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Regis Hotel Evictions

Tenants of a State Street SRO are given the bum's rush by the RDA in a scramble for new housing.

By Eric S. Peterson
Posted // April 21,2010 -

“Home is where the heart is” rings true in a poetic sense. But when determining if an individual is eligible for financial assistance after being displaced from his or her “home,” the definition gets more technical. That’s what residents of the Regis Hotel at 253 S. State found out after being evicted from the low-income, single-room-occupancy hotel on March 10. Poverty advocates say that since developer LaPorte Group’s renovations to the State Street buildings will likely receive an infusion of federal grant money, the owners of the building—the Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency—should use federal funds to help with tenants’ relocation costs, as much as $5,250 for each of the 25 recently evicted tenants.

With most of the former Regis residents living below the poverty line, they could obviously use the money. But, RDA President D.J. Baxter has another opinion about whether the former tenants would be eligible for financial assistance: “The answer is no,” Baxter says. “This is a hotel, no different than the Marriott or the Sheraton. Relocation assistance provided doesn’t attach to hotel guests.”

It’s a point of contention that low-income advocate Tim Funk of the Crossroads Urban Center says can be fought with a lawsuit, if necessary. He also says the city agency knew this already.

“That’s the reason the bastards from the RDA have tried so hard to get people out of there,” Funk says. “They knew if people were still living there, they would be responsible.” (For more on the ups and downs of the State Street SROs, see City Weekly: “Gimme Shelter,” March 18, 2009; “Bug-Infested SROs,” Sept. 23, 2009; and “Renovating State Street Apartments,” Dec. 2, 2009.)

But since the evictions took place in March, part of the problem may be tracking down the 25 dispersed former Regis residents. “My understanding is about half or less—10 to 12—went to the Rio Grande [subsidized housing]. And of the rest? About five left town, and the rest found local places to rent, doubleup or are at the shelter,” Funk writes in an e-mail.

Before the final evictions in March, the city had for years been preparing to relocate the low-income tenants. In June 2009, a renovated Holiday Inn on 999 S. Main was converted into a 60-unit housing complex called Palmer Court. Two days before the Regis evictions, the RDA also officially re-opened the 49 unit Rio Grande housing single-room occupancy hotel at 428 W. 300 South.

David Hartley, who had lived for two years at the Regis while working off his rent by doing security work for the hotel, was unable to move into Palmer Court or the Rio Grande because of his past criminal record. Hartley moved into a camper trailer in the backyard of his parent’s property in Nevada. The timing worked out because he’s been able to take care of his mother, who is recovering from spinal surgery. But Hartley still bristles over how the city treated him and his fellow tenants. “I wanna go after them, but I’m so stuck,” Hartley says. “I’m just at my camper trailer.”

After living on the streets for three days, Kathleen Johnson and husband William Tyler landed at Palmer Court. The couple is still angry about being evicted in March while commercial tenant The Children’s Theatre, attached to the Regis Hotel and also slated for redevelopment, lists show times extending into May. “That’s why I got so pissed off, kicking us out in middle of winter and keeping The Children’s Theatre open until June,” Johnson says. “They can’t start work on it until the theatre is gone.”

Several tenants who lived in the historic house at 241 Floral St. directly behind the Regis were also displaced at the end of March on short notice.

Former Floral Street resident David Finley valued the home´s convenient downtown location that made it easy to travel to his stagehand jobs at venues like the Capitol Theatre, Abravanel Hall and EnergySolutions Arena. Finley and the other Floral Street residents fought the city to receive even minimal relocation expenses—with Finley receiving $540 for moving expenses and storage unit rental fees.

“We only got it because we pushed the point,” Finley says. “For a lot of the folks at the Regis, the world just pushes them around.”

While Finley ended up in subsidized housing at the Peter Pan apartments at 455 E. 300 South (another LaPorte Group complex), his former housemate, 64-year-old Al Carlson, who also works as a stagehand, had to relocate to South Salt Lake.

“I ended up having to move to 34th and 5th East—completely out of my area,” Carlson says. “Before, I could just [walk] to work. Hell, I’m 64 and drawing Social Security and all that, so it’s really throwing a mess to me.”

RDA President D.J. Baxter is unmoved by the tenants´ complaints, maintaining that the hotel status of the Regis disqualifies former residents for compensation from either the RDA or the developer. “As I understand it, relocation assistance applies only to those who have a lease and are renting a home,” Baxter says.

According to the Uniform Relocation and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970, a bill passed to help people displaced by federal projects, rental assistance payments up to $5,250 per person are eligible for “90-day or greater tenants.” It is ambiguous as to whether that would include long-term hotel residents.

But even if the former Regis tenants could qualify as tenants by federal guidelines, there’s still another problem—there has been no federal money injected into the project yet. The relocation-assistance formula is based on the assumption that a tenant knows he or she qualifies for assistance. And at this point, no one definitively knows if federal money will be put into the redevelopment.

While the RDA has given a probationary negotiating status to developer Ben Logue of LaPorte Group, Baxter says no formal agreements have been inked. “Before we can actually get to that, [Logue] has to do a fair amount of due diligence—like inspect the buildings and work on putting his own financial package together.” Representatives of LaPorte Group did not return calls for this story.

Even given the difficulty, however, Funk, for one, is not backing down. “There’s no question about either the residency [of the tenants] or when the dollars get assigned,” Funk says. “Taking the bastards to court will be most fun.”

Eric S. Peterson:

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Posted // June 30,2010 at 00:17

The Regis made BANK and they chose to inflict infestation, lead paint, fire hazards, no smoke detectors, broken/improper stairs, etc. on the tenants and when a tenant spoke up or god forbid called the city inspector the cops busted in when the tenant wasnt home and boarded the door up, STEALING what possessions they did have. How could they do this? They decided to change the title to HOTEL when it suited them and SRO/Apartment when renting. Frank, the fat guy is a corrupt minion that worked for Salt Lake...They used him, now Im sure they tossed him like everyone else. The Regis and the Cambridge - Dont forget the building North That was shut down years earlier - was a death pit and they chose to capitalize off of it. They made $320 per room (on both sides) plus the spaces they rented out downstairs. They made easy 20K per month.

All the people who were forced out by the cops illegally and thrown into the streets over the last two years they were setting this up should sue! Salt Lake City we are watching!


Posted // April 30,2010 at 15:49

The Regis was never an hotel per say. Since it rented housing longer term. Thus it is no more than a twist of words, probably to avoid paying the relocation fees. It is sad we live in an era that a development company and its heartless demeanor to displace the original tennants. Leaving them dangling, to relocate on their own.

Simple solution, fess up and pay the fees to those tenants. That way they can be a hero not pond scum.


Posted // April 26,2010 at 17:22

Come on City Weekly. Do your due diligence. RDA staff spent days helping residents find new places to live. On the final move out date, they spent hours helping people move their belongings. I think RDA went above and beyond the call of duty here. If City Weekly did a more thorough review, they would come to the same conclusion. Poor reporting guys.


Posted // July 13,2010 at 00:03 - Unfortunately, this did not ring true in my case. I had lived at the Regis Hotel from September 2008 to April 2009 and I was suddenly evicted at the end of April. Legally I was not considered a tenant and was subject to immediate eviction, although the Regis was my permanent home for months. After that I was on streets. Statements such as “This is a hotel, no different than the Marriott or the Sheraton. Relocation assistance provided doesn’t attach to hotel guests.” revive a significant feelings of stress, and anxiety that arose from being turned out on the streets. I only hope that you will understand that what constitutes a home does not come down to legal definitions and technicalities.


Posted // April 23,2010 at 19:05

D.J. Baxter seems to be perfect for the job of throwing people out in the street.