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March 11, 2013

Property linked to Richmond councilman subject of city probe
By Robert Rogers
Contra Costa Times
Posted:   03/11/2013 04:49:07 PM PDT
Updated:   03/11/2013 05:23:03 PM PDT

RICHMOND -- The city is demanding that a junk-strewn property linked to City Councilman Corky Boozé be cleaned up after finding it in violation of several codes and a 1997 court order, according to documents obtained through a public records request.
The property, a 28,000-square-foot lot with a 756-square-foot office building, sits at 22 Carlson Blvd., adjacent to the Richmond Greenway and just beneath elevated BART tracks. Behind a 6-foot fence lies old cars and car parts, along with other metals and industrial tools.
The property is owned by Laura Baker, a resident of Vallejo who took ownership in 1996, according to county records. Baker took over the property amid years of bitter legal battles between the city and Boozé and his son Kevin over violations and blighted conditions. The property sits in a district zoned for residential use.
In a five-page letter, city prosecutor Trisha Aljoe demanded that Baker abate the property and scheduled a compliance inspection for 1 p.m. March 18. Boozé holds a business license for auto body repair and restoration at the site and is referred to in the letter as the "tenant."
"It is clear, based on ... overwhelming evidence, that your tenant is maintaining the property in violation and contempt of the (1997) court order," the letter reads.
Reached by phone, Aljoe acknowledged the action against the property but declined further comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
Boozé, 69, gave a reporter a tour of the property's perimeter last week, noting the secure fencing and complaining that city property adjacent to the site seems to violate its own codes. Boozé said the only holes in his fencing, one of many violations alleged by the city, were small bullet holes that dot the side along Carlson, a hazard of doing business in a rough neighborhood.
Boozé said the city's investigation is motivated by politics. He alleges that a rival councilman and politically active resident conspired to turn up the heat.
"This is just a pure political witch hunt," Boozé said. "This thing has (Councilman) Tom Butt, the (Richmond Progressive Alliance) and its allies written all over it. There was never a problem until they started harassing the city staff about it."
Baker could not be reached for comment. Court documents from 2003 show Boozé told a judge that Baker was his "domestic partner of 30 years." Boozé said Friday he and Baker "broke up years ago."
County records show that Baker owns at least two other properties in the city, both of which critics link to Boozé. One of Baker's properties, a commercial building in the 3300 block of Cutting Boulevard, has been the subject of debate over whether the city should lease it for a new police substation on the southside. Boozé has been the main proponent of that plan.
In November, a Richmond resident began sending emails to city staff complaining about the Carlson Boulevard property and alleging that it belonged to Councilman Boozé.
Butt said he told the resident, Kate Sibley, that the property belonged to Boozé but that she and other neighbors had been bothered by the site for years.
"They were flummoxed, and so I helped her get some information and pursue her complaint," Butt said.
Butt said the situation was rife with hypocrisy, noting that Boozé made several public presentations accusing owners of the SS Red Oak Victory Ship of violating city codes.
"People who live in glass houses should not throw rocks," Butt said.
Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726 or rrogers@bayareanewsgroup.com and follow Twitter.com/roberthrogers.

Click here for a copy of the complaint.