Rich homeowners urge San Francisco to return sold-off street

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — An investor scooped up one of the toniest private streets in San Francisco after its wealthy owners didn’t pay property taxes for years, a sale that the well-connected homeowners want city leaders to reverse Tuesday.

By taking up the issue, officials have sparked criticism that the city is not as fair and equitable as it claims, but a playground for the rich who don’t have to play by the same rules as everyone else. San Francisco has some of the most exorbitant property prices in the country and has become increasingly unaffordable for many people.

But those who live on Presidio Terrace say the city should never have sold their street without properly notifying them. They say the annual tax bills of $14 and auction notice were being sent to an outdated address.

City Treasurer Jose Cisneros says the association representing some three dozen homeowners was responsible for updating its address and should have paid its taxes on time. He backs new owner Tina Lam, a Silicon Valley software manager who bought the street, sidewalks and common areas for $90,000 in 2015.

The oval-shaped street in upscale Presidio Heights is lined with leafy palms, lush landscaping and multimillion-dollar mansions. Previous residents of the gated neighborhood include U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who wrote a letter that accused the city of bureaucratic bungling.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is scheduled to hear the case and decide whether to rescind the sale or leave it alone. The issue is unprecedented in San Francisco, although supervisors in other California counties have reversed sales as allowed under state law.

Homeowners learned about the sale earlier this year and petitioned the board for a hearing.

The issue is giving at least one supervisor voting pains. Aaron Peskin said he would side with the new owner in a “hot second” if he could because of the way the association has behaved. However, he said that the homeowners make a reasonable argument that government should not take property without better notice.

Still, he was annoyed by Feinstein’s letter.