John Small didn't think too much of it when his car was damaged last year in East Palo Alto in the parking garage of Stanford Garden Apartments, the complex where he's lived for three years. But that changed when he spoke to his landlord, Nemat Malek Salehi: Small tells KTVU that Salehi, who is 74 years old, suggested he move out of his apartment.
"Alone you might think it's random vandalism," Small told the new channel, "but this has been happening in this apartment complex for as long as I've been here."
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe alleges that Salehi's motives are to force his rent-controlled tenants out and replace them with market-rate tenants. Rent-controlled units at Stanford Garden Apartments go for $1,100 a month, but market-rate units are $2,800.
Three other residents have come forward to report similar car damage, and KTVU has obtained surveillance video of what tenants say is someone in their landlord's car firing a BB gun at their vehicles.
"We think it's such an egregious offense that it warrants the felony treatment," San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe tells KTVU. "Most landlords would never even think of doing anything like this. When a landlord does this, we think it's truly taken advantage of our people who need that rent control."
Salehi could face four years in prison if he's convicted. He's been charged with felony destruction of property, to which he pleaded not guilty, and he's due back in court tomorrow. Salehi's son, 30-year-old Auria Malek Salehi, allegedly attempted to dissuade tenants from pursuing charges. KRON4 indicates he's been charged with a misdemeanor and faces a year in county jail.