It may have been buried in a dozen and a half pages of other properties being auctioned off by the city tax collector, but the both mayor and the SF Board of Supervisors technically would have seen that Presidio Terrace was being sold out from under the wealthy homeowners who live on the oval-shaped street. The Chronicle's Matier & Ross remain on the case, and they've found the 19-page document from February 2015 where the street was listed for auction with a minimum bid of $1,054.24. After the sale went through to bidders Tina Lam and Michael Cheng for $90,000, no one even noticed it had happened for two years, while Lam and Cheng laid low and kept quiet about their purchase.
Then, in May 2017, according to M&R, they approached the Presidio Homeowners Association, which represents the 35 wealthy homeowners on the cul de sac, asking if they'd like to buy their street back. But this move contradicts recent statements Lam has made trying to brush off criticism that she and Cheng were being opportunistic and not entirely above board. "I’m not trying to make money on anything,” Lam said to the Chronicle just last week. "I just wanted to buy a piece of San Francisco."
It now will be up to the Board of Supervisors to revisit their decision to let the property be auctioned off, now that the homeowners have lawyered up and sued. Rather than deal with Lam and Cheng, the homeowner immediately filed suit for lack of due process, arguing that the city tax collector should have done a better of job of trying to contact them before permitting the sale. The tax collector's office continues to maintain that it's the property owners' responsibility to make sure that addresses are updated with them, and it's not their office's fault that a $14/year tax bill went unpaid for three decades.
Sidebar: Shouldn't the tax collector have been on top of this in less than 30 years? Clearly the size of the tax bill (the property was, strangely, assessed for only $224 in 1985) made it an easy one to ignore, and this was the second time it had been ignored and caused a problem. The same thing happened in the 1970s, and the homeowners had to fight to regain ownership back in 1985.
And for now, the mayor is staying out of this. His spokesperson Deirdre Hussey issued a statement saying, "This is an issue for the office of the treasurer and tax collector to sort out with all parties involved. The mayor is focused on running the city and on the pressing issues that impact all San Franciscans such as homelessness, housing and reducing harm on our streets."
Look for some potential legal drama to ensue in September and October as the Board decides whether to wade into this at all and help out the wealthy homeowners, or whether they're going to let a South Bay couple profit off those homeowners' benign neglect of an unpaid bill.