The Planet has been contacted on behalf of Metallic Lathers Union Local 46, a New York City construction union that has been engaged in an effort to educate the public about the irresponsible practices of Sam Zell's development company, Equity Residential.
The local has been following the controversial activities of Sam Zell and Equity Residential in Berkeley, including the proposed Acheson Commons development and their involvement in Berkeley’s Measure R.
Measure R, passed by the voters in November, was a “flagrantly greenwashed” bid to change Berkeley’s downtown plan and zoning to be more developer-friendly. Most of the funding for the Yes on R campaign came from Equity Residential, including an expensive mailer deceptively designed to look like it came from the Sierra Club.
The union email said that “in light of Equity's controversial involvement in Berkeley politics and development issues, I thought you might be interested in taking a look at an informational website that we have put together, EquityResidentialWatch.info. This website contains information on Equity's dangerous buildings as well as their long history of violating tenants’ rights.”
Some allegations on the site:
"-- On July 16th, 2010, a three story parking garage collapsed at an Equity-owned building in N.J., leaving more than 300 residents unable to return home. Two months earlier, Equity was warned by a licensed engineer that the building’s parking garage might “catastrophically collapse.” Equity apparently ignored these warnings, putting the safety of its tenants, employees and the general public at risk (see the video here)
"-- Equity Residential is currently being sued by the Equal Rights Center for engaging in the systematic discrimination of persons with disabilities due to the construction of residential facilities that are alleged to violate the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. "
-- In 2005, Equity Residential was forced to settle with the Maryland Attorney General's Office for more than a quarter of a million dollars in response to allegations that the company charged exorbitant application fees and illegally deducted termination fees from tenants' security deposits. "
- In 2002, residents of Equity Residential buildings in Florida filed a class action lawsuit alleging the company illegally charged tenants thousands of dollars in termination fees. As a result, Equity was forced to discontinue these practices and pay out $1.6 million to tenants."Below: the entries in the Planet's Sam Zell Cartoon contest, held before the November election: