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Electricity Restored to Tenants in Rent Strike

Times Staff Writer

Electrical power was restored Friday to seven families who are participating in a rent strike several hours after they held a news conference and criticized a Santa Ana landlord for failing to pay utilities.

For three days, said Juan Herrera, “We have been living without lights and power.”

The power was disconnected at about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday and turned back on Friday before noon at the apartment building at 931 S. Standard Ave., a Southern California Edison Co. spokesman said.

The apartment owner, Pablo V. Sarabia, personally paid a deposit and the outstanding balance on the account Friday, the spokesman said. The bill’s total was not disclosed.

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Sarabia could not be reached for comment.

City May Shut Off Water

The power interruption caused food spoilage and forced tenants to use candles at night, Herrera said.

In addition, a Santa Ana city employee has notified tenant leaders that water might be shut off unless that bill was paid, said Richard Spix, an attorney representing tenants and Hermandad Mexicana Nacional, an immigrants’ rights group.

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The water bill has not been paid since August when Sarabia filed for bankruptcy “freezing everything,” said Richard Adams, Santa Ana commercial account supervisor. Santa Ana residents pay the city for water.

City Wants Deposit

Adams said the city is willing to negotiate with the owner or tenants, whoever is willing to pay a deposit on the account.

The latest skirmish only increased tension between the landlord and predominantly Latino tenants in the continuing rent strike battle.

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On Monday, eight residents from Santa Ana and two from Anaheim filed suit against their landlords, including Sarabia. The suit contends that the apartment owners have failed to maintain the buildings and are exploiting the tenants’ poverty and inability to find decent, affordable housing in the area.

Tenants, who are part of a citywide rebellion involving about 500 tenants, are seeking $500,000 in exemplary and punitive damages.


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