows, who lives across the street from the property, testified for the city and were cross-examined by the Jaweeds’ attorney, John Peterson of the law firm Winthrop and Weinstein.
The Jaweeds tried to argue that since renters at the apartment included people using Section 8 certificates and people who were part of the Hennepin County Re-entry program, it was difficult to evict the offenders. They also stressed that in recent days they have evicted problem tenants and have made repairs to the building, including replacing a broken, taped-over front window. In recent months, one of the known drug dealers in the building would regularly hang out of the window to talk to people who would come to buy drugs; he was doing so when Mayor R.T. Rybak and other officials from the city and the University of Minnesota recently came to tour the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood.
The members of the five-member board of appeals, however, were unreceptive to the Jaweeds’ arguments, chastising them strongly for clearly not knowing the laws they were expected to uphold as landlords and property managers. The board voted 4-0 in favor of upholding the license revocation, with one board member recusing himself.
The case for the license revocation will now go before the Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee, whose members are Don Samuels, chair, Paul Ostrow, vice-chair, Diane Hofstede, Barbara Johnson, Gary Schiff, and Cam Gordon. If the committee upholds the revocation, it will then be voted on by the full City Council.
After the hearing, Lincoln said he was very pleased by the board’s action and by the number of people from the neighborhood who attended the hearing to show their support for the license revocation. He said he was very disturbed, however, by the reports the city gave to him and to Bellows at the hearing, which documented criminal activities at 729 Eighth Ave. SE involving heavy dealing of crack cocaine as well as the possession of 9-millimeter handguns and ammunition. He said that while he has some slight appreciation for the Jaweeds’ recent efforts to manage the property more responsibly, he felt their turnaround was “too little, too late.
“I told them afterward,” he said, “that the neighborhood would be willing to start a dialogue with them, but that there would need to be a cooling-off period first as we try to manage our anger at them for what their ignorance and negligence have done to our neighborhood.”
Editor’s note: Tom Lincoln is Linda Lincoln’s husband