The tale of the Presidio Terrace homeowners' street and sidewalks being bought out from under them and held hostage by a couple of savvy, arguably opportunistic real estate investors who bought the cul de sac's common areas two years ago at auction has amused much of the Bay Area - and beyond - in the last week. But it turns out that the unpaid property tax bill that led to the street getting seized and auctioned off in 2015 had gone ignored and unpaid once before.
The Chronicle's Matier & Ross spoke to SF Assessor Carmen Chu who said that the bill for the common property in the oval-shaped development had been in default before, in the 1970s, and it wasn't until 1985 that the homeowners' association regained the title to their streets and sidewalks - having the bill likely sent to the same SF accountant's office whom they stopped employing a few years later, with everyone promptly forgetting about the $14/year bill yet again.
Chu notes that the property was assessed at $221 at the time, which may or may not date back to its original assessment when this development was constructed around 1905, and it's a figure that Chu calls "super low" regardless.
Buyers Tina Lam and Michael Cheng of San Jose claim they don't have any intention to sell, but could that be true? They are investors after all, and they dropped $90,000 on Presidio Terrace - and they already suggested to the Chronicle earlier that they might want to charge rent for street parking. Tam now says to M&R, and take this as you will, "I’m not trying to make money on anything. I just wanted to buy a piece of San Francisco."
The Presidio Homeowners Association is not going to go down without a fight, however, and their attorney Scott Emblidge insists that there's precedent and a state law on the books to allow the county's board of supervisors to simply invalidate the sale and return the street to the homeowners association. He cites the fact that the bill was being sent to the wrong address for thirty years, and he suggests Tam and Cheng were being shady in staying quiet for well over a year after their purchase, in order to make the sale more difficult to rescind. "They are opportunistic, know exactly what they bought, and would like to exploit a bureaucratic oversight to their advantage," he tells the Chron.
The next update we're likely to have in this story will come when the Board of Supes decides whether to hold a hearing on the case, which they'll do on September 5, with a tentative hearing date of October 31.