Two years ago, an investor seized one of San Francisco's most elegant private streets after its wealthy owners did not pay property taxes for years, a sale that city leaders revoked on Tuesday.
The City Board of Supervisors voted 7 -4 to rescind the sale of Presidio Terrace in 2015 to a software administrator for $ 90,000.
In addressing the issue, officials raised criticism that the city is not as fair and just as it says, but a playground for the rich who do not have to follow the same rules as everyone else. San Francisco has some of the most exorbitant property prices in the country and has become increasingly unaffordable for many people.
But those who live in Presidio Terrace said the city should never have sold its street without telling them properly. They said that the annual tax bills of $ 14 and the notice of the auction were sent to an outdated address.
City treasurer Jose Cisneros says the badociation representing about three dozen owners was responsible for updating his address and should have paid his taxes on time. Support the new owner Tina Lam, Silicon Valley software manager who bought the street, sidewalks and common areas for $ 90,000 in 2015.
Lam along with Michael Cheng toured their new property for the first time this year, although they bought it in auction in 2015. They waited a year until they thought that the statute of limitations had been executed in objections to the sale.
"When we are two and a half years of waiting, we did not expect this to be mentioned," Cheng said.
Supervisor Mark Farrell issued a statement that said in part: "As a matter of policy, I am proud of my seven colleagues who voted against allowing these speculators to get away with buying a neighborhood street and trying to extort money. "The San Francisco residents that I represent quickly earn $ 1 million. I'm surprised that four of my colleagues have sided with these speculators from out of town. "
The oval-shaped street in Presidio Heights is lined with leafy lush palm trees and million-dollar mansions. they include Federal Representative Nancy Pelosi and US Senator Dianne Feinstein, who wrote a letter accusing the city of bureaucratic clumsiness.
The problem is unprecedented in San Francisco, although supervisors in other California counties have reversed sales as allowed by state law.
The owners learned of the sale earlier this year and requested the board for a hearing.
The problem gave at least one supervisor of voting pains. "Aaron Peskin said that would be on the side of the new owner in a "second hot" if he could because of the way the badociation behaved However, he said that the owners reasonably argue that the government should not take the property without prior notice.
Still, he was upset by Feinstein's letter.
"That was another overwhelming test to vote with the buyer, who bought it just and square," said Peskin.
It marks the second time that the badociation has not complied, but it recovered the street in 1985 after paying.
Amanda Fried, a spokeswoman for the treasurer, said the group has not paid taxes since 2000, which dates back to records. In 2015, the office published for auction much that it owed less than $ 1,000 in back taxes, fines and other charges.
Fried said the office sent certified notices to nearly 1,500 addresses that properties were being auctioned and more than half were returned as undeliverable, even to Presidio Terrace. The owners say that at that point, the treasurer's office was required to do more to notify them that their property was for sale.
"It's a constitutional problem," said Matt Dorsey, spokesman for the homeowners badociation. "If the process of that sale was constitutionally inadmissible, the matter is resolved, it should not have been sold."
Michael Kirkpatrick, attorney for the national consumer rights organization Public Citizen, which won a similar case before the US Supreme Court. in 2006, he supported the owners. The court held that when a notice of a sale is returned undelivered, the government should do more to alert the owners before selling.
Shepard Kopp, attorney for the new owner, argued in a scathing judicial report that San Francisco should not give homeowners politically connected for not doing what is expected of every other owner in the city: pay their taxes on time .
He said that the Supreme Court case might not apply because it involved a house and not vacant lots. And before the vote, he trusted that the supervisors would support their clients.
"When people find out that this is not the first time that the homeowners badociation does not pay taxes and loses the title of the street, there is not much sympathy for them after that," Kopp said. .
Mark Matthews of NBC Bay Area contributed to this report.
Published at 11:15 AM PST on November 28, 2017 | Updated 3 hours ago
Copyright Associated Press