The incredibly uplifting and fabulous story of megabucks Presidio Terrace homeowners getting their street sold from them because they hadn’t paid a common property tax in 30 years has drawn the interest of a pretty powerful former resident of the street. That powerful former resident is U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is flexing some muscle to influence the Board of Supervisors to undo the street’s sale to a plucky young couple from San Jose.
Matier & Ross devote their whole column today to the news that Feinstein is jumping to the defense of the Presidio Terrace residents, and urging the board to undo the sale. The street, you’ll remember, was bought up for $90,000 after a paltry $14-a-year property tax had been unpaid by the street’s homeowner’s association for 30 years. (The homeowner’s association had changed address, and bills were being returned to sender and never paid.)
“When the improbable story of Presidio Terrace's tax sale first made headlines last August, my own reaction of near-disbelief seemed widely shared by others,” Feinstein writes in her letter to the board. “The Treasurer/Tax Collector's office's insistence that taxpayers were wholly to blame for that office's own fiasco was breathtaking. Among plot twists recounted in news reports on Presidio Terrace that seemed near disbelief, however, one stood out to me as fully unbelievable. In the United States of America, no one should lose property at the hands of the government without knowing about it.”
Feinstein used to live on Presidio Terrace, and grew up across the street. She is, presumably, still rather tight with her former neighbors, a point not lost on the new street owners’ attorney. “It leads one to wonder if Feinstein would be putting in such an opinion letter if it affected anyone other than her former friends and neighbors,” said the lawyer, Shepard Kopp, adding that DiFi’s involvement “plays right into my narrative that this is government by and for the rich.”
(Kopp is a high-profile Los Angeles attorney who defended Michael Jackson on molestation charges, Scott Peterson during that whole crazy thing, and more recently as served as ex-Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s attorney during his domestic violence troubles in 2012.)
The City and County’s official stance on the matter is that the sale was valid, and it was up to the homeowners to make sure their tax information was up to date. “Every year more than 10,000 bills and notices* are returned because of an incorrect or out-of-state address, and most of those homeowners still manage to pay their property taxes,” county treasurer Jose Cisneros told the Chronicle.
“State law is clear,” Cisneros said. “Whether or not an owner receives a bill, taxes are due.” He also said in a statement, "I am disappointed the Senator feels we acted ignorantly."
This comeuppance being applied to Presidio Terrace residents is rightfully entertaining to us proletariat peasants, as the street has a private security guard standing watch on their gated street. The street also once literally had a white people only policy. Who better to suffer this outcome?
Yet the decision is not up to us proles, it’s up to the Board of Supervisors at their November 29 tax sale recission hearing. Though hilariously, the supervisors (and Mayor Ed Lee!) unknowingly approved the sale in February 2015.
* This post has been corrected to show that more than 10,000 bills and notices are returned each year, not 1,000.