Dozens of seniors sitting on chairs along sidewalk
The Bella Castello and Corde Terra Senior tenants associations rallied together in front of ROEM Corporation's Santa Clara offices to voice grievances and demand a meeting with representatives on Dec. 15, 2023. Photo by B. Sakura Cannestra.

Dozens of tenants from two affordable housing complexes in San Jose are calling on their corporate landlord to do more after repeated car break-ins and receiving written notices they don’t understand.

Residents from the Bella Castello and Corde Terra Senior tenants associations protested Friday in front of ROEM Corporation’s offices in Santa Clara, calling for CEO Robert Emami to meet with them. Tenants are demanding better security because their cars are regularly broken into, and for management to provide tenant notices in other languages besides English, since many residents speak another language such as Vietnamese or Spanish. Residents who are frail and disabled worry these notices could lead to an eviction.

At Bella Castello, resident Hung Nguyen, 62, said there have been multiple times when up to 10 cars were broken into in the building’s secure garage. He is worried his will be next. He said there are also non-residents sleeping in the building’s laundry facility.

“(Building management says), since we live in San Jose, this is normal. This is supposed to happen,” Nguyen told San José Spotlight through a translator. “We are paying a lot of rent money to live here. Where is the duty of the people who are supposed to help manage the property?”

Elderly resident speaks at rally, microphone held by supporter from Law Foundation, surrounded by rallying elderly residents
Senior tenants of the Bella Castello and Corde Terra complexes in San Jose are worried about safety and a lack information provided in their primary language. Photo by B. Sakura Cannestra.

Bella Castello has a security guard who works limited hours, and tenants want those hours extended.

“I am very stressed, I think about (these safety issues) when I sleep,”Corde Terra resident Lam Pham, 74, told San José Spotlight.

At the rally, Corde Terra resident Thuy Nguyen, 82, said she is frightened when she sees notices in English because she doesn’t understand what is being asked. Most of the Corde Terra Senior tenants speak English as a second language and are unable to understand the notices.

These notices usually convey building regulations, such as apartment patio rules, but not following these regulations could lead to eviction, Thuy Nguyen said through a translator.

Members of both tenant groups said they have tried reaching out to the management company—FPI Management—but have not heard back. At Corde Terra, tenants alleged that on-site building management has been intimidating residents for trying to organize.

FPI Management could not be reached for comment.

“We just want the property management to reach back (out) to us and reach back out to the elderly,” Thuy Nguyen told San José Spotlight through a translator. “Pretty much all of (us) are elderly and live alone.”

Cindy Tran, community housing advocate with the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, said both tenants associations have been organizing. She helped translate for Vietnamese-speaking tenants at the rally. Tran said both tenant groups had arranged a meeting with FPI management, but they canceled without rescheduling.

San Jose City Councilmember Peter Ortiz said building management should provide notices in tenants’ primary languages. Photo by Jason Torres Iraheta.

San Jose Councilmember Peter Ortiz was there to support tenants as a fellow renter.

Ortiz said building management should be providing notices in their primary languages, and he hopes they meet with the tenants to negotiate. He pointed out other instances across the city where tenants are fighting for basic rights, and said the city needs to introduce legislation to maintain renter housing habitability.

“We have absentee landlords who are not being accountable to their tenants and accountable to the surrounding community,” Ortiz told San José Spotlight. “What you see is impacts (on) both the residents and the neighborhoods that these residences are in.”

Councilmember Omar Torres and Betty Duong, chief of staff for Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, also came as a show of support.

Elderly residents and supporters, including San Jose City Councilmember Omar Torres and staff representatives from county Supervisor Cindy Chavez's office, hold signs reading "Respect Elderly" and "We demand better safety and security for seniors"
The Bella Castello and Corde Terra Senior tenants associations rallied in front of ROEM Corporation offices to voice grievances. San Jose Councilmember Omar Torres joined them. Photo by B. Sakura Cannestra.

The tenants marched to the ROEM Corporation office, some pulling walkers up the steps. People in the office handed them a paper detailing the Bella Castello apartment grievance filing process, but otherwise did not engage with the group and called the Santa Clara Police Department.

Police officers relocated the rally to the sidewalk. They reiterated what the office workers said—that ROEM Corporation is not the building owner for the apartments.

A representative from ROEM Corporation who declined to give their name told San José Spotlight the company was a construction company—not the building owner—and declined to speak further on the matter.

At the rally, tenants delivered a letter addressed to Emami, the CEO, which they pushed through the mail slot since the doors were locked. They are asking to meet with Emami in person either on Dec. 18 or 19.

“(We) have been complaining to the property management and they have said they … can’t handle that,” Thuy Nguyen said. “That is not the response (we) want.”

Contact B. Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] or @SakuCannestra on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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