Long Beach police responded to a minor tenant dispute at 149 W. Chester St. last month and discovered hazardous living conditions at the home, where city officials said the landlord had been illegally renting nine separate rooms.
The landlord, Long Beach resident Omar Arana, 47, was arrested on Feb. 15 at the Long Beach Police Department headquarters and charged with maintaining a rooming house in a residential district.
On Jan. 30, police responded to the home after two tenants had argued over rent, officials said. After police reported the conditions of the home to the city’s Building Department, a building inspector and officers walked through the premises with Arana.
Officials said that up to 15 people were living in the two-family home, where they said Arana was charging approximately $560 per month for the nine rooms to help pay his $4,000 monthly mortgage.
Arana, who is collecting a STAR exemption for the property to reduce his county taxes, was allegedly also using the basement to house his landscaping business, a separate violation. This led to commercial vehicles illegally parking in a residential zone on a regular basis, officials said.
Arana was charged with 26 counts of both zoning and building code violations, said Scott Kemins, commissioner of the city’s Building Department. Kemins called it the third-worst case of illegal housing in the last 15 years, based on the amount of people living in the home, as well as the mix of the commercial and residential use.
“This was an absolutely egregious violation,” Kemins said in a statement.
Arana was arraigned at Long Beach City Court on Feb. 17, where he appeared before Judge Frank Dikranis. The case was adjourned until April 20, and Arana faces a maximum of more than $20,000 in fines, the city said.
“My client shares the concerns of the city of Long Beach and is happy to work towards an adequate resolution,” said attorney Francis McQuade, who is representing Arana. “He recognizes the need of neighbors, and will cooperate in the good ordering of his community.”
The arrest comes at a time when city officials say they are cracking down on illegal rentals.