A local developer whom the City Attorney's office accused of being "unscrupulous" is having to cough up a $1.2 million fine for forging ahead with major construction at seven residential properties around the city without the proper permits.
As the City Attorney explains in a release Monday, real estate developer and investor Ashok Gujral was found to have routinely tried to skirt the city's planning rules and speed up construction at properties he'd purchased by applying for simple interior remodel permits and basic repairs. He obtained these easily, but would then launch major alterations of the properties like adding interior stairs or "adding both vertical and horizontal additions," as he reportedly did at 1613 Church Street.
The suit was filed last month, and it alleged that Gujral not only violated planning codes, but also "engaged in unlawful business practices, violated state housing law and created a public nuisance." Before and after photos of a property at 4068 Folsom showed a significant addition added to the rear of a property.
"We have regulations for a reason,” said Planning Director John Rahaim, who helped bring the case against Gujral. In one instance, as the City Attorney's office noted, work undertaken at one of Gujral's properties "undermined the foundation of a neighboring building."
The buildings that were part of the suit are:
- 531 33rd Ave., San Francisco, California 94121
- 120 Brewster St., San Francisco, California 94110
- 1613 Church St., San Francisco, California 94131
- 437 Ellsworth St., San Francisco, California 94110
- 4068 Folsom St., San Francisco, California 94110
- 903 Minnesota St., San Francisco, California 94107
- 310 Montcalm St., San Francisco, California 94110
In addition to paying the $1.2 million fine, Gujral will have to bring all of his properties in line with land-use laws, and pay an additional $83,000 for proper permits. Also, all properties owned by Gujral and his wife will face quarterly inspections by the city.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera says in a statement, "It’s game over for house flippers who thought they could ignore the rules in San Francisco. We will catch you, and the price will be steep. We will make sure that breaking the law just isn’t worth it. Unscrupulous developers trying to make a quick buck by flouting the law increase safety risks, endanger the character of our neighborhoods and cheat honest developers by creating an uneven playing field."