SANTA ANA — The board of directors of the Fair Housing Council of Orange County is expected to meet this morning to discuss complaints that their executive director rents out a duplex that Fullerton inspectors say is substandard.
Board members were scheduled to meet at 7 a.m. to hear executive director David T. Quezada answer the complaints regarding the duplex he owns on Truslow Avenue in Fullerton, which was inspected Monday after tenants complained of rotted floors, leaking plumbing, broken windows and other problems.
"I'm really concerned," board chairman Gerardo Mouet said Tuesday. "My No. 1 priority is to make sure that people don't get any negative ideas about the importance of the Fair Housing Council and the services it provides."
The council, a private, nonprofit agency funded by grants from cities and the county, works to fight housing discrimination and helps resolve tenant-landlord disputes.
Quezada said Tuesday that until he tried to evict tenants last month from one of the three units of his apartment building, he had heard no complaints, including from a manager who lived in one of the units. On May 11, the tenants in Unit C were given six weeks' notice to move, and one vowed to retaliate, he said.
"He said, 'I know my rights and I'm going to get you,' " Quezada said the tenant told him.
The tenants from Unit C were being evicted so Quezada could convert the three units back into a legal, two-unit duplex, he said.
City officials acknowledged that the third unit, added to the back of the duplex, was built without permits and violates zoning codes. Last weekend, Quezada tore down some walls and built others to incorporate the space from the third unit into the two legal units.
Quezada said that he built the third unit in 1978 while he was a student and that he and relatives lived there until 1985.
He wanted to refinance the duplex but could not get a loan while the third unit existed, he said, so he had to move the tenants out.
After he served the eviction notice, Quezada said, one of the tenants complained to the city.
The rotting floor, broken windows and other problems in the duplex are legitimate complaints for which he takes responsibility, Quezada said.
Those problems, although mostly minor and easy to fix, look bad because of his position, he said.
"I'm embarrassed. I'm not just David, I'm the Fair Housing Council executive director, and I'm sure I'll pay dearly" for the problems, he said.
Mouet said today's meeting will give Quezada a chance to explain to the board of directors, which has a contract with Quezada to run the Fair Housing Council. (Quezada refused to give the exact amount of his salary, saying only that it was in the $30,000 range.)
After recent news accounts over Quezada's code violations, several board members have been trying to learn more about the situation, Mouet said.
"It looks bad, publicly," Mouet said. "I'm hoping it will be resolved, because I think David has done a good job in managing the office. . . . I have hope all this will be overcome."
The tenant who complained about the violations has been moved into the front unit, formerly occupied by the on-site manager, Quezada said.
He will be allowed to live there for two weeks rent free and has been given a relocation check for $1,935, Quezada said.
Under Fullerton's municipal code, landlords renting illegal or substandard units are required to give two months' rent to the tenants to help them relocate, code enforcement officer Kitty Jaramillo said.
City officials plan to give Quezada a list in the next few days detailing what needs to be fixed at his duplex, Jaramillo said.
Quezada has been making several repairs at the unit in the meantime, she said.