Due to legal entanglements and bouts of public backlash, Dennis Richards, who was appointed to the San Francisco Planning Commission in 2014, is to take a leave of absence from his duties.
The SF Examiner broke the news that after Richards publicly scrutinized the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (DBI) and possibly violated tenant laws, he will be taking a leave of absence from his post. Richards has already been MIA from the commission's last two meetings, to boot; the Planning Commission is in the process of screening and vetting specific candidates for the role as well, per a department spokesperson.
Commissioner Dennis Richards said ...in my six years at the planning commission I've never seen that many petitions collected in opposition to a development ..... over 1000 petition cards were turned in today! Excelsior Community says NO to Market Rate at 65 Ocean Ave!!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/M0bjMQ2sEc— PODERSF (@PODERSF) October 17, 2019
Earlier this monther, we reported on the fact that Richards had nine permits revoked on a house at 3426-32 22nd Street he purchased (with the help of a high-end real estate LLC) for $2.7 million — with hopes of putting it on the market for $7.5 million.
(It was reported that Richards was reprimanded by the DBI for allegedly performing work on the house that exceeded what his permits allowed for. As reported initially by Mission Local, in a long hearing before the city’s Board of Appeals earlier this month, Richards responded "Fuck yeah" to whether or not he intended to sue the DBI — a department he's meant to work in tandem with and support of — for revoking those permits.)
“House flipping to me is, buying a place, putting an IKEA kitchen and bathroom, and selling it at a ridiculous profit,” the planning commission absentee told Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez in an earlier column he penned in the SF Examiner. “This isn’t house flipping. This is improving the housing stock.”
No matter your thoughts on the line between house-flipping and bettering real estate markets, two of the four tenants at the Mission District property, both Mexican immigrants, had been in their abode for over five decades, paying a reported $600 for their one-bedroom living space, which likely was the reason they were able to still live in the city. A similar-space, no matter how you slice it, would fetch for around $3,200 in the city, according to Zillow.
Alas, Richards — who co-owns the property with his business partner and real estate professional, Sara Swann — exercised his powers as a landlord to buy the two out of their lease for an undisclosed amount back in 2017. Richards, however, failed to report the buyout until just this past October, adding fuel to the dumpster fire that is Richards' housing influence on the city. Randy Shaws of BeyondChron went as far as to say he, essentially, is a “predatory eviction speculator for profit.”
(In a paradoxical plot twist: Richards had previously expressed support in mitigating the occurrence of these buyouts, as, while they do have immediate cash-advance gains, the long-term financial losses of being pushed out of affordable housing overshadow them. Also, when tenants are presented with these options, they're more likely to agree to them in fear that they'll be evicted, sans any funds, should they say no. It's borderline bullying.)
The Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee told the Examiner yesterday that he told Richards in a phone call he needed to step back from his duties, temporarily, to get some level-ground on his personal and legal issues.
“He asked whether it makes any sense for him to take a leave from the commission for a short period, so he can clear personal issues …and address some of the permit stuff,” said Yee, he later added that the commission, which currently includes six members, wouldn't suffer in his vacancy. Whether or not they choose to appoint a new commission member is still in the air, largely due to Richards' yet-cemented plans on either returning to his post or not.
If you find Richards' acts unfit and unethical, you may contact Yee to (respectfully) express your concerns, woes, and thoughts by calling him at 415-554-6516 or via an email to [email protected].
Image: Twitter via @RafaelMandelman