Arson for the Humanitarian?

by on February 18, 2011 · 34 comments

in Civil Rights, Economy, Homelessness, Ocean Beach, Popular

At 5 am on Friday morning, January 11th, flames rising from Bianca Koch’s red 1991 BMW convertible lit up the alley between Narragansett Avenue and Niagara Street in Ocean Beach.   Luckily, the fire department was able to put out the blaze before it could spread to nearby structures.   While the cause of the fire is still under investigation, Bianca feels that her car was deliberately totaled as a result of arson.

Bianca Koch surveys her BMW

Nearly three years ago, Bianca, 40 years old, moved to OB because it was a convenient location for her business of supplying markets, stores and cafes with organic health products.  Further, although she had lived in different parts of San Diego, she favored the beauty of Ocean Beach and its small-town neighborhood atmosphere.

Ironically, she also appreciated the sense of security she felt in OB because, in her words:

“the beach patrol has everything under control… They check up on people asking them by name, ‘How are you doing?’” She noted that neighborhood groups, including the Ocean Beach Mainstreet Association (OBMA) “looked out for everyone” and encouraged the reporting of crimes.  Biance felt, “Any time of night, I could step out and go to the beach.  There was nothing to be afraid of…That has changed now.”

Although a woman of many interests, Bianca has been concentrating her time on three basic pursuits. First, she supplies her customers with organic dehydrated wheat grass, organic tea and natural spring water; second she is a free lance writer, having written numerous articles for the Peninsula Beacon; and third, she is a volunteer with homeless people, the local churches and outreach groups.

The articles Bianca has written for the Beacon include ones about local police officers, Christmas in OB, other puff pieces about OB, and then early this month, she wrote “Headcount on Homeless:  OB’s clergy group rallies to address the needs of transients, disadvantaged,” (Feb. 10, 2011, Vol. 26, No. 4.)

Bianca believes that she knows why a person or people destroyed her vehicle:

“I think it is a group of people who don’t like me promoting or helping homeless people or the churches.”

Bianca’s car was destroyed the day after her article on the homeless headcount that came out on February 10th.

She cares deeply about the welfare of homeless people.  Bianca explains:

“I am very passionate for the human rights of people.  Listen, understand, try to put yourself in their shoes.  Try to think what it would be like if you were hurt, raped by a relative…  They have no one to turn to.  Thanks to the churches and the outreach groups for all that they do.  But we need more [help].”

What exactly does Bianca do for the homeless?

“Although I have not been asked to do it, I always have supplies in my car, my former car, for homeless people… I generally don’t give money to them, but I will supply them with needed toiletries so that they know that someone cares. I got a radio for someone who needed a radio to drown out the voices in his head.  Most of all I listen.  They [the homeless people] all come to me with their problems and everything.”

When does Bianca help homeless people?

“I do this every [available] hour of every day.”  Bianca is quick to say that helping homeless people ‘is not my mission.  It’s a part of my daily life.”

In return for the respect that Bianca shows homeless people, she feels that homeless people “give respect back” to her.  Continuing, Bianca says:

“If people would respect them, they will give the same respect back.  They will try to fit into the community, if they can.  No one gives them the chance.”

Since the fire, Bianca has received notice that she must vacate her apartment within 60 days.

So what are her plans for the future?

“I need to buy a car – that’s my immediate goal.  I need a place to live.  And I need to continue to do what I’m doing [to help homeless people].  I would like other people to join me…

“Treat homeless people with kindness and you will get a lot.  There are different economic levels in our community.  The different economic levels need to get to know each other.  Then we will have a clean, beautiful OB.  I wish it would be that way all around the world.  But I will start here in OB.”

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Goatskull February 18, 2011 at 10:21 am

So is there any info as to why she was evicted?

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avatar Christine Schanes February 18, 2011 at 10:45 am

Hi, Goatskull,
Thanks for your comment. I’m in the process of contacting Bianca so that she can give this answer herself.
Please stay in touch,
Christine

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avatar Bianca February 18, 2011 at 8:56 pm

If you didn’t watch Channel 10 News @ 5pm, 7pm or 11pm, watch it possibly come on tomorrow (saturday) morning.
My landlady feels uncomfortable, she has a daughter and doesn’t want to deal “with REAL life” (gone really bad) and possible more threats.
Understandable, really—— totally devastating for me, though.
In case you wonder if i pay my rent on time, I can assure YOU and EVERYBODY else, that this should be a worry, you shouldn’t burden yourself with, I am a RESPONSIBLE adult!

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avatar thinking out loud February 19, 2011 at 8:49 am

unlawful eviction.?

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avatar Christine Schanes February 19, 2011 at 11:13 am

Hi, Thinking Out Loud,

Good question. As you probably know, after a one year lease term, usually the terms of the lease provide that the lease is becomes a month-to-month rental which can be terminated by either party with due notice. Usually the notice is 30 days.

I would be surprised if this were an unlawful eviction because Bianca was given 60 days notice during the month-to-month rental that she has on the property.

However, all that being said, I have not specialized in landlord-tenant law.

And maybe someone out there or an attorney specializing in this area can shed further light on the situation.

Christine

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avatar dave rice February 20, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Generally as long as appropriate notice is given (which is now 60 days if on a month-to-month rental agreement and the tenant has been in place for over a year), a landlord doesn’t have to have a cause to terminate a least. If a landlord occupies the property or a portion of it, they have even more rights about what they can do discrimination-wise – for example, gender discrimination is generally prohibited, but if a female offered a room for rent in her house and didn’t feel comfortable with a male roommate she could advertise the room as being available to females only. In this case, we can all have our opinions about the landlord’s morality, but I think her actions fall squarely within her legal rights.

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avatar Christine Schanes February 20, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Hi, Dave,

Thanks for your comment. And thanks for your clarification about the 60 days notice and the rights of a landlord to terminate Bianca’s lease.

Maybe mediation could help resolve the issue between Bianca and her landlady?

What do you think?

Christine

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avatar dave rice February 20, 2011 at 9:25 pm

Possibly, but I don’t think there’s anything in the lease that would allow Bianca to compel her landlord to agree to mediation or binding arbitration – with the 60 days’ notice, she’s welcome to terminate the tenancy without giving a reason. And again, property owners have even stronger rights to properties they reside in – even if we’re talking about two houses one one lot where the owner lives in one and rents the other out instead of the initial example I gave where landlord and tenant would share the same unit.

Ultimately, even if she finds a way to stay, the landlord will be able to find ways to (perfectly legally) make her life hell if she’s genuinely not welcome. We may not like that reality, but it’s the one we have to live in. I should qualify these statements by saying my fiancée is a property manager and I’m a real estate broker, and as such I must disclose that while I can give suggestions, nothing I say can be taken as legal advice, though if I might be able to help I’d be glad to – click on my Skyline ad off to the right if you want to talk to me offline.

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avatar Christine Schanes February 21, 2011 at 10:19 am

Hi, Dave,

Thanks for your analysis of the situation. We appreciate your knownedge as a real estate broker.

I did go to your Skyline ad off to the right and found it very interesting.

Thanks for being a part of the OB Rag family.

Let’s stay in touch,
Christine

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avatar dave rice February 22, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Thanks, but I know my ad’s pretty terrible – I believe I may actually have the worst webpage created since Geocities. That said, if there’s anything I can help with let me know…

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avatar Christine Schanes February 22, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Dave,

Regardless of whether you like your ad or website, you sound like a terrific person! Especially to support the OB Rag with your ad and to respond in such depth for Bianca!

And I’m taking your offer to help seriously. Thanks!

Please keep in touch,
Christine

avatar Sarah February 22, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Dave,

Ask me about our ragsters special!

Sarah

avatar Goatskull February 20, 2011 at 6:31 am

Hi Bianca and best wished with everything going on. I’m not an attorney or really knowledgable about the legality of situations like this, but I really don’t see how your landlady has any legal ground to evict you for something that’s not your fault. I’m sure you’ll do fine in getting another place and car, but still what legal ground does she have? Daughter or not that shouldn’t be a factor in my opinion. I don’t know what your finances are as far as getting legal help but if you’re able to I think you should fight her.
That is a cold hearted and cowardly thing to do on her part.

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avatar editordude February 18, 2011 at 10:46 am

We have been trying to follow-up on this part of Bianca’s tale of woe, but as of now, have not been able to nail anything down conclusively.

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avatar Scuba February 18, 2011 at 12:25 pm

It would be nice if the community could help her in any way possible. Torching her car was a far greater crime than any ever committed by a homeless person in OB.

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avatar Christine Schanes February 18, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Scuba,

Thanks for your comment.

What a lovely thought for the community to help Bianca in some way!

Happyily, I can report that Bianca told me that one of the churches got a collection going so that she could rent a car for a week. A car is essential for Bianca’s business.

As soon as the investigation of the source of the destruction of Bianca’s car is known, we’ll post something about it.

Please stay in touch,
Christine

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avatar Bianca February 18, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Thanks again to supportive souls and special thanks to my talented fellow writer/journalist AND friend Christine, who so sensitively captured 5 hrs of talk so beautifully, without loosing ‘Bianca-The Person’ down the line!!!
Admirable work!

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avatar Diane5150 February 19, 2011 at 9:31 am

You can borrow my tent.

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avatar Christine Schanes February 19, 2011 at 11:08 am

Hi, Diane5150,

Thanks for your comment.

I am smiling because I feel that I know you through your previous comments.

Q: What would Socrates say about this situation?

Christine

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avatar Diane5150 February 19, 2011 at 11:48 am

The devil is in the details.

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avatar Christine Schanes February 19, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Hi, Diane5150,

Did Socrates really say that? I guess, he said everything else. : )

Christine

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avatar Diane5150 February 20, 2011 at 11:00 am

Ok, so that was not Socrates. I did however find a couple that might apply.

” I only wish that ordinary people had an unlimited capacity for doing harm: then they might have an unlimited power for doing good.”
Socrates

“How much there is in the world I do not want.”
Socrates

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avatar Christine Schanes February 20, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Diane5150,

Love that Socrates! Thanks for those great quotes.

Be Well,
Christine

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avatar Scuba February 19, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Bianca – Do not give up your cause. It is noble as Jesus has taught us. Hopefully, this will not die. Let me know if you are in need of anything.

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avatar Christine Schanes February 19, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Scuba,

Thanks for your comment.

Your compassion is wonderful and uplifting.

Best Wishes,
Christine

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avatar thinking out loud February 20, 2011 at 8:58 am

I re-read that beacon article…another puff article about the homeless to be honest. What makes that article so volatile?
And what ” group of people” is she referring to ?? I would really like a little more than just a broad stroke statement…

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avatar Christine Schanes February 21, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Hi, Thinking Out Loud,

I’ve been thinking about your comment for some time now. I’m trying to get my head around your words, “another puff article about the homeless.”

Since I write about homelessness, I’m wondering whether you feel that my writing is puff or not.

As you may know, I’m writing a series of articles about the myths of homelessness.
The last myth I addresses was, Myth #18: R-E-S-P-E-C-T and I’m wondering if you’ve read it here in the OBRag?

Seriously, I’d like to know whether you feel this is a puff piece or not. My intention is to help make all of us aware of the language we use so that we can change the language we use to address one another, be we housed or unhoused.

I’m interested in your thoughts.

Christine

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avatar thinking out loud February 22, 2011 at 11:53 am

Please tell me where i can find your articles…

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avatar dave rice February 22, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Off to the far right of the page, below the banner ads, there’s a list of authors that write at least semi-regularly for the Rag – click on Christine’s name and it should link you to all of her work here.

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avatar thinking out loud February 24, 2011 at 9:27 am

ahhh got it tks,

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avatar thinking out loud February 24, 2011 at 10:09 am

I did re-read a few articles. I really dont get to caught up in the verbiage of who’s housed or homed or a homie or any of that you seem to really want to clarify the terms etc …Lets clarify the groups. Those who WANT to be homeless live on the street do what they want with total disregard for community and live with a sense of entitlement. This group is clearly defined by conduct.
The other group is homeless due to circumstance whether it be temporary or permanent and they WANT help and will accept it and have respect for others.
These are two groups of people with different agendas, motives and focus.
One quote I noticed in one of your articles stated: “It is not walls , but a persons inner intention that revels who they truly are” Yes we define our self by our actions…When a person sits on the seawall in OB and sells drugs, harasses others , lets their dog crap on the sidewalk and they don’t pick it up, litter , and be as annoying as they possible can be they are defining themselves and revel who they are. This is the group of homeless people that some have differences with. Not the homeless person who is respectful of others and community and will actually accept help.
Some homeless people want to be honest and up front and tell it like it is…but they don’t want another opinion other than theirs….
I appreciate your efforts to be helpful. Do you see two different types of homeless persons. And can you see how some can be put off by the first group?
Just my opinion, I am not a expert like you…But I do watch things closely when I am out and about.

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avatar Christine Schanes February 24, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Hi, Thinking Out Loud.

Thanks for reading some of my work. That’s very kind of you. And thank you for your kind words of support.

I appreciate your observations about homeless people. Your thoughts evoke a great number of responses for me. Right now I only have a little time to respond, but I’d like to continue our conversation.

I have been curious why anyone would say “I choose to be homeless.” So, I’ve asked many people and I’ve written about some of their comments in a previous myth.

People who “choose to be homeless” tell me that they do not choose the cold weather, the garbage food, the lack of toiletries or no place to sleep. They are clear on that.

Yet, when I ask again, “So, in view of these consequences, do you really choose to be homeless?” they respond, yes, but that they don’t choose “all that stuff, ” the negative stuff.

How to reconcile their comments? All I can think is that for many of us there are certain things which we might want but that might not be helpful for us. We don’t necessarily want the consequences.

For example, I like eating chocolate, but I don’t like the weight gain it causes. But I do like that chocolate. As much as I’d like to loose weight, I still eat that chocolate. And I’m not talking about eating chocolate in moderation.

But the consequences of my choosing to eat chocolate are not as severe as the consequences for someone who “chooses to be homeless.” It’s brutal out there.
And dangerous.

Sometimes we don’t think about all of the consequences of our actions. Sometimes we just want what we want and act regardless of the consequences.

However, in the case of someone “choosing to be homeless,” this choice has many negative consequences which may not always be evident to the person doing the choosing.

So, I try to have understanding for myself and for others as we make choices without thinking about the consequences or as we make choices while ignoring the negative consequences of our actions.

Kindness for myself and others is my answer.

What do you think?
Christine

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avatar Christine Schanes February 25, 2011 at 5:16 pm

To anyone interested, there is an article, “A Fiery Controversy,” about Bianca Koch in this Thursday’s (February 24th) Peninsula Beacon.

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