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GERALDINE'S TOO RICH, YET TOO POOR.

Byline: DENNIS McCARTHY

After 27 years of making her home in Unit 202 of the Lakeview Terrace Apartments in Pacoima, 65-year-old Geraldine Packard faces eviction because she is no longer poor enough to live in the federally subsidized housing complex.

The clerk-typist for Los Angeles County earns $27,000 a year, and that's too much to qualify her for low-income housing, her eviction notice says.

So she has to go.

``This is the only home I've known for 27 years. I don't want to leave,'' Packard said Thursday, preparing for one last-ditch effort later this month when she goes to court to try and stop the eviction proceedings.

The Stedfast Co., a Newport Beach property management company that bought the 102-unit Lakeview Terrace Apartments earlier this year, will be represented by the law offices of Genovese & Owens of Fullerton.

Packard will be representing herself because she can't afford the $350 an hour the lawyers she's been calling want for their services.

``I'm too wealthy to stay in my home and too poor to hire a lawyer,'' she says. ``It just doesn't seem right.''

No, it doesn't. As a matter of fact, it stinks. You don't kick a 65-year-old woman out of her house because of some arbitrary number.

``I am a senior citizen who has to work every day because I can't afford not to work,'' Packard says. ``I live alone - and the truth is, I'm scared.''

Carol Walker, Packard's supervisor for the last 10 years, verified her employment and salary.

``She's a wonderful woman and employee,'' Walker said Thursday.

But glowing references don't cut it with the new owners. Attorney Tim Genovese said Thursday the company needs to replace Packard in the unit ``with someone in a lower financial situation than she is.''

``Her salary and the $650 a month rent she pays is too much for us to qualify under the HUD - Housing Urban Development - bond program requirements,'' he said. ``This has nothing to do with anything other than that.''

But Dan Clark, senior regional manager of Stedfast, later said, ``The main reason she (Packard) is being asked to leave is for nonpayment of rent.''

When asked for specifics, Clark said he did not have Packard's file, and even if he did he couldn't comment because of privacy concerns.

Packard had no such privacy concerns. ``I've been paying my rent all the way up to December, when they stopped accepting it from me,'' she said, providing certified letters she sent Stedfast with December and January rent checks in them.

The letters were returned to her by the U.S. Postal Service - unopened.

On Nov. 9, Packard got a ``30-day Notice to Terminate Tenancy.'' That came just a few months after she got another notice announcing her rent was being increased from $650 to $693 a month on her two-bedroom apartment. Nice touch.

So after 27 years of making her home in Unit 202, this is how the 65-year-old woman was bid goodbye by the new owners.

``On Dec. 17, 2001, you will owe 16 days of rent - $346.56 - for the month of December which is due and owing on Dec. 1, 2001. Please note that your landlord will not accept any sum greater than $346.56 and your failure to pay the correct sum will result in your tender being returned to you.

``Continued failure to pay the correct sum after service of notice will result in legal action.''

Packard didn't start packing. She said, take me to court.

``By the new owners using my gross salary of $27,000, it placed me over the poverty limit for low income,'' Packard said. ``But we all know that the gross income is not what we bring home in our paychecks.

``I have more taken out in taxes, and have no dependents. I live alone and the rent is not the only bill I have to pay every month. I can't afford to move even though I was initially offered $3,000 to move.

``I would have to hire movers, need first and last month's rent, a security deposit, and who-knows-what other fees,'' she said.

But even more than money, it's leaving the safety of a place she's called home for almost three decades that has her afraid.

``I've come to feel safe where I live, and Pacoima can be a hard neighborhood to find a place to feel safe in,'' she said.

I called HUD a half-dozen times Thursday trying to get some answers and help for Packard, but was told the only employee who had the answers to the questions I wanted to ask was out until Monday.

So, I'll check back on Monday, and if HUD can't do anything, I'll go to court with her later this month to write about what the judge has to say.

Because even if Lady Justice is blind, she can still smell.

And this thing stinks.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Geraldine Packard shows the letter and rent check her landlords refused to accept for the apartment she's lived in for 27 years.

Charlotte Schmid-Maybach/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 25, 2002
Words:846
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