Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2017  
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  "Looking Into Whether There Are Some Forms We Need to File."
October 6, 2017

To most of us, it’s breaking the law. To Richmond Progressive Alliance stalwarts, it’s just “…looking into whether there are some forms we need to file.”

By all accounts, Eli Moore is a savvy and intellectually sophisticated person. He is a program manager for the Hass Institute, “has written a number of reports and strategy papers on environmental justice, mass incarceration, community economic development and community health issues.” “Eli draws on training and experience with geographic information systems, mixed methods research, conflict mediation and negotiation, and popular education to facilitate participatory processes that allow those most affected by injustice to lead decision making and advance transformative change.” He holds a Bachelor’s degree from University of California at Santa Cruz and dual Masters degrees from Syracuse University.

Moore was a primary author of several studies about Richmond Belonging and Community Health in Richmondand Anchor Richmondthat served as manifestos on which Rent Control was based and on which the successful challenge that doomed the Global Campus was based.

Eli’s spouse, Claudia Jimenez serves on the elite Richmond Progressive Alliance Steering Committee, and the notice of intent to circulate the petition for the Rent Control initiative that subsequently passed and is now the law in Richmond was filed by Claudia Jimenez and Gayle McLaughlin. The rent Control ordinance, in which Eli and Claudia presumably had a role in drafting, extensively cites the Haas Institute in the "Findings" (RMC 11.100.020). Jimenez was also the Richmond’s Progressive Alliance’s preferred choice for the City Council seat ultimately awarded to Vinay Pimple.

It turns out, however,  that Moore and Jimenez are much better at drafting laws for other people to obey than conforming to those same laws themselves. Moore and Jimenez own Richmond property at 845 37th Street. It appears that they constructed an illegal in-law unit in their back yard, with Moore converting a backyard shed into a second unit. After a complaint by a neighbor, a City inspector determined it was illegal and unpermitted. Moore proceeded to complete it anyway and to rent it out.

They pay no property taxes on the illegal unit.

When Moore and Jimenez decided to spend a year in Columbia, they also rented out the primary residence. Now, they have two residential rentals, making them landlords subject to Richmond’s Rental Inspection Ordinance and Richmond Rent Control and Just Cause Ordinance, which ironically they helped to draft and promote. Both require registration under Richmond law and payment of fees, but Moore and Jimenez failed to do that.

Here are some of the laws they have broken:

  • RMC 11.100.060(l) Financing. (1) Residential Rental Housing Fee. All Landlords shall pay a business license fee if required by Richmond Municipal Code plus a Residential Rental Housing Fee. The City shall charge the Residential Rental Housing Fee at the same time as the business license fee. The amount will be determined by the City Council after a recommendation by the Board is provided to the City Council. The City Council will vote on the recommendation at the next regularly scheduled meeting. The budget shall be funded by the Rental Housing Fee. (2) This fee shall become due within thirty (30) days of inception of new tenancy if no fee was paid the prior year. Ongoing tenancies shall have fees collected at the same time as the City business license each year.
  • Business License. RMC 7.04.030 very person engaged in the manufacturing, wholesaling or retailing business or providing any service to the public or engaging in or conducting any other business not elsewhere in this chapter specifically mentioned shall pay annually a license fee of two hundred thirty-four dollars and ten cents ($234.10) plus an additional sum of money equal to forty-six dollars and eighty cents ($46.80) per employee for the first twenty-five employees and forty dollars and ten cents ($40.10) per employee in excess of twenty-five employees.
  • Unpermitted dwelling/illegal in-law. Note: the in-law is right on the rear and side property line, and not likely compliant with zoning setbacks.

Figure 1 - Note illegal second dwelling unit in backyard

  • RMC 6.02.50 Permits. Permits Required. Except as specified in subsection (b) of this section, no building, structure or service equipment regulated by this chapter and the technical codes shall be erected, constructed, enlarged, altered, repaired, moved, improved, removed, converted or demolished unless a separate, appropriate permit for each building, structure or service equipment has first been obtained from the Building Official.
  • RMC 6.02.240 Certificate of Occupancy. (A) USE and OCCUPANCY: 1. No building or structure shall be used or occupied, and no change in the existing occupancy classification of a building or structure or portion thereof shall be made until the Building Official has issued a Certificate of Occupancy therefor as provided herein. 2. A Certificate of Occupancy shall not be issued until the Building Official has accepted all required inspection certifications.
  • RMC 6.40 Residential Rental Dwelling Unit Inspection and Maintenance. RMC 6.40.050: (a) It shall be the responsibility of all owners of residential rental dwelling units within the City to register such dwelling units with the Building Regulations Division and submit the registration/processing fee and the inspection fee. For owners of three (3) or more residential rental dwelling units within the City, who wish to participate in the self-certification program, there is an additional obligation to complete a self-certification application and apply for the self-certification program. The registration/processing fee, inspection fee, and self-certification application shall take place within thirty (30) days of the date on which written notification is mailed to the owner of such residential rental dwelling unit(s) by the Building Regulations Division.

(b) If the owner of residential rental dwellings fails to register or reregister such units in compliance with this chapter, the Building Official shall register or reregister said units in the name of the owner and set a date and time for initial inspection of said units, and shall send written notification to the owner that the property has been so registered and advising of the date and time set for inspection, accompanied with a bill for the registration/processing fee and the total initial inspection fee for each unit, and include information on the self-certification program.

  • RMC 6.40.100. Notice of Violation. (1) Content. Whenever it is determined by the Inspector that a violation of this chapter exists, the inspector shall issue a written notice of violation. The notice shall contain a description of the violation, the specific action required to correct the violation and a demand that the violations be corrected within the specific time period listed in the notice. The notice shall contain the scheduled re-inspection date and time, or in the event the violations are minor as designated on the inspection checklist, the notice shall contain a date by which the owner must provide the inspector with a sworn declaration (attached to a copy of the checklist showing the violations), that each minor item has been repaired as directed.

All of the above information I received in the form of complaints from neighbors of Moore and Jimenez. Wanting to verify this, I sent an email to Eli Moore, but he never responded. He did, however email some of his neighbors with the following:

Hi friends,

We are in Colombia still and things are going well. But Mayor Butt is coming after us and spreading rumors that we are doing something illegal with our house. He sent the message below to my employer Haas Institute, and has sent it to at least one other person. If he wanted to reach us, he has both my and Claudia's emails, we're on his listserv and have emailed him. Instead, he's spreading rumors, asking people to 'verify' them.

We rent out our house to a beautiful family we are friends with, and another friend. We charge below market rent and are happy to contribute a dignified affordable place to live since it's so hard to find. We have nothing to hide. We are looking into whether there are some forms we need to file.

We are emailing you because you are our friends and we want you to know what is happening. Since we don't know how far he is spreading these rumors, or how far his attacks will go, we wanted to reach out for your support.

We miss you and hope you are all well. Sorry our message had to be about this ridiculous drama.

Claudia and Eli

Instead of acknowledging their status as major scofflaws, they blamed me for “spreading rumors,” and characterized facts as “attacks,” although they did not deny any of the allegations.

Why is this important? Two RPA members are campaigning for state office, touting the “Richmond miracle”  that they want to spread statewide. The so-called “Richmond miracle” has a side they aren’t talking about. It includes ordinances that are so  poorly drafted they cannot be interpreted or applied, and it includes leaders of the RPA who hold themselves above the law.

Just thought you would like to know.