Skyvue residents return after month-long displacement


Thomas Yang | Visual Editor

SkyVue apartments on Forbes Avenue.

By Janine Faust, Editor-in-chief

Following an electrical fire at Oakland’s Skyvue Apartments on June 2, some tenants are claiming they were unable to move back into the building until June 28. They also said they have not received an explanation from management as to why their units were left without power for nearly four weeks, and are unsure if they will be reimbursed for rent during the period they were displaced. 

Skyvue apartments, a 14-floor building located on the corner of Forbes and Craft avenues, 

opened in summer 2016 and features about 400 apartments. It is owned by the Denver-based Cardinal Group and geared towards students and young professionals. 

The electrical fire in the building’s garage on June 2 was due to a “water contamination” issue, according to Skyvue management. Duquesne Light Company spokesperson Niki Campbell said the company had restored power to the building following City approval of a wiring inspection at the property on June 6, leaving apartment management to power up. 

[Read: Pitt students couch-surfing after electrical fire]

Some of the displaced tenants were able to move back into the building then. But the rest were continually told to stay put by management up until this past Friday, according to renters Lionel Riviere and Katherine Pdovorec. 

Skyvue management would not confirm these claims or how many people were displaced throughout the month of June. 

Riviere, a French cybersecurity employee, has been residing in Skyvue with his girlfriend since November 2018. He said in an email that the two began staying in a hotel shortly after the fire, and were left in limbo throughout the following four weeks about when they could expect to move back in. 

“During the first week the SkyVue management recommend[ed] to checkout of [the hotel] everyday in case we would be allowed to get back to our place,” he wrote. 

Riviere said he and many other residents did not hear anything from Skyvue until about 24 hours after the electrical fire, which occurred at 2 p.m. on June 2. Emails obtained by The Pitt News include a message from Skyvue management sent at 4 p.m. on June 3, informing residents that a small electrical fire had occurred. 

“SkyVue will be closed today and possibly through the week,” the email reads. “Please know that SkyVue takes very seriously any incidents regarding our residents’ safety. We will provide further updates as available.”

Riviere also said email updates from management in the days after the fire came late in the evening, making it hard for him and his girlfriend to determine at an appropriate time whether or not they needed to make a reservation for another night at the hotel. 

According to emails obtained by The Pitt News, Skyvue alerted residents on June 6 around 7:15 p.m. that certain units had power again. 

“If you have not received a phone call from the leasing office, please be advised that you will need to remain in your current accommodations until further notice,” the June 6 email read. “Responses to phone calls and email will be delayed as the Leasing Office is working diligently to contact all those residents who’s apartments now have power.”

Riviere and his girlfriend were among those who remained displaced. He said Skyvue took over the cost of their stay the following day, and they did not have to continually check out and check back in anymore following that. 

Podvorec, a Pitt law student who first went to her father’s house and then a hotel following the June 2 fire, has since moved early into the new apartment she was planning to live in once her lease with Skyvue ended in early July. 

Both she and Riviere said throughout June, Skyvue tenants who were not able to move back in the first week after the fire received updates from management about once or twice a week, telling residents they should expect to stay put for a little while longer. 

“Then we’d get another email that next week extending it,” Podvorec said. 

Emails obtained by The Pitt News include a message sent by Skyvue management at 10 a.m. on June 14, advising displaced residents to stay in their current accommodation until at least June 2. An email sent by management on June 20 at 4:30 p.m. said displaced residents needed to stay put until at least June 28. 

Podvorec said she tried calling Skyvue’s leasing office several times in the week following the electrical fire, inquiring about what had happened and when she could expect to move back in. She was told each time that no new information was available. Eventually, she said, no one would answer her calls or respond to emails she sent.

Riviere said he went to Skyvue’s lobby almost every day to use the Wifi, as he works remotely and requires a strong connection for his job. He said he inquired about the June 2 electrical fire every time he went. 

“Basically, I asked at least twice a day for more information or [more on] the repair advancements… I [have] never heard ‘Sorry, we cannot say’, or ‘we don’t know’ [said] that much!” he wrote. 

Podvorec said she is dissatisfied with Skyvue’s explanation of a water contamination issue causing the electrical fire and wishes management would be more transparent about what had happened.

The Pitt News reported in mid-June that Skyvue had been cited for fire safety regulations in 2018, including failing to maintain a fully functioning fire alarm system. Podvorec and Riviere also both said residents were not made aware of the fire safety violations by Skyvue management back in October. 

Riviere and his girlfriend moved back into Skyvue on June 28, after receiving and email the previous day saying they and the rest of the displaced tenants could return. An email sent by Skyvue management that The Pitt News obtained said tenants are welcome to return to their building after 11 a.m. on Friday, June 28. 

“You must check out of your hotel room no later than 11am on Friday, June 28, 2019. SkyVue will no longer be financially responsible for any stays past this date,” the email said. The leasing office currently does not have any additional information to share regarding any requests received from our displaced residents. Once this information is provided to our office, we will be happy to share it with you.” 

Riviere said following their experience in June, he and his girlfriend are looking to end their leasing contract with Skyvue early and move into a different building. 

Riviere and Podvorec are both looking into being refunded for their rent during the month of June. Riviere also wants to be compensated for June utilities, as the fresh food in his apartment was spoiled due to the power outage. 

“We had to throw it all, and oh god, cleaning this mess was absolutely disgusting… The smell in the hallway horrible!” he wrote. 

Skyvue management did not respond to requests for comment.