Thursday, November 26, 2009

My special "Survivor Savo Island" housing co-op newsletter

(Photos are from some of the good old days at Savo Island, including what the place looked like when it was just a vacant lot)

Yes, I know that I've written a "Survivor Savo Island" newsletter before but, Geez Louise, I've just been once again reminded that you've got to be a real survivor to live here -- and you certainly have to be able to outwit, outplay and outlast in order to survive if you are one of our management companies!

As for myself, I've survived living at Savo Island Cooperative Homes for over 30 years now and have gone through so many "elimination ceremonies" that I'm now one of the very few Survivors left out of the original group who arrived on the "Island" back in 1979.

57 families first moved into a brand new Savo Island back in 1979 and we were all so idealistic. We even had play groups and pot luck dinners for goodness sakes. Everyone came to the board meetings and we all took turns running for the board. And then, back in the 1980s, things changed -- not only because that was the "me" decade but also because crack cocaine suddenly started appearing from out of nowhere, and it hit the streets of Berkeley like a ton of bricks. By 1984, Savo too started to have dealers and crack houses.

By the 1990s, a lot of Savo's original residents had left -- either to buy houses in the suburbs or to go off to jail -- and a lot of new residents moved in (a lot of them being relatives of a group of new board members who took over the board in approximately the mid-1990s and began to run Savo Island with an iron hand). And the population here also began to age. Instead of having 40 children playing outside at any given time, we were lucky to have even seven. And potlucks and play groups became a thing of the past. Now people just walked past each other in the parking lot on their way to school or work.

In the 2000s, the big thing here at Savo was the rehab. And I've fought tooth and nail for this rehab to finally get completed, starting back in 2001 -- even back before the invasion of Afghanistan. And, like the Bush-Obama occupation of Afghanistan, Savo's rehab planning stage is still going on. Getting this rehab to actually begin happening has been like pulling teeth. Talk about your reward challenge!

And, as a result of me trying so hard to win Savo's rehab reward challenge, there's apparently been a secret alliance between other tribe members now on the board which keeps trying to vote me out of the game. So far, my rent has been raised illegally, the board majority has called six (6) different executive sessions to try to figure out how to get me off the board, I've been given two illegal eviction notices, and, at one point, I was even threatened with jail. But I'm still here -- just like Russell on "Survivor Samoa". Perhaps I also have a hidden immunity idol in my pocket!

And I'm also still hoping that our rehab will still happen. The August 2010 window of opportunity that I had counted is now rapidly closing but, at this moment, that window is still open -- and I'm going to do everything I can to keep it that way.

But my own survival skills here are nothing compared to the survival skills of Savo Island's various past management companies. So far, we've watched fourteen (14) different management companies come and go. Dealing with Savo Island's self-interested board of directors has been a real challenge that most management companies avoid us, and Savo apparently has such a bad reputation in the local property-management industry that only the bravest companies are willing to try to take us on. Managing Savo is the ultimate immunity challenge! The board ALWAYS wins.

So on December 31, 2009, I'm going to have to say goodbye to our current management company, with tears in my eyes -- because "The tribe has spoken". Our current management company will be dousing its torch and waving goodbye, walking down the path and getting ready to serve on the jury. I will be sorry to see this excellent company go because, without their valient efforts during the challenges, the August 2010 rehab window of opportunity would have closed long ago -- or would never have opened.

And our next management company (number 15) starts work at Savo Island on January 1, 2010. They too are an excellent management company, they too have the skills to finally pull off this nine-year rehab and we are lucky to have this new company too. And I wonder how long they too will last on the "Island"? But whatever happens, I will do whatever I can to help this new company avoid elimination -- just like I have done for the past 14 other management company "Survivors" before them.

PS: Here's a video of me trying to remember the names of all 15 of our management companies. I apparently missed a few but I think that I nailed at least 12.