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'Senior lives matter' Plaza Tower residents protest living conditions

Residents claims they're living with roaches, frequent water leaks, and poor security among other problems
Posted at 9:40 AM, Mar 28, 2024

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Catherine Stoy and Freda Banks organized the protest outside of the Plaza Towers to protest what they call "unfair" living conditions.

  • Video shows living conditions at the Plaza Towers and Wednesday morning's protest for a change.
  • In December 2022, the Kern County Grand Jury released a report outlining their recommendations for the Housing Authority to improve the living conditions at Plaza Towers.
  • The Housing Authority says they purchased land for the replacement housing but it will take time to complete, but some residents are already trying to leave.

Senior residents at Plaza Towers say they’re living in unfair conditions claiming bed bugs and roaches infest the building, water leaks, and a lack of security, and now they’re asking for a change.
The sound of passing cars honking shows support for the Plaza Tower resident who spent Wednesday morning protesting for better living conditions.

Neighborhood News Reporter Dominique Lavigne interviewing one of the concern residents, Catherine Stoy, in Bakersfield. Stoy is upset over the condition of the Plaza Towers
Neighborhood News Reporter Dominique Lavigne interviewing one of the concern residents, Catherine Stoy, in Bakersfield. Stoy is upset over the condition of the Plaza Towers

“This building isn’t in the condition that it’s supposed to be. What are they waiting for? For it to fall?” Catherine Stoy, a long-time Plaza Towers resident said.

In December 2022, the Kern County Grand Jury released a report outlining their recommendations for the Housing Authority to improve the living conditions at Plaza Towers.

The Housing Authority responded disagreeing with many of the findings because of what they call either inaccurate or incomplete information.

“They don’t give us answers back," Stoy said. "They just shake their heads at us and move on.”

While Stoy says some concerns were addressed like additional lighting in the staircases, she says multiple concerns continue to go unresolved.

She took me around the building to show me some of her safety concerns outside the building, claiming prostitution and drug activity often occur.

While she says they have key cards to unlock the front doors, when I asked if the doors to the outdoor stairwells were locked, she said no.

I followed up asking if anyone had access to the building through the stairs, she said yes.

“They come up and then they get in, and then somebody will unlock the doors for them and they can get in to the floors,” Stoy tells me.

Stoy showed me inside her apartment where a water leak rusted over her heating and cooling system.

Dominique interviewing another concerned resident, Freda Banks
Dominique interviewing another concerned resident, Freda Banks

Freda Banks, another long-time resident, continue to outline some of the issues including mold, cracks in the building, and a broken elevator which makes it difficult for residents with disabilities to get down from higher levels.

“The other one is water leaks and the other one bed bugs and roaches. The other one is … oh, we got so many of them,” she said.

I reached out to the Housing Authority for their comment on the residents’ complaints.

Heather Kimmel, the Assistant Executive Director with the Housing Authority, responded to my questions via email, saying the property is on a regular pest control treatment schedule.

She adds, “Any reports of pests outside of the schedule are addressed through an independent inspection and treatment. In addition, we inspect every unit yearly on top of a Federal inspection that is conducted by HUD. We address water leaks immediately upon them being reported to us or upon our maintenance team identifying one. The internal water pipes at the property are old resulting in more frequent leaks.”

But Banks says it’s not enough.

“You work on it when you have an inspection coming up, and then you do these false fixing, but you need to work on it every day every week," she said.

Banks claims she and other tenants were threatened to be evicted if they organized a protest.

Kimmel says, “This is untrue. Tenants have the right to express their concerns. We take their comments seriously, and had already begun looking into similar complaints made by the tenants prior to their decision to protest.”

She continues to says “The age and design of Plaza Towers is not conducive to Senior living, which is why we have made the decision to build replacement housing for the tenants.”

Kimmel adds they purchased land for the replacement housing but it will take time to complete, but some residents are already trying to leave.

“I’ve just only been here about 6 or 7 months, and I’m ready to leave,” another resident added.

Stoy says they deserve better than their current living situation and tells me they will continue to speak up to advocate for a change.

“We as seniors or anyone, whether or not we’re on a low income program or not deserve to live in a safe, healthy environment,” Stoy said.

Here's the Housing Authority's complete responses to our questions.

  1. What has the Housing Authority done to address the recommendations listed in the grand jury report last year?

    Our response to the Grand Jury report is posted to our website www.kernha.org [kernha.org] under Policies and Resources.  The response is titled "Grand Jury Report Response".  

  2. Residents say they're living with roaches, bed bugs, frequent water leaks, and mold among other concerns and tell me these are long standing issues. What is the Housing Authority doing to address this? 

    This property, like all others in our portfolio is on a regular pest control treatment schedule.  Any reports of pests outside of the schedule are addressed through an independent inspection and treatment.  In addition, we inspect every unit yearly on top of a Federal inspection that is conducted by HUD.  We address water leaks immediately upon them being reported to us or upon our maintenance team identifying one.  The internal water pipes at the property are old resulting in more frequent leaks.  

  3. What has the housing authority done to address safety concerns as it relates to drugs and prostitution?

    In order to enhance tenant safety, we have hired a security company to monitor the site outside of staff's normal working hours.  We recently hired a new company and increased the hours of coverage.  In addition, we added fencing around the entire property and an enhanced entry system at the front door.  We, much like others in the area are suffering the affects of increased crime and lower accountability for criminals.    

  4. Why has it taken so long to fix some of these problems?

    We address all maintenance issues at the site immediately as they are reported to us, or upon being identified by our maintenance team.  The age and design of Plaza Towers is not conducive to Senior living, which is why we have made the decision to build replacement housing for the tenants.  We are already in the beginning stages of building this replacement housing and have purchased two parcels of land.  Although it will take some time to complete, once done the tenants will benefit from brand new amenities, a single story design, and private entrances to their units.  

  5. Some residents claim they were threatened if they protested the conditions they would get evicted from the property. What does the housing authority say to that?

    This is untrue.  Tenants have the right to express their concerns.  We take their comments seriously, and had already begun looking into similar complaints made by the tenants prior to their decision to protest.  

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