Thursday, June 12, 2008

The special "Hell's Kitchen" edition of my housing co-op newsletter

(Photos are of the burned office building next to the Savo island Cooperative Homes' dumpster)

If Chef Gordon Ramsey, the star of that TV reality show called "Hell's Kitchen," were in charge of running my housing co-op, I can just imagine what he would say about the place. "Shut it down!"

"But Chef! Why?"

"Because it's a [bleeping] fire hazard, that's why!" And Chef Ramsey would be right. My poor sweet little housing co-op actually almost DID turn into Hell's Kitchen last week. Here's the story:

Last Wednesday night, some dumpster diver was apparently using his Bic lighter to illuminate his search for bottles and cans and accidentally set one of Savo Island's dumpsters on fire. Boy, you shoulda seen it. "Fi-yah!" Unfortunately, one whole side of the three-story office building next to us is now toast.

If Chef Ramsey had been there, I bet he woulda said, "You freaking moron! You almost set the whole neighborhood on fire!" But what Chef Ramsey didn't know was how close to the truth he actually came. Because there has been almost no infrastructure maintenance at my housing co-op during the past ten years, the place is dry as a tinderbox and it came THAT close to going up in flames too.

"Everyone needs to evacuate the facility," cried the firemen as they broke down the door of the handicapped unit closest to the dumpster. "Everyone out!" People came streaming out of our housing project in their nightgowns. One resident heroically ran back into her apartment to save the life of her pet white rat! It is only blind luck that our homes didn't burn to the ground. And if Chef Ramsey had been in charge that night, there would have been Hell to pay! Can't you just hear him now....

"Who the [bleep] let those shingles get that dry?" he would have screamed at our Board of Directors at the next Board meeting. "And why was the re-hab stalled for a year and a half because some Board members fancied ecologically impractical wooden shingles instead of FIREPROOF fiber-cement siding -- even though the wooden ones only last half as long as fiber-cement, have already been proven ineffective in Bay Area climate, are not nearly as fire-retardant and cost approximately $150,000 more? And why have you [bleeping] Board members been delaying this [bleeping] rehab, using every phony excuse you can think of, for the past six or seven years, until the price of labor and materials have gone up approximately three million dollars! I don't want to hear any more excuses!" Calm down, Chef! Just calm down.

"Out of my kitchen!" Chef Ramsey would have shouted. "This whole place is a death trap! Shut it down!" No, no, no, Chef. Please don't shut it down. This place is my HOME. Just shut down that do-nothing Board of Directors -- who even now, with the re-hab service almost completed, are still not working together to get it plated and served.

But Chef Ramsey still wasn't done castigating the Board, even after the fire was out. "What have you morons gone and done NOW!" the Chef snarled. "How hard can it be to just complete the [bleeping] re-hab!" What new disaster in Hell's Kitchen has caused Chef Ramsey to lose his patience with the Board? Stay tuned and find out.

After Board members had blocked my request to move to a downstairs unit -- due to my medical accommodation needs -- for so long that I had to file a Fair Housing complaint in order to light a fire under them to force them to comply with HUD regulations, the Board is now refusing to settle that complaint, causing the re-hab to get stalled once again. "But Jane, why should that be a problem for the re-hab?" asked Chef Ramsey.

"Because, Chef, the loan for the re-hab won't go through until this complaint is settled. And so now the Board is blaming ME for stopping the freaking re-hab. At the last Board meeting, they actually told me that I was the one who was keeping the re-hab from happening. Me! I've been trying for the last freaking DECADE to get this re-hab going and now it's MY fault? Hardly. This Board is really hard to work with, Chef. They are charged with running a co-op but don't want to cooperate."

For instance, during the last Board meeting, one Board member even rose up from her chair like some Old-Testament prophet, fixed me with a bone-chilling stare and started chanting, "God knows all. God sees all. God never sleeps. He never sleeps. God never sleeps. Never sleeps. Never sleeps. God never sleeps...."

"But, Chef, I SWEAR it wasn't me holding up the freaking re-hab. All the Board has to do is resolve the HUD Fair Housing complaint brought against them because THEY violated HUD rules, and we could have that re-hab loan TOMORROW. But they won't. Why should they? If they settle the complaint, the re-hab will go through and -- judging by the Board's actions over the last seven years -- that seems to be the very last thing that they want. And now, apparently, even God is on their side. Chef Ramsey, although I dearly love watching Hell's Kitchen on TV, I truly don't want to go to Hell itself! What should I doooo...."

"Jane, you are missing the obvious solution. Your housing co-op needs to fire that Board and get a new one. Immediately."