Berkeley home hotbed of crime and nuisance for decades

The home at 1722 Ninth Street, whose owner is accused of having created a public nuisance for 30-plus years. Photo via Google Street View

Bebo Turman describes the household at 1722 Ninth Street in Berkeley as “the neighbors from hell.”

For more than 30 years the home, near Virginia Street in west Berkeley, has been a hotbed of criminal activity and civic non-compliance, according to testimony given by Berkeley police and staff at a hearing of the Zoning Adjustments Board last Thursday. There have been more than 40 criminal-related reports, including cases of illegal weapons possession, drug use, theft, using the house to trade in stolen goods, public drunkenness, and excessive noise, according to BPD officer Cesar Melero.

It is the “nexus for drug activity in the neighborhood,” said one police officer.

Fifteen people with Alameda County criminal records have used the house as their address of record, and some are associated with the city’s notorious Westside gang, said Sgt Peter Hong.

The testimony about the goings-on at 1722 Ninth Street prompted the Zoning Adjustments Board to declare the house a public nuisance on February 23. The board will now recommend that the City Council order it to be vacated.

The owner of the property, 77-year old Roberto Alcala, defended himself at the hearing. Acknowledging that there were problems, and that he had “kicked out” two of the grandchildren who lived in the four-generation household, Alcala asked for more time from the city and help mediating with certain family members.

“I know that some family members are in trouble with the law and it causes stress, worry and pain to us and undue stress on the neighbors,” Alcala said. “But things are going to get better.”

BPD say 15 people with Alameda County criminal records use the house at 1722 Ninth St as their address of record

But neighbors did not seem inclined to give Alcala another chance. Tom Turman, an architect who has lived on Ninth Street for 38 years, said he and his wife Bebo Turman had endured verbal assaults, thefts, and noise disturbances. He showed the ZAB Board a clear plastic bag full of items, including syringes and drug paraphernalia, which he said had been dumped into their backyard.

City zoning officer Nathan Dahl said inspections revealed that the owner of the one-story single family house at 1722 Ninth Street has been cited for numerous building and zoning violations over the years, including using uninhabitable attic space for bedrooms, using an illegal kitchen and building an illegal dormer.

Tom Turman told Berkeleyside: “I have talked to Roberto on many occasions over the years and offered to help — that’s my preferred way — but the problems persist.” Addressing the board, he said: “How is it that we are 20 years down the line and nothing has been done? [The Alcala family] did buy a house, but not a neighborhood.”

Other members of the Alcala family also spoke at the hearing. Esmeralda Chavez, a grandaughter of Roberto Alcala who said she had lived for 19 years in the Ninth Street home, said many false accusations had been made at the hearing. “Various members of the house work, there are toddlers there. We wouldn’t do anything to harm children,” said the young woman, who mentioned she was pregnant.

Alcala said his 81-year old wife who lived in the house had suffered a stroke and was in need of constant care.

Board member Deborah Matthews said it was one of the most painful hearings she had heard. She said she believed the family needed healing time and to learn to live in the community, but that action should be taken “before something terrible happens.”

Sophie Hahn, also on the board, questioned why it had taken so long for the issue to be tackled. “I’m annoyed that there is a sense of urgency now and it’s come to ZAB when the city has not done anything effective. I feel it’s been dumped on our lap,” she said.

Toya Groves was the only member of the board to vote against ZAB’s recommendation to the Council. “I don’t want to see an elderly couple ejected from their home,” she said. “This family is also a victim and a Berkeley family.”

Mention was made several times during the hearing of the case of 1610 Oregon Street, an epicenter of Berkeley’s drug wars for more than 20 years, whose owners were finally evicted in 2010 after four court battles, a grand jury investigation, and finally, an injunction won by the city of Berkeley declaring the house a public nuisance.

[Full details of the 1722 Ninth Street case can be read in the city’s Staff Report. Supplemental items, including exhibits, are available on the ZAB website.]

Notorious Berkeley drug house now a real estate gem [09.09.11]
Notorious Berkeley drug house sold [11.16.10]

Berkeleyside publishes many articles every day. To see all our stories in chronological order, and read ones you may have missed, check out our All the News grid.

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  • bgal4

    Bruce and Thomas are one.

    I do not view us as having history. He hounds me.

    I am Laura Menard. 

    There is a good reason I was using a handle lately,
    I will likely return to my real identity.

    If you know any of the history of community struggle for safe schools and neighborhoods, you might know my role and leadership  and could guess I have  been subjected to criminal retaliation and the periodic silly obsession of people like TL.

  • Heather W.

    Yeah, Maio often takes the “positive approach” which should be interpreted as {don’t talk about issues that bring black people into the discussion in a negative way} … even if that means that an elderly black person is in a tenuous or dangerous situation..  or in the case of L.M. a perfectly capable elderly woman {who happens to be African american}  b/c it would make you look racist to address a community problem. Yes, that would be Maio et al. 

  • Berkeley Resident

    I think you two should just refrain from having any discussions since it seems you disagree on almost any subject.  Not productive….

  • Guest

    Great, my taxes subsidize the hell out of long term homeowners, no matter how terrible, thanks to Prop. 8.

  • AwwwCmon

    It’s funny how a group of people can be a consistent problem/danger for decades, but if they come before a group of Berkeley politicians and bureaucrats and state their case they become “victims” also.  Burst the Bekeley Bubble and get rid of this family.  Just because there are “toddlers” in the house is not a reason to give them time to “heal” it’s a reason to get them into another house, away from the problem.

  • berkeleyhigh1999

    I think you mean prop 13. prop 8 was for same sex couples. 

  • The Sharkey

     Twenty years is too damn long for anyone to be on a City Council.
    Even if she was great at her job and bringing about positive change, making a lifelong career out of being on the City Council is ridiculous.

  • Guest

    My bad. Well obviously I don’t like Prop. 8, either. 

  • The Sharkey

    Having voices oppose people like Tom is important, since many/some folks believe that the “soft on crime” approach he advocates is partially responsible for the recurring problems we have.

  • The Sharkey

    +1 in hoping she’ll run again. I can’t vote for her since I’m in Maio’s district, but I would if I could.

    But with certain folks spending 95% of their time on the internet waving the race card and making vaguely slanderous comments any time she discusses problems in Southwest Berkeley, I don’t know if she’s interested in a second helping of abuse.

  • The Sharkey

    The only thing we seem to be able to make commitments about are making sure that People’s Park doesn’t get cleaned up and that gutter punks and their pit bulls aren’t stopped from napping on the sidewalk on Telegraph.

  • bgal4

     And deny other folks the fun of reading details from local lore not included in the news reporting.

    As to TL/BL, damned if I do, damned if I don’t .

  • Mike Farrell

    Many years ago after another BAMN “protest,” the participants extended their shopping spree along a side street.
    About 20 of these young males attempted to force their way into a residence, and were met by several male occupants. They turned away from that house and forced their way into a nearby house occupied by four young women; the women locked themselves into their bathroom while their house was looted.
    I wrote each council member asking how the city would deal with this outrage and only one replied.
    Her reply included and is summed up in this quote: “Well you know Telly has always been a liberated area.”

    Too bad Berkeley has such an uninvolved and easily led electorate.

  • The Sharkey
  • Guest

    Very good to contact the police every time there are noise issues during the night. Also, contact your neighborhood’s police liaison; invite your concerned neighbors and the liaison to a meeting. You will want to have the liaison come in plainclothes, and keep your communications with neighbors confidential. 

  • PragmaticProgressive

    What’s the appeal, exactly, of People’s Park?  Is there someone who looks at it and says, “Wow, we’ve done a great thing here” ?  Who could possibly be opposed to cleaning it up?  

  • PragmaticProgressive

    What is the appeal exactly of People’s Park?  Who is seriously interested in preserving it as it is today?  Who opposes cleaning it up and why?

  • unknown

    Wow its funny how you people read this article and all of a sudden believe everything they are saying about the family and the house. All I have to say is there are two sides to every story. I am familiar with this house and this family and there are some problemattic members in the house hold but a lot of them are good people especially the grandmother who was diagnosed with demensia she worked for the city of berkeley school district for 30 years. This family has been apart of berkeley before most or all of the neighboors that are over exagerating the truth and throwing fibs in there comments to make them really look like the victim. And non of these neighboors have ever been harmed by a member of this family the most they can complain about is the noise, they are a big family and when you mix a lot of different personalitites together people tend to bump heads often but at the end of the day they are family so the problem gets solved. Its rediculous how the neighboors call the police everytime they here someone arguing. These peiople do not deserve to get evacuated from there family home.

  • Berkeley Resident

    There is a clear trend of issues with this house.  I don’t think much more explanation is needed.  Please read carefully and if needed, do a little research.  The neighbors deserve a safe, quiet neighborhood and they shouldn’t have to be wait to be “harmed” before they take action.

  • Mirabelz

    I, too, am familiar with this family. 
    Roberto, the patriarch, was busted years ago for selling heroin to kids. With the exception of two of their kids who moved far away, the apples have not fallen far from the tree. So to speak. 

  • Hatemanjr

    Boo! Hoo! there’s no love for you anymore Bruce/Thomas. Your part of the problem  as well.

  • KathyHarr

    Berkeley Police Department Area 4 Commander Lieutenant Dave Frankel would like to invite members of the community to join him for a cup of coffee.


    On March 9, 2012, from 2 to 3PM he will be at:


    Tomate Café

    2265 5th Street

  • Nuny590

     I Milagros Alcala reside at the neighbors from hell. Its really hurts me to see name and family slandered so blatantly. Beebo Trueman is responsible for exposing this issue on the internet trying to hurt our family due to her own personal issues, we have three different generations living together and we are a very close knit family as we are of Latin, Black and Caucasian decent. We are misunderstood and also victimized. People arent aware of all of the facts, and between the ignorance and discrimination we have been shamed undeservedly and now My parents are at risk of losing their roof over their heads and both are in their 70’s and in poor health. My father has congestive heart failure and my mother is suffering from dementia. I wonder how these people that are accusing us of this walked in our footsteps. Is their any compassion left in this world or do we have to tolerate this modern day witch hunt.