One tenant left after Nevada City hotel evicts senior residents
Birgit Eldredge lives alone in a vacant building, in what had been a bustling residence for active seniors. She is the lone hold-out in The Village at The Northern Queen, which once housed 25 tenants but now is being remodeled back into hotel rooms.
A note tacked to Eldredge’s door implores staff not to allow her four cats to escape. Eldredge, along with the other tenants, was given a 60-day notice in mid-December. The hotel manager first told her she could stay as long as she needed, then gave her until the end of April. She has paid rent through today, but the 83-year-old has no idea where she is going to end up.
“I have no relatives here,” Eldredge said. “Do I have a back-up plan? Not really. I’m kind of homeless right now.”
A good deal
When Eldredge moved into The Village in October 2010, it seemed like the perfect solution for an active senior. Close to town but tucked away and private, her rent was reasonable and included breakfast and dinner, as well as weekly housecleaning and access to a pool and laundry facilities.
“It was great,” she remembered. “It was very nice … They had the restaurant open, we got food twice a day (in a private dining room), we had free cleaning, free wi-fi. Everything was included, it was a good price.”
The Village was housed in one of the buildings on the sprawling Northern Queen property, which was converted in 2008.
In 2013, the former owners still planned to make senior living a primary focus of the 45-room hotel, which was built in the 1970s. But in 2014, the Ramey Family Partnership sold the property to Ekdanta Investments.
Things started to go slowly downhill and eventually management stopped filling vacancies in the building.
“The security was bad,” Eldredge said. “The outside lights never worked.”
According to Eldredge and former tenant Robert Keller, the pool was shut down in July 2018 and never reopened.
Keller, who at 68 might have been the youngest tenant in The Village, had moved into his studio in April 2017. The prices on his contract list $1,299 a month for a studio, $2,499 for a one-bedroom unit, which included two meals a day and weekly housekeeping. A 24-hour office was purported to be on site.
According to Keller, a manager was in the office only about two hours a day. When problems cropped up, he claimed, the management was unresponsive.
Two years ago, all but one of the 25 units in The Village were rented out. But by December, only 11 tenants remained, Keller said.
On Dec. 10, the management of the hotel tacked notices to the doors. The hotel was evicting all of its senior residents, in order to remodel the building and turn the rooms back into hotel facilities.
“People in their 70s and 80s in Nevada City received an early Christmas present from the manager — eviction notices,” wrote tenant Lee-Marie Hotchkiss in a letter to the editor.
“These elders now must search for new homes on fixed incomes and pensions,” Hotchkiss continued. “In truth, most have no place to go. As residents of Nevada County know, rentals are hard, if not impossible to find. Indeed, the energy to pack, hire somebody to haul and move, emotional trauma (sure to occur) must overwhelm and frighten these people.”
Hotchkiss called the evictions “shameful and cruel,” writing that residents were told not two months earlier that they could stay as long as they wanted.
Hotel manager Hamid Khazemi did not answer repeated requests for comment and attempts to leave a message for the ownership were unsuccessful.
“People got scared and started moving out,” Keller said.
But he stuck it out for a while. For one, he argued, the letters were not legally binding because they did not list each tenant name and address. Keller said he asked for a legal notice and also for a letter of reference, neither of which he received.
In January, Keller said, the housekeeping — which had become sporadic — ended entirely. The food service to the dining room also ended, with tenants being required to make the trek up the hill to the restaurant.
Keller gave his own 30-day notice on Feb. 28.
“Luckily, I did find a place,” he said.
No place to land
By the mid-April, most of the seniors were gone from The Village, some with the help of Nevada County staff.
“Adult Services worked with four tenants who needed help relocating,” Nevada County Director of Social Services Tex Ritter said. “They were at risk of being homeless and we wanted to make sure they were being taken care of.”
Ritter noted that if there is no abuse or neglect, there is not really a program in place through the county to help elders in this situation.
“It is part of our charge, to be there if people need us … but we do have restrictions on who we can assist,” he said.
But Eldredge and a tenant upstairs remained. That woman, who was having health problems, had been very upset about the forced move, friends said. She was taken to Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital after a welfare check and died there several days later.
Late last week, Eldredge was packing her belongings and putting them in storage.
With four cats and a desire for privacy, Eldredge admittedly is being picky about where she lands. She does not want a shared situation and does not want to be too far out of town. At her age, she says, she doesn’t want to have to drive a lot.
She has been looking at trailers to put on a friend’s property, but estimates she would need to put about $5,000 down — money she doesn’t have. According to Eldredge, Khazemi has promised to give her $1,000 deposit back, but she needs it to make the transition.
So far, the county has not been able to find housing for Eldredge, although she has been connected with a case manager through Hospitality House.
“We are doing what we can,” Ritter said.
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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