A Fillmore appeals board has ruled that city officials erred when they evacuated 100 low-income residents from an aging apartment building last fall because of suspected earthquake damage.
"Based on the evidence presented to this board, the building was not immediately dangerous to life, limb, property, or safety of the public or occupants and should not have been ordered vacated," the appeals board concluded.
The board, made up of four building inspectors from neighboring cities, ruled that the apartments could be reopened if a sagging floor is bolstered, smoke detectors installed and gas shut-off valves placed on all appliances.
The owner of the 60-year-old Fillmore Hotel, who had contended that any cracks in the building were a product of its age, not the Oct. 1 earthquake, hailed the board's ruling.
"It tells me the city was wrong," said Eric Marsh, who bought the 15-unit building a year ago. "It also makes me wonder about the other motives the city had--which was basically to close down farm-labor housing in the middle of town."
Fillmore officials denied that they had any ulterior motives in condemning the building.
"Our concern was that the building was not safe and that people could die," said City Councilman Roger Campbell, who was mayor at the time the building was evacuated. "If we're guilty of anything, we're guilty of being concerned about our citizens."
City building inspectors recommended condemning the building on Oct. 9 after finding large fractures in the unreinforced brick structure. That evening, the mostly Spanish-speaking residents were served with evacuation notices and directed to a nearby Red Cross shelter.
Marsh, who has filed a lawsuit against the city alleging that the evacuation was discriminatory and violated the rights of the residents, said he would continue to seek damages for lost revenue.