The San Francisco Board of Appeals on Wednesday tossed out a permit that had been granted to local internet business Monkeybrains to put up a fence on one side of a lot adjacent to their building at 22nd and Treat. But the bizarre limbo of this piece of land, which has been embraced by guerrilla gardeners, car owners in need of parking, and feral cats alike, has not been solved.
Back in February SFist discussed the hostilities that had arisen after Monkeybrains got the permit to rebuild a fence at the northern end of this land strip — which was originally a right-of-way for a long-gone freight train line. The city has no record of who or what entity owns the land, and they haven't been collecting any taxes on it, and this fact has the Board of Appeals wondering out loud why the Board of Supervisors can't step in and use eminent domain to claim it.
"The city needs courageous leadership to take charge on issues like this," board member Alex Lemberg said on Wednesday, per Mission Local. "And we’re just not seeing it."
Lemberg added that this was "the most obvious use case for eminent domain I have ever seen."
But an aide to Hillary Ronen, Santiago Lerma, told Mission Local last week that this is most definitely private land, even if the owner is still TBD. "We are extremely concerned about the escalation [among neighbors]," Lerma said. "But this idea that the board can make a decision on the parcel’s use or ownership is patently false."
Mission Local has been covering the saga of this property since 2017, when Mission Greenway was doing daily battle with a local preschool that kept trying to lock a gate at the western side of the parcel, and the gardening group kept cutting the locks off. At the time, the city Assessor's Office had pledged to investigate and untangle the ownership of the property, but six years on, it seems that mystery has still not been solved.
The parcel has remained fenced and occasionally locked in recent months. And Mission Greenway isn't just mad at Monkeybrains — they've also been a protracted battle with Mission Kids pre-school, the ones who keep putting padlocks on the west gate, and who allegedly promised not to use the parcel for parking when they built the school a number of years ago, but they do.
Monkeybrains’ co-founders Alex Menedez and Rudy Rucker, who own the warehouse that backs up to Parcel 36 with an off-white-colored roof seen above, have said they wanted to replace the fence at the north end in order to reduce neighborhood blight, and to secure their loading zone at the back of their property. They say they have an easement that allows them this access on the property
The parcel was last assessed by the CA State Board of Equalization in 2006 for $1,242,890, and it's surely worth a lot more than that now. But it could very well be that if an owner can be identified, they won't even want the property when they find out how much they owe in back taxes to the city.
The Board of Appeals concluded that this was a case of "departmental error" on the part of the city, and they implored Monkeybrains and Mission Greenway to find a peaceful way to coexist until the property questions can be resolved. Per Mission Local, board member J.R. Eppler also implored the Assessor-Recorder’s Office, the Treasurer’s Office, and the Recreation and Parks Department to get together and figure this all out.