SENIOR POWER: getting online

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Friday March 30, 2012 - 05:45:00 PM

How many senior citizens does it take to fight their landlord in a light bulb?

A group of tenants is fighting their landlord’s online-only rent payment rule. Elderly renters in south Los Angeles’ Woodlake Manor apartment building are suing landlord Jones & Jones. They allege that its requirement could leave them vulnerable to eviction under the Woodland Hills company’s new requirement that they make all their payments online and that a "green" initiative introduced by the company is actually a pretense to evict low-income, elderly renters benefiting from rent-stabilization provisions. 

(Alejandro Lazo in March 7, 2012 Los Angeles Times.)  

State Senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) has introduced a bill that would ban the practice of online-only rent payments in California. He shares the tenants' concerns that mandating online payments could be used as a way to find renters in violation of their contracts. "Not everyone has a computer nor do they have Internet access, and even if they have that there are certain people who don't want to pay online for privacy reasons," he said.  

How many senior citizens of your acquaintance have computers or even access to a PC? How many are able to walk to the nearest public library, senior center, or internet café? 


Jones & Jones Management Group, Inc. describes itself as "Family-owned and operated since 1971… Our professional on-site management will meet your needs in a friendly and efficient manner. … Woodlake Manor Apartments is ideally located within minutes of the 10 freeway, Crenshaw Plaza Shopping Center/Wal-Mart, restaurants, entertainment, and schools.” But not, apparently, within minutes of public libraries and senior centers. Public library branches located in the Woodland Hills area provide free computer access, but they are not “within minutes.” 

Woodlake Manor residents told reporters that the company would accept their rent checks only after they signed an agreement exempting them from the rule. The company did not accept the payments of residents until a group organized a demonstration in which residents presented their checks en masse to the rental office. Even so, waivers that residents signed might be revoked at any time.

"I am 86 years old and I am computer illiterate," said Margaret Beavers, a Woodlake Manor resident since 1963 and a plaintiff in the suit against the landlord. "I'd have to buy a computer and learn how to use it… ." Dedon Kamathi, a 12-year resident and an organizer with the Woodlake Manor Tenants Association, said the move by Jones & Jones was “an attempt to exploit a ‘digital divide’ between the lower-income, largely African American long-term residents in the building and the higher-income renters that the company is actively courting. The new rule requiring online payments was aimed at getting these residents — many of whom benefit from the city's rent-control policies — out of the building so that the management company could offer the units at market rate… They want more USC types — USC students, middle-class tenants… The bottom line is the more turnaround, the more you can make money."  

I know from experience the verity of this contention. While I was a tenant in a rent-controlled, Berkeley south campus apartment, I learned that there is little or nothing one person can do or expect of local government when new management decides to dump rent-paying old-timers. 

Larry Gross, executive director of the tenants rights group, Coalition for Economic Survival, which helped organize the Woodlake Manor tenants, said he was concerned that more Jones & Jones buildings may be subject to the online-only rent payment rule. Jones & Jones owns and operates 38 buildings with 2,900+ units throughout Los Angeles and Ventura counties. 

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of four residents of Woodlake Manor, all over age 62, alleges that the new rule violates the city's Rent Stabilization Ordinance because it unilaterally changed the terms of rental agreements. Tenants were represented by Bet Tzedek Legal Services, founded in 1974 by a small group of lawyers, rabbis, and community activists who sought to act upon a central tenet of Jewish law and tradition, doctrine establishing an obligation to advocate the just causes of the poor and helpless.  

Jones & Jones has issued a statement through an attorney regretting that the online payments were being "negatively received." The old blaming-the-victim ploy. 


“Senior Power” readers may be aware of my advocacy for enabling senior citizens to become computer literate. It’s a good thing. Computer literacy is knowledge and ability to use computers efficiently and at a comfort level. A personal computer (PC) is any general-purpose computer whose size, capabilities, and original sales price make it useful for individuals.  

I contend that enabling senior citizens to use email and to access the Internet can be significant in their lives. There are, however, two considerations – attitude and equipment. Both might be dealt with at senior centers and senior housing, and are already shared by public libraries that routinely provide daytime and evening classes, workshops, tutorials, etc. as well as onsite access to computers. There are young and old volunteers who could serendipitously be further involved.  

Computers for seniors projects in California are located in Chula Vista, Costa Mesa, Fallbrook, La Mirada, Sacramento and San Jose. Jean Coppola, a Pace University gerontologist and information technology professor, began a program to bridge the generation gap created by the Computer Age. Seniors learn how to navigate PCs, iPads and smartphones, with university students as teachers. It has become a model for similar efforts. She now has more seniors clamoring for the 7-week course at senior facilities in Manhattan and Westchester County, New York than she has students to teach them. ("Seniors and their iPads, iPhones: Keeping up in the computer age." Michelle Maltias Chicago Tribune, March 21, 2012). 



Congress decided to hold Election Day on a Tuesday because it was the easiest day for farmers, in what was then a largely agrarian country, to get to the polls! Only 56% of eligible voters went to the polls in 2008. Reps. Larson (D-CT) and Israel (D-NY) introduced The Weekend Voting Act to move Election Day from a Tuesday to the weekend. Polls would be open from 10 A.M. ET on the first Saturday of the month through 6 P.M. ET on the first Sunday in the 48 contiguous states and held open overnight if local elections officials decide to do so. 

Other nations, e.g. France, the UK, New Zealand, have dramatically higher rates of turnout -- up to 70% and 80% -- when Election Day is a holiday, or held on the weekend, versus an average of 55% in the U.S. in presidential election years. Here in the U.S., we rank 138th out of 172 around the world in voter participation. 

Tell Congress: move Election Day to the weekend so America can get to the polls. 


MARK YOUR CALENDAR Readers are welcome to share by email news of future events and deadlines that may interest boomers, seniors and elders. Daytime, free, and Bay Area events preferred.  

Mondays, April 2 and 9. 2:30-3:30 P.M. North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. “Receive help with basic technology needs from UCB students…. Also: Wednesdays, April 4 and 11, 12:30-2 P.M.; and April 13, 10:30-11:30 P.M. 510-981-5190.  

Monday, April 2. 6:30 P.M. Castoffs knitting group. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. An evening of knitting, show and tell and yarn exchange. All levels are welcome and help will be provided. Free. 510-524-3043.  

Wednesday, April 4. 10 A.M. – Noon. North Berkeley Senior Center Advisory Council. 1901 Hearst. Be sure to confirm. 510-981-5190  

Wednesday, April 4. 12:15-1 P.M. Noon concert, UC,B Music Department. Hertz Concert Hall. Faculty Recital featuring new pieces by Berkeley composer and pianist Cindy Cox, with violinist Hrabba Atladottir, pianist Karen Rosenak, and the Alexander String Quartet. Free. 510-642-4864 

Wednesday, April 4. 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney. Advance registration is required. Sign up in person at the Reference desk, Albany Branch of the Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. . Or call 510-526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours.  

Wednesday, April 4. 6:30-8 P.M. Albany Branch of the Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Poetry Writing Workshop with Christina Hutchins, Albany poet and author of The Stranger Dissolves, facilitates this writing workshop. Free. No registration required. Drop in and work on your poetry with a group of supportive writers. Contact: Dan Hess(510) 526-3720 x17 

Saturday, April 7. 1 – 5 P.M. Berkeley Public Library North Branch, 1170 The Alameda at Hopkins. Grand Reopening Event. A ribbon cutting ceremony is planned with local and state officials, music and refreshments. Everyone invited. Library services will begin at 2 p.m. (The final open day for BranchVan Service at Live Oak Park will be Saturday, March 24, 2012.) Details at

Monday, April 9. 11:30 – 1:30 A.M. Older Adult Passover Seder. Jewish Community Center of the East Bay, Berkeley Branch 1414 Walnut Street. Kosher meal will include chicken and matzo ball soup, gefilte fish with horseradish sauce, fresh green salad w/ hard boiled eggs, roasted chicken, matzh kugel, and wine. The Seder will be led by Ron Feldman. $10 JCC East Bay Member. $13 Non-Member. RSVP by March 29. Contact: Front DeskPhone: 510-848-0237. Email: 

Tuesday, April 10. 7-9 P.M. Albany branch of the Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Poetry Night. Featured Poet is Barry Goldensohn. Followed by Open Mic. Contact: Dan Hess 

Wednesday, April 11. 12:15-1 P.M. Noon concert. UC,B Music Dept. Hertz Concert Hall. New Music by UC Berkeley graduate student composers, featuring Eco Ensemble, our resident professional new music ensemble directed by David Milnes. Lily Chen: Soundscape for violin, percussion, and piano. Andrés Cremisini: (control) for violin, cello, and snare drum. Ilya Y. Rostovtsev: Understatements for stereo fixed media. Tickets not required. Event Contact 510-642-4864 

Thursday, April 12. 7:00 P.M. El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Avenue. Folk singer Tim Holt performs and discusses our heritage of traditional songs and sea chanteys. Sponsored by the Friends of the El Cerrito Library. 510-526-7512. 

Friday, April 13. 12:15-1 P.M. UCB Music Dept. Noon concert. Department of Music students perform chamber music. Hertz Concert Hall. Free. 510-642-4864 

Saturday, April 14. 2-3 P.M. Be an expert: Genealogy. Berkeley Public Library Central, 2090 Kittredge. Free introduction to online genealogy tools and, a database that offers searchable census tracts, immigration records, photos and more. In the Electronic Classroom. 510-981-6100 

Monday, April 16. 12:30-1:30 P.M. Library Brown Bag Lunch Speaker's Forum: Richard Schwartz discusses "The Amazing Volunteer Relief Effort in the East Bay After the 1906 Earthquake." Go to for more information. The forum is co-sponsored by the Albany YMCA and the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av..
Contact: Ronnie Davis(510) 526-3720 x16. 

Monday, April 16. 7 P.M. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. Author Panel: So You Want to Write a Book? Four local authors discussing their writing journeys. Free. 510-524-3043 

Tuesday, April 17. 6:30 P.M. Oakland Public Library, Rockridge Branch, 5366 College Ave.. Vegan Outreach presents Jack Norris, author of Vegan for Life, speaking about the health benefits of a plant-based diet. This program is part of Oakland Veg Week, April 15-21. Linda Jolivet 510/597-5017  

Wednesday, April 18. 12:15-1 P.M. Noon concert: Highlights: Music Dept. event. Hertz Concert Hall. Songs of Persephone. Soprano Alana Mailes performs 17th-century Italian and French opera arias and cantatas by Caccini, Peri, Monteverdi, Rossi, Lully, Charpentier. Tickets not required. Event Contact 510-642-4864 

Wednesday, April 18. 1:30 P.M. Berkeley Commission on Aging. South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis Street. 510-981-5178 Be sure to confirm. 

Wednesday, April 18. 7-8 P.M. Albany branch of the Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Adult Evening Book Group: Nadifa Mohamed's Black Mamba Boy. Rosalie Gonzales facilitates the discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. Contact: Ronnie Davis(510) 526-3720 x16  

Saturday April 21. 1-5 P.M. Oakland Public Library Rockridge Branch, 5366 College Ave.. California Writers' Club, a workshop open to all writers. Contact: Anne Fox 510-420-8775. 

Tuesday, April 24. 3-4 P.M. Berkeley Public Library Central, 2090 Kittredge. Tea and Cookies at the Library. A free monthly book club for people who want to share the books they have read. 510-981-6100 See also May 22. 

Wednesday, April 25. 12:15-1 P.M. UC,B Music Dept. Gamelan Music of Java and Bali is performed by classes directed by Midiyanto and I Dewa Putu Berata with Ben Brinner and Lisa Gold. Hertz Concert Hall. Free. 510-642-4864 

Wednesday, April 25. 1:30-2:30 P.M. Great Books Discussion Group: William Butler Yeats’ poem, Lapis Luzuli. Albany branch of the Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Rosalie Gonzales facilitates the discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. Contact: Ronnie Davis(510) 526-3720 x16 

Wednesday, April 25. 1:30 P.M. Berkeley Gray Panthers. Monthly meeting at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. 510-981-5190, 548-9696, 486-8010 

Wednesday, May 2. 12:15-1 P.M. UC,B Music Dept.: Renaissance Music, A Cappella. Perfect Fifth, Mark Sumner, director, is an a cappella choir in UC Choral Ensembles specializing in medieval and Renaissance music—sacred and secular, as well as contemporary art music. Hertz Concert Hall. Free. 510-642-4864 

Monday, May 7. 6:30 P.M. Castoffs knitting group. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. An evening of knitting, show and tell and yarn exchange. All levels are welcome and help will be provided. Free. 510-524-3043.  

Thursday, May 10. 7-8:45 P.M. Cafe Literario at West Berkeley Public Library, 1125 University Ave. Facilitated Spanish language book discussion. May title: La Casa de Dostoievsky by Jorge Edwards. Free. 510-981-6270 

Sunday, May 13. 12-4:30 P.M., 1:30 - 2:45pm. Hertz Concert Hall. Concert and Commencement Ceremony. Sponsor: Department of Music. Concert featuring award winners in the performing arts. Open to all audiences. Event Contact:, 510-642-4864 

Monday, May 14. 7:00 P.M. Identity Theft Program. Barbara Jue, a Legal Shield associate, will offer information and advice on how to prevent identity theft and how to cope should it should happen. She will also talk about children and computer use and cyber bullying. Q&A follows. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Avenue. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Monday May 21. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club: Color of the Sea by John Hamamura. 61 Arlington Av. Each meeting starts with a poem selected and read by a member with a brief discussion following the reading. New members are always welcome. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Tuesday, May 22. 3 – 4 P.M. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. Tea and Cookies at the Library. A free monthly book club for people who want to share the books they have read. 510-981-6100. 

Monday, June 4. 6:30 P.M. "Castoffs" - Knitting Group. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Avenue. An evening of knitting, show and tell and yarn exchange. All levels are welcome and help will be provided. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Monday, June 18. 7 P.M. Art historian Michael Stehr will discuss Gian Lorenz Bernini, who was the Michelangelo of the Baroque. He will also present a slide show. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Avenue. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Monday June 25. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club: The Chosen by Chaim Potok. 1 Arlington Av. Free. 510-524-3043.