Excelsior and Outer Mission residents were recently shocked to discover that a popular coin-op laundromat had a secret subterranean basement full of squalid illegal apartments, as reported in May. That laundromat, the Clean Wash Center at Mission Street and Persia Street, still remains open and operating to this day. But City Attorney Dennis Herrera hopes to hang the owner and master tenant out to dry, as the Examiner reports that the city is suing the owner of the laundromat for cramming 20 people into the basement with no windows, no heat or hot water, exposed wiring, three shared bathrooms, vermin galore, and just a bunch of drywall and wooden partitions separating the beds.
The Ingleside-Excelsior Light notes that people had been living in the shabby secret basement for more than a decade. One of the poor souls was a 12-year-old girl, another was on dialysis. The tenants were charged between $300 to $900 per “unit,” and for obvious reasons, were forced to pay in cash.
“This building was a firetrap. The living conditions were not only appalling and illegal, they were extremely dangerous,” Herrera said in a statement. “These people were basically stuck in a dungeon. I don’t want to think about what would have happened if there had been a fire down there. Once the Fire Department alerted inspectors, we moved quickly to address this situation. My office is continuing to do everything we can to protect tenants and ensure they aren’t being put in harm’s way by unscrupulous landlords looking to make a quick buck.”
The “basement” was originally a garage, and the Chronicle reports the master tenant of that garage Ernesto Paredes is named in the suit. The suit also names Melissa Mendoza of Hillsborough, who owns the three-story building whose units were listed as the non-existent street address 5 Persia.
Sup. Ahsha Safai, in whose district the laundromat is located, also chimed in. “Witnessing the squalor and horrifying conditions that the residents of 5 Persia had endured for years was appalling and heartbreaking,” Safai said in a statement, “because the residents, mainly vulnerable immigrants, already represented some of our most dispossessed San Franciscans. Let this be a warning to all slum landlords and their enablers, either follow the law or be ready to face severe consequences.”
Herrera’s lawsuit seeks restitution for the tenants, civil penalties ranging from $200 to $5,000 per violation, and $1,000 per day for each fire code violation. The full text of the lawsuit is available online.