Fire and Fortune 

A year after a fire killed four people at a San Pablo Avenue building for low-income people, many of the former residents are still suffering. The owners of the building? Not so much.

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On Jan. 29, 2001, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a federal court complaint against Keith Kim, charging him with illegal trading in the Meridian Data transaction. He was also criminally charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office for violating securities laws.

click to enlarge Mark and Sheila Doleman lived down the hall from where the fire started and barely escaped. “We lost everything, and we damn near lost our life,” said Mark. - PHOTO BY LANCE YAMAMOTO
  • Photo by Lance Yamamoto
  • Mark and Sheila Doleman lived down the hall from where the fire started and barely escaped. “We lost everything, and we damn near lost our life,” said Mark.

However, in January 2002, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer dismissed three of the criminal counts against Kim, finding that the disclosure of information obtained through his club membership was not criminal — just grounds for being kicked out of the club. But Keith Kim still faced a charge of making a false statement to a federal agency, and a jury found him guilty of that count on May 7. The SEC said that Kim falsely said he didn't know why the CEO of Meridian didn't attend the retreat and that he'd purchased the Meridian shares based on a Wall Street Journal article.

In October 2004, Dotcomsupport Inc. changed its name to DCSI Holdings Inc. with Keith Kim's brother Hahn Kim listed in state records as chairman of the board. Four months later, DCSI Holdings was added as a partner in Mead Avenue Housing Associates, the company that owned 2551 San Pablo Ave. until this year. State records show that Keith Kim still manages Mead Avenue Housing Associates.

In 2009, Keith Kim got into a legal dispute with his own landlord, alleging substandard conditions. He and his wife, Janice Kim, were renting a home at 44 Sierra Ave. in Piedmont from A. Justin Sterling. Court records show that the Kims stopped paying rent on Dec. 1, 2009, which they said was an effort to compel repairs — that the house lacked adequate heating, plumbing, wiring, and waterproofing, and there was inadequate trash pickup. On Feb. 22, 2009, the Kims moved out.

In April 2010, Sterling sued them, arguing they had misrepresented their financial status and in fact were insolvent because they owed $11 million to the California Franchise Tax Board. Keith Kim had also not disclosed his criminal conviction, Sterling said. The Kims countersued over the alleged repair issues.

On Sept. 2, Keith Kim filed for bankruptcy. In court filings, he listed no assets and only $45,559 worth of personal property. His bankruptcy filings make no mention of 2551 San Pablo or any other real estate holdings. He said his self-employment income was only $78,208 in 2010 and $45,757 up to that point in 2011. His debts included $5.6 million in unpaid state income tax from 2000 and 2001, records show.

According to bankruptcy court filings, Keith and Janice Kim were living at 622 Highland Ave. in Piedmont at the time: a seven-bedroom, 8,000-square-foot house with stone steps, a wide front porch with four large pillars supporting a spacious upper balcony. Keith Kim said he was paying $2,000 a month in rent to owner DCSI Holdings, the company controlled by his brother, which had purchased the property in May 2011. Records of satellite photos show the property was overgrown at the time, but over the next two years, it was replaced with meticulous landscaping. The home was listed for sale in 2016 for $4.2 million but as of last week, it was still owned by DCSI Holdings.

In bankruptcy court filings, Keith Kim denied that he had any ownership interest in DCSI Holdings. But he signed a lease in 2012 for the 2551 San Pablo Ave. building on behalf of DCSI Holdings, while bankruptcy proceedings were continuing.

At the end of 2015, he was listed in state records as DCSI's chief financial officer. By then, he also knew about the hazardous conditions inside 2551 San Pablo.

Like all good preachers, Pastor Jasper Lowery is an engaging public speaker: He looks all around the room as he talks, pointing at his audience and himself, punctuating his sentences with his hands. He keeps a quick tempo but knows when to pause for an "amen." He often said he was on a mission from God to help the homeless.

Lowery grew up in Oakland and attended Fremont High School. For most of the 1990s, he operated day programs for adults with developmental disabilities. In 1998, he founded Urojas Ministries and started taking in recently released prisoners; over the next 10 years, he helped 1,500 people through a growing community center in West Oakland, according to a 2009 article in the Oakland Post.

(Lowery said he would be interviewed for this report but then stopped responding to emails. He's also being sued by survivors of the fire.)

In 2008, Lowery created a nonprofit, Urojas Community Services, to expand his outreach. He also joined the street outreach team created by Measure Y, a 2004 Oakland public safety ballot measure that provided funding for outreach workers to intervene in addiction and violence by offering advice about jobs, training, and education.

Lowery became a BART police chaplain in 2011, and in December of that year, he received $25,000 from Alameda County Health Care Services to provide medical and mental health services to at-risk county residents.



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