Updated: Mar 2, 2020
Today, on March 2nd 2020, the jury trial began in the eviction action brought by Steve Frenz against leader of the Sky Without Limits Cooperative, Chloe Jackson. Chloe has been fighting to protect her home alongside her family and her neighbors for a year and a half. She loves her home and neighborhood, and is in court to prove that the evictions brought forward by Steve Frenz are illegal retaliation against her and her neighbors for asserting their right to ask for repairs. Chloe and her neighbors are proposing a solution that can work for everyone: to purchase the 5 buildings of the Sky Without Limits Community, in order to stop the eviction of 100 people from the neighborhood and build long-term dignified and affordable housing.
Frenz lost his rental licenses across over 60 buildings in Minneapolis in 2017. He has faced many court actions to try to get repairs in his buildings and he was recently convicted of felony criminal perjury for lying under oath. Chloe's case is the first eviction to go to trial and now a jury will decide whether Frenz is attempting to evict her in order to punish her and her neighbors for requesting repairs.
You can find out more at of the history of Frenz's immoral actions at: https://www.defend22avecoop.info/timeline
To everyone’s surprise, the trial began without Steve Frenz. Although Frenz is pursuing tearing apart a community and evicting Chloe and 30 other families, he did not show up to court. His lawyers told the court that he has been vacationing with his wife Jennifer Frenz. According to Frenz’s lawyers, he was not planning on appearing for the entire trial. Thankfully, lawyers with Legal Aid representing Chloe quickly won the concession that he would have to appear to testify under oath.
Frenz’s lawyers opening statements claimed that this was a “simple case”, despite there being nearly 100 people facing eviction and three legal entities involved. They claim that Chloe and her neighbors were not retaliated against, and that Steve Frenz was just moving through with his plan to sell all of his units innocently. Why then, would he refuse a solid offer to purchase the buildings? Why would he go through with a lengthy, costly, eviction process? It is clear to me that it is because he was trying to punish them.
Chloe gave her testimony first. I was blown away by her bravery in front of the jury and court. She testified about the repair problems and poor conditions in her apartment, including rat and cockroach infestations, mold, water leaks, lack of heat in the winter, and more. While she was testifying about the repair issues she experienced in her apartment she also testified on behalf of all of her neighbors, as all 40 families of the Sky Without Limits Cooperative have experienced years of dire repair problems in their homes. Chloe also talked about how she loves her home, and loves her neighborhood, and that is why she is fighting to protect her home and her neighbor’s homes. Chloe stayed strong and genuine in her responses. She did not fall for any of Frenz’s lawyers confusing traps and they often seemed confused about what to ask her next.
Next, a staff organizer with Inquilinxs Unidxs, Arianna Feldman, testified. Frenz’s lawyers asked her outrageous and detailed questions in regards to how the court-appointed administrator carried out repairs. In particular, they were arguing that the court-appointed administrator couldn’t carry out the repairs that tenants needed any more than Frenz could. However, renters and supporters know that the court-appointed administrator inherited buildings that had been neglected for years by Steve Frenz and that the dire repair problems were caused and worsened because Frenz failed to properly maintain the buildings for years and years. In addition, renters are proposing a solution that can work for everyone: to purchase their homes and address the repair issues that they are so familiar with, because they experience them first hand.
Finally, co-director of Inquilinxs Unidxs, Roberto de la Riva spoke briefly to the history of the organization and about how throughout his 5 years with Inquilinxs Unidxs, Steve Frenz never carried out repairs in the buildings he owned. He will continue to testify tomorrow.
Because of the hard work of the Legal Aid team representing Chloe, Frenz will have to testify tomorrow afternoon or Wednesday morning. I’m curious to see how he will try to justify evicting 40 families with no cause, and no accountability. I’ll be there to show solidarity with the Sky Without Limits Community, and I encourage you to join me! For information about how to show up, check out the event on Facebook at: http://bit.ly/frenzevict ----Angela Tona, Inquilinxs Unidxs Por Justicia Supporter