Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Uncategorized Tom's Town: A missing million -- and can Airbnb...

Tom’s Town: A missing million — and can Airbnb share with the displaced families in the Mission?

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By Tom Temprano

JANUARY 30, 2015 — It isn’t every day that you find yourself caught up in what, aside from an unfortunate luggage incident on 11th Street, might be the city’s most head-scratching and suspenseful whodunit news story.

48hillstemprano2Folks may not know that one of my hats over the past four years has been to serve as the co-chair of the Soma Stabilization Fund Community Advisory Committee, and I have the honor of providing grants to Soma-based nonprofits and causes to help stabilize residents and businesses in the most volatile neighborhood in San Francisco. We have used money that developers in Rincon Hill paid into the fund to do some great work like helping United Playaz purchase their building on Howard Street and assisting the San Francisco Community Land Trust in buying a building full of Filipino seniors and families to keep them from getting evicted.

A few weeks ago we were told that $1 million, which had been earmarked for important infrastructure projects like upgrading Soma’s parks and installing crossing lights and pedestrian safety improvements at dangerous intersections, had gone missing. On Monday the Chronicle’s JK Dineen reported that nobody – including the city of San Francisco, ABAG, which held the funds in its accounts, and the developer whom ABAG had supposedly given the million bucks to without telling us – knew where the money was.

Now, in a twist that sounds like something out of an episode of Law and Order, the Chronicle is reporting that the person in charge of ABAG’s finances has suddenly vanished and may face a federal investigation. The money was transferred into a fake company, through a fake name. At this point, for all we know, that cash may be floating in the form of a yacht on the way to Mexico.

Unfortunately, this isn’t some diamond heist. Whoever was responsible has stolen money that was intended for the community. Our committee has spent several years working to identify projects to use this money on that were of an incredibly high need in a neighborhood with the city’s fewest parks and most dangerous streets.

The bottom line is that this money was stolen from the parks and streets of Soma, and I won’t stop fighting until we get it back into the community where it belongs.

The SoMa community is organizing as we speak so stay tuned for a press conference and a hearing called by Supervisor Kim to get to the bottom of this whole whodunit.

As I drove past the fire on 22nd and Mission Wednesday night, I did my best to remain optimistic, despite seeing a terrifying stream of flames and huge clouds of smoke billowing out of the building.

Unfortunately, one resident at 3200 Mission passed away in the fire and 54 residents, many of whom were Latino families, have lost their belongings and also their homes for the foreseeable future. These residents, long-time Latino tenants in rent controlled apartments, are already most at risk for displacement from their neighborhood and this fire just dramatically expedited their exodus.

I asked Tommi Avicolli Mecca from the Housing Rights Committee to assess the situation and he noted that under rent control, tenants have a right to return at the old rent after the place is repaired but that unfortunately there are no relocation benefits for fire victims. (Tommi noted that any tenants affected can stop in or call during HRC clinic hours for tenant rights counseling. Hours are Monday-Thursday 1-5pm at 417 South Van Ness.)

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about these families and how we can work toward helping them from being forced out of the city for good as they wait for the building to be repaired. Admittedly my current thinking is colored by the constant refrain of ‘home sharing’ that I hear around me in San Francisco.

Sharing isn’t only about giving somebody something they want (a room to stay in while visiting San Francisco) in exchange for something you want (money to help you pay the mortgage or rent). It can also about giving someone something they desperately need even when they aren’t able to give you something of equal value in return. In fact, I would argue that oftentimes the latter is a far more accurate real world definition of sharing.

What if Airbnb reached out to its many hosts in San Francisco to see if anyone would be willing to offer up a spare room or rooms to displaced residents from this latest fire while the building was renovated? Better yet, what if Airbnb actually offered to cover the costs to its hosts to do so? After all this is a $13 billion dollar company that could certainly stand to generate some goodwill in the city that it owes $25 million in back taxes to.

Or maybe we could look into housing these residents at one of the 30,000 vacant San Francisco homes that the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project has identified?

And what about the many small businesses that were part of the Mission Market that were displaced in the fire as well? How about some of the many (oft maligned) new condo buildings popping up in the neighborhood offer up their currently vacant ground floor retail spaces to house these businesses until they can return as well? We can start with the giant condos right next door that miraculously survived the fire and have plenty of ground floor retail to go along with their $7,500 rental prices.

 

San Francisco lost one of its treasures on Thursday night with the passing of Cookie Dough. For the past week, all of us have had Cookie in our prayers since she slipped into a coma while in Puerto Vallarta to reprise her role as Sophia in the ever-popular drag version of Golden Girls. She was able to be flown back home to San Francisco and be around her loved ones when she passed.

Cookie was one of those people whose smile lit up an entire room. In the world of drag queens where throwing shade is a Super Bowl-level sport, nobody ever had anything but wonderful things to say about Cookie – a distinction that few if any other queens can claim.

 

 

 

 

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.

45 COMMENTS

  1. I’m counting at least a dozen comments from Sam. Wasn’t there supposed to be an honor-system limit of four comments per post, or something?

    It’s been said before, and it’s absolutely true: Sam and his ilk need to start their own blogs and–once and for all–48 Hills needs to stop allowing them to troll and ruin this one. Thanks.

  2. There are reasons why Newsom insisted that mayoral staff get final say over all of these impact fee determinations instead of the advisory bodies. Not that the nonprofit stacked advisory bodies would do anything other than keep the money for their agencies, but better the agencies than some embezzler’s income property.

  3. Without understanding the means by which ACS claim to be able to know how many units are vacant, then I have no reason to believe them.

    If you can explain why you think their methodology is credible then I’d be interested in hearing that. But the very nature of the issue, and the desire of owners to disguise this fact, makes me doubt any alleged experts.

  4. Sam, the words ‘highly dubious’ are yours. I am sorry I showed frustration, but not that I criticized that phrase.

    All surveys are subject to error, and results are never holy writ. However, surveys are the only practical way to study the populace. The idea that surveys in general or the ACS in particular are ‘highly dubious’ is risible.

  5. Mark, every individual and entity is entitled to organize their affairs in such a way as to minimize their tax burden. But in practice, tax avoidance strategies tend to be most common when either or one or more of these factors are present:

    1) The tax is unpopular and widely hated, e.g. the estate tax AKA the death tax.

    2) The tax is confusing and illogical, such that reasonable people might not believe that any tax is due at all, e.g. gift tax, sales tax on items bought out of state and (as in this case) the claim that a hotel tax is payable on sharing your home.

    3) The tax rate is egregiously high e.g. property tax before Prop 13, income tax before Reagan and (again) estate tax at 40% of your entire net worth.

  6. WC, it wasn’t me who said the ACS data is “subject to error”. It was ACS. I was just quoting their own words.

  7. @4th Gen wrote “Again, you slam others because you are wealthy, and you really don’t want anyone else to be as wealthy as you are.”

    You seem really angry. I’m not wealthy, I don’t have any problems with people because of their wealth.

  8. Projecting that I drink or get “buzzed” because I don’t make sense? FWIW, no I do not do any substances. Perhaps you do?

    Further, you told me that you were wealthy due to investments and that you were retired. Further that you are a property owner.

    Are you opening your places up to any of the people in this article? If you retired early, you must have tons of money, the rest of us are trying to make it.

    Again, you slam others because you are wealthy, and you really don’t want anyone else to be as wealthy as you are.

    As for drinking and “being buzzed” (outdated 70’s term that people don’t use anymore) I imagine that it is YOU that is under some kind of influence since you spend a lot of time here slamming others that don’t agree with your wealthy super-hypocritical view.

  9. I try to be nice, but if you think the ACS ‘highly dubious’ then you are substantially stupider than you look.

  10. I’m not elderly – I’m not even old enough for early social security. And owning property is irrelevant to this thread as is my age.

    But my advice to you is to stop drinking, or stop posting while buzzed. You make no sense at all.

  11. Sam, I have offered my place a number of times to people in need, and the situation you describe has never eventuated. Has it ever happened to you? No, I didn’t think so.

    Get off the politics, once in awhile. Live in your heart.

  12. Gary, for a wealthy elder retired guy with property you really need to tampen down your rhetoric against other posters and just stick to the issues. You’re embarrassing.

  13. Good point. this 30 day law needs to be appealed so that people can afford to be more generous for longer than 30 days. Any takers from the Board of Supervisors to work on that problem? We understand that anyone who allows a friend, relative, or lover to stay longer than 30 days regardless of whether of whether or not they pay rent, can be ensnared in this 30 rule. Please correct me if I am wrong on that.

  14. WC, intuition and common sense may in fact be superior to any data, if the data in question is highly dubious. The ACS report itself admits that:

    “Above all, when using data from the American
    Community Survey, one must keep in mind that
    sample data is inherently subject to error, and
    estimates should be interpreted with some caution.”

  15. Whoa, someone needs to read Tom’s links to the SFGate articles. Talk about CORRUPTION!!! And, fwiw, ABAG is part of this Agenda 21 stuff to stack everyone up high in all cities and suburbs (because it’s ***better*** for the enviro) & basically ban cars/parking lots, even in the burbs. Some of the goals are good like “transit friendly corridors” but the stacking of people — can be really awful, especially when you live above or below noisy neighbors.

  16. From Tom’s linked article about United Playaz’ building in Soma

    “United Playaz will use the $400,000 grant for the down payment on the purchase of the building. In addition, the group has raised $400,000 in private donations toward the building’s purchase price and will take out a loan and make mortgage payments during the next 20 years, which will be about what it currently pays in rent.”

    And then the Assessor’s office will come by and assess the building, which will go up up up, and the property tax on it will kick them out anyway, especially if the Ammiano/Leno/etc bill goes through for commercial buildings goes through, which will NOT exempt this building. Further, can they even pay the high property taxes on the building now? Further add-ons by the city to heighten one’s property taxes are coming as well, and are there in place right now. Hint: property taxes on that building will not be cheap.

  17. The 2013 ACS finds 26,000 vacant apartments.

    However, 6,000 are for rent, 3,000 are rented, just not occupied, 1,000 are for sale, and 2,000 are sold, just not occupied. Then you have the 6,000 for seasonal, recreational, or occasional use.

    That leaves 9,000, at most. That seems the right order of magnitude.

    Looking at the data generally is better than intuition and guesswork.

  18. Tom–I think we all need to acknowledge and thank District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener for authoring The Good Samaritan Tenancy Legislation.

    We can disagree with Scott later, but in moments like this we need to thank him for his thoughtfulness.

  19. I want to house these people – the problem is that I can’t trust tenants in this town. I might let them stay at my home for free but what guarantees me they will leave when it is time to go. The status quo in this town is a fat payout when a tenant leaves and I’m not willing to take that chance.

  20. A lot of progressives post here, many have a lot of money and places to stay & empty rooms in their big places. I’m wondering why none of them are stepping up to the plate and offering to house the people who were in the fire? I’ll wait for the answer from progressives why they aren’t offering up a place to stay for a family, because they’re not. Some have given small amts to the gofundme page but there’s 7 families and last I checked it was 31k, which is not even $5k per family. But progressives with $ are on here screaming night and day about how “unfair” things are, yet they’re not offering a place to stay nor much money. Just an observation.

  21. WC, yes, the stats on this are all over the place. 30,000 is definitely too high.

    These supposedly under-utilized units break broadly into two groups:

    1) Newish condos, mostly downtown, which are not lived in by their owners, but are either second homes, rented out or held for future sale. In any event, none of these are affordable and so not relevant to the homeless and the low-income. Nor are they covered by rent control.

    2) Older rent-controlled units where the owner has been bitten before and does not want to deal with tenants again. They may use them as in-laws, occasional use for guests or Airbnb, or are held vacant pending a TIC or condo conversion. Again, if they were rented out, that would be at a top-dollar market rent

    So either way these allegedly vacant units would never be available to those who need them most, and that will not change under current law. The only idea I have for this is that the city offers to pay me a market rent to put these people in there, and that rent control is waived so that I can end the deal whenever I want.

    Kinda like a local Section 8 scheme. I’d take them if the city guaranteed me asking rent AND I could end the deal with 60 days notice – no UD necessary. Whaddaya say Tom and Tim?

  22. WC, you are correct that zero rent means that they are a guest and not a tenant, and can be easily removed.

    But realistically who is going to let someone live rent free for 2-4 years in a vacant unit that can get a market rent?

    It makes far more sense to do what I do, and max out the rent you can get, and then give some of the profits to a charity, which could be one which helps people like these.

  23. The city does not have 30,000 premanently vacant units gathering dust. The 6,000 ‘occasional use’ units, for example, get used, just occasionally. The Housing Vacancy Survey tracks by type.

  24. The Good Samaritan law is if you charge rent. If you let someone stay in a vacant unit for free, they are not tenants but licensees. If you are not a tenant, you do not receive tenant protections. Licenses are terminable at will with a simple notice, if I remember right.

    There is, naturally, the risk that a licensee refuses to leave after notice, and evictions cost real money. If the city offered a bond automatically covering damages and attorney fees in a resulting, successful detainer actions, that might bring units out of the woodwork.

    It’d never happen, though.

  25. Could be, although the SFRB doesn’t have direct jurisdiction over evictions which are handled by the courts.

    so what would happen at the end of the period is that you’d give the tenants a 60-day notice and then, if they don’t leave. You’d issue a UD and a summary process would happen, which the SFRB can’t stop.

    However, and crucially, defense would offer up a SFRB staff member as an expert witness, and their testimony could be persuasive.

    My point is more this. Why should a property owner even have to go through that when he has done a good deed? It should instead be a summary eviction by SFPD, like for trespassers.

  26. I myself don’t trust this good Samaritan law as I generally I feel the SFRB will reinterpret laws as they see fit, and the City only piles on more laws that benefit tenants. Who knows, in 4 years when it’s time for the tenants to go back maybe they will refuse to move and the Rent Board won’t side with you.

  27. Gary strikes again, seizing every opportunity to bash other contributors, go on an anti-Sam rant, demonize anyone with different politics..

    Maybe you should withhold your comments, Gary. You know, until you can figure some self-control.

  28. Samtroll strikes again, seizing every opportunity to bash the city, go on an anti-government rant, demonize tenants in rent controlled units.

    Maybe you should withhold your property and business taxes Samtroll. You know, as you say, “until the city can figure some financial controls.”

  29. It’s rather unfortunate that the argument for the city to get a 25 million windfall is somewhat undermined by the apparent revelation that a custodian of the city’s money appears to have absconded with a million or so.

    On balance, maybe Airbnb should keep that money for safekeeping until the city can figure out some financial controls.

  30. About the $25 million, Tom writes (and links):

    “After all this is a $13 billion dollar company that could certainly stand to generate some goodwill in the city that it owes $25 million in back taxes to.”

    The link goes back to Tim Redmond’s post on the DCCC meeting,

    One of the things that Tim needed to keep out of his post (for obvious reasons) is the fact that the DCCC removed any references to the $25 million figure because Campos could not provide any basis or justification for it.

    It does sound great, though, doesn’t it?

  31. Yes, this Airbnb is a fab idea and I’d like to see the likes of Ron Conway and Mark Benioff step and agree to pay for the shares found the Mission fire’s displaced folks.

  32. You’re right, I didn’t know that, although it does feel good and appropriate to have a noble initiative named after me.

    It’s still sad that we need to enact all these precautions for what should be a simple act of generosity though, don’t you think?

    And of course if the displaced tenant did not move after the 24 months is up, then the landlord would still have to go through a costly full eviction process.

    Let’s see how many takers there are.

  33. Any offer by a generous property owner to temporarily house these displaced tenants would of course expose that owner to the risk that those tenants could, after 30 days, claim their rights under the rent ordinance. And never leave.

    So if you think this is a good idea you should first work out how such a situation could be avoided. Otherwise it sounds like another potential example of every landlord’s favorite phrase:

    “No good deed goes unpunished”

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