Corporate mega-landlord Veritas Investments is performing a massive sell-off of mostly rent-controlled residential properties in San Francisco, drawing the ire of a few SF supervisors and a housing nonprofit who posted all the buildings' addresses online. Despite the threat of a Veritas lawsuit, the post with the addresses is still on Facebook.
It’s been an eventful three days for the city’s largest landlord Veritas Investments since the San Francisco Business Times broke the news that the company was trying to sell off 76 buildings, which amounts to a third of its local portfolio. The news broke because the units hit the market right as the one-month waiting period required by Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer’s right of first refusal for nonprofits law had expired, and the buildings could therefore be advertised at market rate. This drew the ire of Supervisor Dean Preston, who led a rally at City Hall Monday demanding that the company put a 60-day pause on the sales of the buildings according to the Examiner.
Supervisor Hillary Ronen was also at the rally Monday, and accused Veritas Investments of gaming the one-month waiting period by announcing it just a couple days before Christmas. “When you put 2,000 units up for sale in the middle of December, you are trying to evade city laws and get top dollar and ruin people’s lives,” she told the crowd.
But Veritas Investments does not intend to hit a 60-day pause button on a series of sales that will presumably net them multiple hundreds of millions of dollars. Quite the opposite, as the Chronicle reports the commercial real estate firm is not trying to make deals with nonprofits, but instead is threatening to sue a housing nonprofit.
As Curbed explains, that nonprofit is the Housing Rights Committee (HRC), who posted the addresses of the units for sale publicly on Facebook as a way to notify the tenants. But the post has drawn the threat of a lawsuit from Veritas Investments, who allege this constitutes the illegal distribution of sensitive information.
In an angry letter to them, Veritas’ attorney Jonathan Sommer said that “It is no defense that HRC is the recipient of misappropriated information versus the leaker of that information. You knew you were aiding and abetting the unlawful disclosure of information that is confidential by law.”
The letter demand that HRC surrender all confidential information back to Veritas, reveal how they got the information, and scrub all social media posts containing this information, by 5 p.m. Tuesday. So, we could be in for another Moms 4 Housing style showdown pitting a Goliath corporation against a tiny advocacy group. And as we learned in that one, betting on Goliath is not always a sure win.
Image: Veritas Investment headquarters at One Bush, by BrokenSphere via Wikimedia Commons