Following on a lawsuit filed in August by City Attorney Dennis Herrera against Trinity Properties, Herrera has now subpeonaed documents from Trinity and its leaseholder Lumi Worldwide concerning a block of 16 units that were meant to be below market rate rentals, but which are being rented to tourists as The SOMA Suites Hotel. According to the Chronicle, repeated attempts to reach both parties have failed.
90-year-old Angelo Sangiacomo and his Trinity Properties development firm has been working for three decades to build the enormous Trinity Place apartment complex you can see mid-construction at Market and 8th, with two buildings already complete on the Mission Street side. In total, once all four phases of the complex are built, it will encompass 1900 rental units, some 360 of which were designated as rent-controlled and meant as replacement housing for 360 units that were part of the demolished Trinity Plaza complex on this site originally the 1962-built Town House Hotel.
The two Mission-facing buildings already contain 835 units, and all 360 units were to be part of these buildings according to an agreement hammered out with the city very slowly between the 1980s and 2000s. Another 535 units are currently under construction on the Market Street side of the property, and Phase 4 of the project, to be completed by 2020, will have another 520 units.
Herrera says, "Leasing a number of those units to the same individual, under the facts and circumstances we believe to have been the case, violates the letter and spirit of the development agreement, and the conditions of approval for the project."
What makes the case particularly enraging to housing advocates, despite the small scale of this, is of course the great pains and many years that went into getting Sangiacomo to agree to build a quarter of the units, 500 of them, below market rate, with these 360 rent controlled. Supervisor Chris Daly, in whose former district Trinity is being built, was highly vocal and forceful in the fight, which ended with the project getting approved in 2007.
Also, the complex is turning out a lot uglier and more bland than originally rendered, and architecture critic John King fears that it will ultimately be "a forbidding megablock where architecture is irrelevant."
Incidentally, the Chron puts Sangiacomo's age at 88, but he's either 90 or 91, since an interview on his own company's website has his birth year as 1924.
As the Chronicle described it in 2010 (noting his age then as 85), he's credited as "the Father of Rent Control" in SF, because the law here came into being in response to his steep rent increases as a local landlord in the 1970s.
He lives in a towering wood, glass and concrete house west of Twin Peaks, where he can look across the street at the homes he had constructed for each of his seven children. He also can survey the vast apartment and retail portfolio he has amassed thought to be one of the most valuable in San Francisco.
Trinity Properties has not yet commented on the case.