Burbank Orchards follow-up

Lauralee Aho, right, helped organize a rebellion of Burbank Heights and Burbank Orchards residents that included this group photographed in June, left to right, Shula Zuckerman, Katherine McNeil, Aho, Pat Cleland, Elle Bottorff, Caverly Whittemore, Robin Rosenblatt, Cyndy Williams, Marcy Hill and Annie Fouty.

Back in June, Sonoma West ran a story about a tenant uprising at Burbank Heights and Burbank Orchards, a low-income senior living complex just west of downtown Sebastopol.

A large number of elderly residents had complaints about the new manager, who they depicted as dictatorial and arbitrary, and no one — not the nonprofit Oakland property management company, Christian Church Homes, or the local owner, Sebastopol Area Housing Corporation — seemed to be listening.

Over the course of the summer, that changed.

Sebastopol Area Housing Corporation, hired a new management company for the complex — PEP Housing, a Petaluma-based organization that, like Sebastopol Area Housing, was formed by local churches in the 1970s with the goal of providing affordable housing for low-income seniors.

PEP officially took over the management of Burbank Heights and Burbank Orchards on Sept. 1. They got rid of the manager the tenants didn’t like and installed a new one, Lisa Hennning.

The PEP team is already winning praise from tenants.

Lauralee Aho, one of the organizers of the tenant’s rebellion, couldn’t be more pleased.

“It’s such a relief,” she said. “They’ve been spending a lot of time here, getting to know people, asking people what they need, what they’d like to see. It’s such a difference.”

Mary Stompe, executive director of PEP, is equally impressed with her new tenants.

“They are very involved. It is amazing. Their community calendar is so full, we couldn’t get on the schedule for a month!” she said, with a laugh. “They have all these classes and most are of them are offered by other residents. And they have all these wonderful artists.

“I’m really hoping we can bring some of that enthusiasm to some of our other properties. I see such a great opportunity for us to learn from them, as well as for us to bring some of the things that we’ve done at our other campuses here, such as our technology program.

“I think it’s going to be a great partnership,” she said.

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