By Drew Bollea

STOCKTON (CBS13) — Stockton business owners evicted from their building continued moving out on Thursday.

The nine family run businesses were told on Wednesday that the building was unsafe and they had to pack up by Friday. The property owner, Christopher Bennitt had a number of violations in the last five years. But it wasn’t until this week that the city felt the need to shut down the building until changes were made.

“We look at the violation and we allow for that due process, which means we allow time for corrections,” said David Kwong, the head of Community Development for Stockton.

He says the building owner never made fixes.

“We found a number of deficiencies, even more so than what we previously had noted in prior citations,” said Kwong.

On their most recent inspection in April and May of this year, the city found the situation had gotten much worse. A total of 90 violations were noted. 62 labeled as hazardous.

“I’m appalled. It’s disgusting,” said David Garmany, the owner of Discovery Martial Arts, which is across the street from the impacted businesses. “I’m so angry at the city for allowing this to happen.”

Garmany says the city should have communicated the problems about the building to the business owners much earlier than on the day of eviction.

“Why weren’t these people told?” said Garmany. “Why weren’t they told five years ago?”

But the city says it’s hands are tied.

“It all falls on the owner,” explained Connie Cochran, a Stockton City spokesperson.

She says the city can’t get between the property owner and their tenants.

“We don’t interact with the individual tenants because that’s his relationship, his lease with those tenants,” said Cochran.

Cochran also says the major issues, like an unpermitted living space and fire safety failures were only fixable by Bennitt.

“The property owner is the only one who can actually make or initiate the corrections,” said Cochran.

While some are still angry with the city for a lack of communication, there is also ill will towards the property owner, Christopher Bennitt.

“He’s a scumbag. He should be sued for everything he owns,” said Garmany, “and give it to these people who he’s destroyed their families. This is their livelihoods.”

Bennitt and his attorney have been contacted numerous times. No calls or emails have been returned.

Meanwhile, the city says they are working with the displaced business owners to find another location on the Miracle Mile.


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