Anaheim's city council elections arrive tomorrow with a new promise of "neighbors electing neighbors." For the first time in history, residents will head to the polls to decide on four council seats by district, with every politician needing to have a residence in the area where they're running. In Anaheim's woebegone west side, dirty ex-cop Steven Chavez Lodge is shamelessly renting an apartment while trying to snake his way into city hall through District One. But is the council hopeful really making a life for himself there?
Election code requires that a residency a person registers to vote at must meet certain "domicile" criteria, lest fraud be found. Lodge lived in Anaheim Hills when he last ran for city council and lost in 2012. Property records show he later moved into a four-bedroom, three-bathroom 3,151-square-foot home in Murrieta valued at nearly $500,000. But when Anaheim finalized its single-member district lines, Lodge—who works at a public affairs firm and is dating Coto de Caza's Vicki Gunvalson of The Real Housewives of Orange County fame—will have us believe he traded his Hate City house for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom 700 square-foot unit at Azul Apartment Homes in West Anaheim. That's where the Weekly decided to pay him a couple visits this weekend.
Up three floors and past the pool is apartment #331, the address where Lodge registered to vote earlier this year in order to run in District One. It's the first unit after a flight of stairs and apartments like his typically rent for $1,380 a month. I knocked on his door this past Friday afternoon. No answer, no Lodge. I knocked again, but with no better luck. The front patio lay barren, save for a black doormat that Azul management provides. The sliding-glass door blinds remained shut.
Since Lodge hadn't been home to show me around, I spoke to several Azul apartment residents about their supposed neighbor. "He moved in without any furniture," one neighbor said, not wanting to give a name after learning a federal jury awarded a man $612,000 in a police brutality lawsuit where Lodge conked an Iranian immigrant in the head with a billy club. I showed a picture of Lodge from the 2012 elections on my smartphone. "That's him, only his hair is thinning more," the neighbor continued. "We never see this guy—maybe five times at the most since he moved in."
The rare occasions Lodge has been spotted at Azul, it's been mostly during the day. His neighbors think that he doesn't walk down the main promenade, but rather through the secluded dog-walking dirt path in the back. "He goes way out of his way to get to that apartment," one observed. Walking to the mail room, the box for apartment #331 wasn't bulging with unchecked mail, nor did any letters await on top.
On a bright, Sunday morning, I returned to Lodge's apartment, knocking again to no avail. Both the blinds for the sliding-glass door and the bedroom in the back were shuttered like last time. Either Lodge is a vampire or just doesn't spend much, if any, time at his carpetbagging crib. I asked another neighbor about the apartment. "I don't think anybody lives there," says the resident who has lived at Azul for years, long enough to know his fellow neighbors and who comes and goes.
Azul Apartment Homes used to be known as "Magnolia Apartments" before getting a make over around the same time Anaheim decided to gentrify immigrant small-businesses out of a shopping plaza across the street where famed Mexi restaurant El Patio Drive-In #2 and legendary dive bar The Glo Room once made their home before being demolished. Ownership of the property just changed hands on September 30 from Cannon Management to PV Management. The property manager had been out sick all weekend, but mentioned to the Weekly by phone that no information on any tenant could be offered at this time. A complex maintenance worker has been on the job since the transition. "I don't see anybody there," he told the Weekly of apartment #331. "I clean the hallways and pass there every day."
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Lodge didn't respond to the Weekly's request for comment as of press time. "I live near Magnolia and La Palma and I know what your [sic] talking about," he responded on his Facebook campaign page in late October to a resident complaining about homeless panhandlers. "I will handle this issue and you will see a difference for the better in a short amount of time." District One opponent Freddy Fitzgerald, on the other hand, lives at Azul, with his car visibly parked in the lot, chalked with campaign slogans on the back window. Hey, Lodge: let's grill some carne asada at your pad, man! Just don't bust out any boots, you know?
West Anaheim hasn't elected a council candidate from its side of town since the late Frank Feldhaus in 1998. Azul residents wonder if that will still be true should Lodge win a District One council seat. "He didn't move in a single thing," said one of Lodge's ostensible neighbors. "Not even a mattress or a refrigerator."