Ravaged by a January fire that killed one man and displaced 65 tenants and dozens of businesses, the 108-year-old building at the corner of 22nd and Mission Streets is now home to little more than graffiti, odors, and a rat infestation. Yet Mission Local, a former tenant of the building, reports that the building's landlord, who was heavily criticized in the wake of the tragedy, is in negotiations to sell his property as a tear-down for around $20 million.
The property is owned by Hawk Lou, though Lou says he shares his interest with several family members. That might mean his wife Kitty Fong, with whom he owns 19 properties with an assessed total value of $15.3 million according to public records that were the subject of a previous Mission Local report.
Although the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) has already made an offer to purchase the site for 100% affordable housing and is now preparing another, a likely result could be market-rate housing, perhaps something along the lines of the next door Vida development.
Though MEDA says it contacted Lou in February to see if he was interested in making the site affordable housing, Lou somewhat suspiciously claims he was never contacted, calling the offer an unfounded rumor. After hearing of Lou's intentions to sell to a market-rate developer, MEDA has been preparing another offer which waits for the City to confirm it can help with financing. According to Karoleen Feng, MEDA's director of community real estate for MEDA, their offer would involve the city’s help from a “transit oriented affordable housing” fund and noted that it would also include a loan to be repaid over as many as 10 years.
But Lou seems to have made up his mind. The landlord, who did not explicitly confirm his plans, did say he seeks a buyer who "knows what’s going on in the Mission.” With the essentially abandoned building becoming an increasing nuisance, "I think it is a little late for MEDA,” Lou wrote. He did register his approval for MEDA, an organization that, in his words, is "helping a lot of minorities in the Mission."
A possible wrench in any plan to build market-rate housing in the Mission would be the Planning Commission's proposed enforcement of temporary controls on housing in the District. November's ballot measure for a temporary halt on market-rate housing could also postpone plans like those hinted at by Lou, incentivizing him and perhaps landlords like him to sell for affordable housing, which would remain unaffected.
Tenants shared a number of harrowing stories in the wake of the fire. Some weren't alerted by alarms, just smoke and incoming sirens. Seven tenants were rescued from hallways and fire escapes, some of which were inoperable. And currently 48 tenants are cooperating in a lawsuit against Lou that could perhaps be filed this week according to their lawyer.
This bldg in SF's Mission has been red tagged. About to open Mission St - but will keep lane next to bldg closed. pic.twitter.com/V0IEqRSIdq— Amy Hollyfield (@amyhollyfield) January 29, 2015
According to tenancy laws, if Lou does sell, displaced former residents of his building are entitled to return to the new building to receive comparable units at their previous rent (rent control included).
“I am very, very sorry for this tragedy. This accident really ruined the life of many people,” Lou said.