The owner of an Oregon Street property where one UC student collapsed and later died—and where several student tenants were later arrested on drug dealing and illegal weapons charges—has called a meeting with neighbors of the property to hear their concerns about the incident.
“I decided that being a good neighbor, a concerned neighbor, and a former resident of the neighborhood, that I wanted to hear those concerns,” said Cynthia LeBlanc, chief academic officer of the West Contra Costa Unified School District, who once lived at the Oregon Street property in the mid-1980s. “I think we share a common interest. We all want to make sure that we have stable, respectable persons in our neighborhood. My commitment is to do whatever I need to do to make that happen. That has always been my commitment.”
In the immediate aftermath of the death and arrests two weeks ago, neighbors had called the two-house complex between Shattuck Avenue and Fulton Street a “problem property” that had been the subject of “several complaints” to LeBlanc about “problem tenants” for several years predating the tenancy of the arrested students. They accused LeBlanc of being nonresponsive, and said they were working on getting her to sell the property.
All of the neighbors have asked not to be identified.
LeBlanc called the charges untrue.
“I don’t know on what basis they made that statement [about my being non-responsive],” she said “but I guess one of the things I’m trying to demonstrate—as I’ve always tried to demonstrate—is that once I’m called, I do respond. I’m not aware of any situation either where I was called directly or if they contacted the property management company and we did not respond. There are no outstanding complaints that I’m aware of. Absolutely none.”
The Oregon Street property is managed by Bert Realty of Oakland.
LeBlanc said that she has gone back through her records and the records of the realty company, and said she has found “very few complaints. I never have had an eviction there until this time, in my recollection. I’ve always had occupants of that property that are respectable. All of the occupants have always been thoroughly screened.”
LeBlanc said that immediately upon hearing of the death and arrests, she evicted the four student tenants living in the two houses on the property.
A neighbor who has been invited to the LeBlanc meeting says at least for now, she is satisfied with the progress that is being made in clearing up the problems at the property. “She sent someone down to clean up the property,” the neighbor said. In addition, a ramshackle shed behind the back cottage has been torn down.
“I think that Cynthia is really trying,” she said, adding that “things have calmed down a little bit” in terms of the neighbors’ concerns.
As for the incident that vaulted the Oregon Street property into the news, LeBlanc said that she was “totally surprised and upset” by the incident, and “very concerned. Certainly, I regret the loss of any life, for any reason. I was totally, totally unaware of anything that was occurring on that property. I had absolutely no knowledge. And once I found out, I took immediate action to stabilize the situation and to bring a sense of security to the situation there as best I could within the parameters I had.”
The four roommates at the two-house complex have all pleaded innocent to the drug dealing and weapons charges, and will appear in Superior Court in Oakland on Dec. 8 to set a date for a preliminary hearing. In the meantime, law enforcement officials are still trying to determine the cause of death of UC Berkeley senior Patrick McCann, whose collapse and death led to the police raid on the property. McCann had illegal drugs in his system when he died.