City Attorney David Chiu has three Chinatown SRO landlords at the center of his latest lawsuit, saying their properties are “a public nuisance,” and that “dozens of health and safety violations linger” at these buildings.
It’s sort of a well-known thing that San Francisco landlords will sometimes take advantage of tenants who are not fluent English speakers and don’t know their rights, and this practice is particularly common in Chinatown. Some landlords will clean up their act when City Hall applies pressure, others are less willing.
But the Chronicle reported Tuesday that SF City Attorney David Chiu has just sued three Chinatown SRO landlords, all of whose business seems to intertwine, over what the Chron describes as “years of tenant complaints and warnings from officials alleging their living conditions have been ‘inhumane.’”
“It is unacceptable that dozens of immigrant tenants have had to live under these unsafe and unhealthy conditions,” Chiu said in a Tuesday statement. “Landlords have a responsibility to keep up their properties and ensure their tenants have a safe and healthy place to live. These property owners have not met that responsibility and instead profited off the suffering of their tenants. The owners need to be held accountable and make things right.”
The landlords named in Chiu’s suit are Jeff Appendrodt, Shailendra Devdhara, and Kamlesh Patel, all of whom own Chinatown single-occupancy room (SRO) apartment buildings. The buildings in question are 1449 Powell Street, 790 Vallejo Street, and 912 Jackson Street. Chiu’s office says the three buildings are set up “through different ownership configurations” via LLCs.
According to the release, the violations date back to a series of illegal conversions, or addition of alternative dwelling units ADUs. Chiu’s office provides a (partial) list of the violations recorded up at these properties, including “broken and rusted plumbing, exposed electrical wiring, insect infestations, mold and mildew, unsanitary shared restrooms, malfunctioning appliances, (and) lack of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.” Chiu’s office alleges 21 current outstanding notices of violations from the Department of Building Inspection.
The Chronicle reached one of the landlords, Shailendra Devdhara, who maintained they’ve been making steady improvements. “Painting us as lousy landlords … that’s not who we are,” he told the Chronicle. “I do work with SROs and I obviously love to improve them.”
The lawsuit says “The City is seeking penalties, fees, and injunctive relief to cure the violations at the properties.” According to the Chronicle such cases have drawn millions of dollars of penalties in the past.
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