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Security Comes with the Lease

​SINCE ITS OPENING in February 2009, The Grand, a residential high rise, has become a landmark in Oakland, California. At 22 stories, it is one of the city’s tallest buildings—a clean-lined, eye-appealing edifice of white concrete and blue glass. Located at 110 Grand Avenue, near landmarks like Lake Merritt and Jack London Square, the building holds 242 luxury apartments and a variety of amenities, not the least of which is a gold-standard security program that makes living there even more comfortable and carefree.
The Grand, which was voted Best High Rise Apartment by the National Association of Home Builders and Outstanding High Rise Apartment Project by the Pacific Coast Builders Conference, is operated by Essex Property Trust, Inc., of Palo Alto, California, a real estate investment trust that acquires, develops, and manages multifamily apartment communities. Essex’s portfolio includes 139 apartment complexes concentrated along the West Coast and in Southern California, the San Francisco Bay Area, and the Seattle metropolitan environs.

Jerry Maple, property manager, controls the access rights of all residents and staff members of The Grand. He works with Access It! Ultra access management software by RS2 Technologies, LLC, of Munster, Indiana, via a dedicated PC. Access It! Ultra interfaces with MicroPLUS RF controls and reader/receivers distributed by DoorKing, Inc., of Inglewood, California.

The DoorKing control fob, which serves as the access key, is a credit-card-sized black square with a button in the center. It allows residents to open the swinging gate to the parking garage by pushing the button. It also functions as an access control card at readers throughout the complex. “We chose this so that people didn’t have to have a remote for the garage and a swipe for all the access points. There’s only one thing they have to carry,” Maple explains.

When someone moves in, Maple enters a fob’s unique number into the system and sets up that person’s access rights. The Access It! Ultra system allows Maple to grant the resident’s access rights to The Grand, its garage, and its amenities, which include two garden terraces, a 24-hour gym, clubhouse, business center, conference room, and Jacuzzi. All residents have access to these areas; however, “I can delete people easily when they move or delete them very quickly if someone has lost their fob so that no one can use it, if found,” he explains.

At The Grand there are access control readers at both entrances to the lobby, which is the first floor of the building, as well as on the loading dock entrance where residents move belongings in and out. The lobby doors are unlocked during the day until 6 p.m., but after hours, residents must use their fobs to enter. There are also readers outside all three elevators that go to the residence floors and additional readers inside that allow residents to go to their own floor or the floors where the amenities are located. “Even if someone were able to follow a resident into the lobby after hours, they wouldn’t be able to go anywhere unless they used a fob,” Maple states.

Similarly, elevator vestibules and entryways to the building from the above-ground parking garage—which is floors two through five of The Grand—are controlled by card readers.

The garage elevator lobbies are also monitored by CCTV. There are 20 Pelco color IP cameras placed throughout the complex’s exterior, including the entrances and the docking bay, as well as the common areas and amenities inside. The cameras feed to a Pelco DX8100 HVR hybrid video recorder in the lobby and are watched on a multiplexed monitor by officers at the lobby’s security desk. Recordings from the CCTV system are kept for two weeks.

The Grand has a staff of five officers contracted from AlliedBarton Security Services’ Oakland office. “There is at least one officer on duty around the clock—sometimes two,” states Maple.

The security desk handles visitors who may be interested in leasing an apartment by either taking them to Maple’s office or giving them a brochure and taking their contact information for follow-up. When guests want to visit residents during daytime hours, security rings a resident’s apartment to get permission for the guest to come up. The officer walks the guest to an elevator and uses one of security’s fobs at the readers to send the guest to the correct floor. After hours, when the lobby doors automatically lock, guests buzz for an officer to let them into the lobby. Then they phone residents for approval, as they do during the day.

Maple says that he prefers this system to having an electronic buzz-in system where guests use an exterior phone to call residents to be allowed inside and upstairs “because with today’s technology, you can put a cell phone number in and can have residents who are not home beeping people in,” he explains.

The security desk is also a central communication hub where Maple can post data about city crime trends or other issues that may affect residents, such as scheduled fire drills. “We’re required by the city to do [yearly full-scale] fire drills. We have an intercom system. I can go into the fire control room and push a button to talk over the speakers in every apartment” to announce the drill, Maple says. “We must have everyone clear the building and go to a prearranged meeting place—a parking lot in back of the building.”

One final product in The Grand’s security arsenal is worthy of note: All of the apartments were fitted with aesthetically pleasing 7900 Series mortise door locks and MG designer levers by Sargent Manufacturing Company of New Haven, Connecticut. The Grand’s maintenance supervisor, Tony King, says he learned how tough the locks were when a resident’s door refused to open. “We tried to get through the actual key part of the lock. We tried everything to pull the lock apart, but we just couldn’t do it. The resident saw all this and told me how safe she felt knowing we couldn’t get through her door.”