Zoning Laws May Force Fraternity's Eviction

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The Sigma Epsilon Omega fraternity has ceased hosting social events and could face eviction if a September notification from the city - stating the Dana Street property was not properly zoned as a fraternity - is not reversed by the city's Zoning Adjustments Board.

Since receiving the notification, the fraternity has been pursuing a variance to re-evaluate the building's zoning, although both the fraternity's house manager, Thomas Marshall, and the landlord's agent, Krishan Rai, said they were unaware of the problem until they received the city's warning.

If the variance is unsuccessful in the long term, "presumably we'll all be evicted," Marshall said. He added that a hearing has yet to be scheduled and that there is an extensive appeals process.

The notification came after neighborhood residents complained of noise ordinance violations over the summer, according to Marshall.

"We had a 'pre-Pink' party for San Francisco Pride," Marshall said. "That would have been the last time the cops were called on us. We don't really know who reported us; that was all anonymous."

He added that a note was sent to all of the fraternity's neighbors, "asking them to watch us and call the police on us as often as possible, to get a lot complaints filed so we would lose the zoning hearings."

Officials from the city's Zoning Adjustments Board did not respond to requests for comment.

"Somebody reported us to the zoning board," Marshall said. "We don't know who, we don't know why, we don't know when, but presumably it was the same neighbors who reported us for the noise violation."

Short term, Marshall said that events held on the premises could result in fines of approximately $500, and that the fraternity would risk not receiving the variance.

However, he said the fraternity has not had an extensive history of noise violations. Marshall estimated that the police have responded to complaints about twice per semester since Sigma Epsilon Omega was founded in 2007.

Jeremiha Douglas, Interfraternity Council president, said that based on data of second responses by police, there seems to be an overall decrease in noise complaints against UC Berkeley's fraternities this semester. Marshall said Sigma Epsilon Omega has not received any second-response complaints since its first semester.

No matter the cause, Marshall said it is up to the landlord to inform tenants if the building is not correctly zoned. However, Rai said he was unaware that the building wasn't zoned for a fraternity.

Rai said he has never had problems with the fraternity members, and doesn't "know why the neighbor has a problem for these gentlemen - they are very nice people."

Once a hearing date for the variance is set, the process of changing the zoning decision will begin. Until then, the embargo on parties remains.


Contact Nina Brown at [email protected]

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