Under the law, removing appliances from a furnished apartment is tantamount to shutting off a tenant's utilities, and thus illegal. Osumi secured a court order prohibiting Schaefer from re-entering the apartment and removing the refrigerator and stove that remained. But the landlord ignored the order, sending in workmen to remove the appliances. In March, city fire inspector Bill Wakeland, fearing the potential of fire, ordered Schaefer to place security guards in the building to discourage arsonists who prey on unwatched structures. Schaefer refused, city officials say, choosing to challenge the order in court.
A few days after the order, Marjie Gallego's 15-year-old son, Eddie, was standing in the lobby talking with friends. "Three boys came in and asked, 'Where are you from?' " Marjie Gallego says. "He said 'No place' and they slapped him and said, 'Don't lie, punk.'
"They shot him when he was running toward the back of the building."
The shotgun blast struck his shoulder. Eddie Gallego was hospitalized for a month. Some weeks later, Wakeland ordered that a round-the-clock "fire watch" be established at the building. Schaefer was billed for the cost.
Eddie Gallego was luckier than some. During the first eight months of 1981, two persons were killed in the gang violence that swirled on and near Schaefer's building. Schaefer himself says he was punched on one visit and had his car vandalized.
Schaefer maintains he was persecuted by then-City Atty. Ira Reiner, now the district attorney. As often happens, he becomes impassioned, his voice reaching a higher pitch, his narrative dwelling on minor code violations.
"Everybody gets an office hearing except Michael Schaefer. It was Ira Reiner showboating! He said, 'I want to take the slumlords off the golf courses and put them in jail.' Well, this slumlord--uh, this investor in real estate spent his time in hardware stores getting good values for my tenants. I'm a shopper! I don't play golf. Well, I have played miniature golf with my kids. But I'm not a country club person. I bought $8,000 worth of hardware and I was so proud of my new green plastic trash cans with black lids on them. And then the inspectors come around and I get cited because they're the wrong kinds of cans. That doesn't seem fair, does it? It's the bureaucracy versus the individual."
At times Schaefer sent memos to tenants, such as one dated July 23, 1981:
"We were fined $1,310 because of the cockroaches and holes in the wall, and the check bounced that was used to pay the fine. Those of you who complained to the inspection department got us a $1,310 fine that we would prefer to have spent on repair of the stairways and plumbing." He went on to tell of a $2,000 payment to the manager and $500 to another worker to take care of plumbing and other problems--paltry sums in light of the building's needs. "I am doing all that I can do as an owner to take care of things. I need your cooperation too."
A few days later, Schaefer, whose net worth was then more than $4 million, circulated what opposing lawyers came to call the "week of darkness" letter:
"Please eat whatever food you have in your refrigerators because our electricity is being turned off (in) . . . all apartments for non-payment of bills. . . . If you have food in your refrigerator it will spoil, thus you are given this advance notice. We regret this is necessary. The owner does not have $5,000 to pay the gas, electric and water bills. . . .
"Thus we will be going out of business, for a few days or maybe a few weeks or months. After a week of darkness, the fire and health department will probably board up the building and everyone will have to move out."
Schaefer contended that the only way to make meaningful improvements would be to close the building and remove the tenants. "I'm aware it's against the law to turn off the utilities," he said in the midst of the furor. "But I'm not turning off the utilities; I'm just not paying the bill."
Under pressure, Schaefer decided it was time to get out. He tried to sell the building to a Korean immigrant, but the deal was voided in court because of the dubious terms of the contract designed by Schaefer. A short time later Schaefer sold his Berendo investment for $1.2 million--more than double his purchase price of 4 1/2 years earlier.