Cortland Neighbor May Leave Bernal After 130% Rent Increase

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Last week, Bernalwood received a heartbreaking note from Neighbor Bianca, who is reluctantly vacating her apartment on Cortland (near Andover) after being notified of a 130% rent increase. She tells Bernalwood:

It is to my great dismay that as a four-year Bernal resident, I have been officially notified of a rental increase. The 2-unit building I live in was sold about 4 months back to Citibrokers, Inc.

I found the notice of my rental increase coldly slapped and taped onto the front gate of my 2 bedroom apartment. I have attached the picture of the main document.

My unit is considered a “Single-Family Unit” because the building consists just of my apartment and a nail salon below. That makes it exempt from rent control. I spoke with the SF Rental Board, they said the rent increase was legal. It would seem pointless to attempt to fight it/hire a lawyer

As an On-Call Biologist at the Exploratorium and a part-time bartender at a music venue in the Mission, I simply do not make enough money to afford this new increase. With this, I must leave the Bay as I have run out of options for myself and my pup, Karma.

I hope this serves as a bleak warning to the rest of our beloved Bernal locals.  I want to sound the alarm so other residents brush up on their rights and keep in touch with the landlord with regard to any future sales plans. My prior landlord didn’t even tell me when he sold the building! It wasn’t until a real estate agent was at my door, asking to come in for measurements. Sigh.

I absolutely adore this neighborhood and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in the city. I’m going to truly miss Bernal Heights…it’s a special slice of paradise hidden in the noise and chaos of SF.  It saddens me deeply it must end like this.

Best,

Bianca
(Biologist, Bartender, Bernal & Dog Lover, Silly Cross-Stitcher)

Grrrrrrrr. Coming shortly after the 355% rent increase that drove Neighbor Deb from her apartment on Bocana earlier in the year, this is a tough story to hear.

Meanwhile, if anyone has any leads on potential housing options for Neighbor Bianca here in Bernal, please contact Bernalwood. We’ll make sure the information gets to her ASAP.

PHOTOS: via Neighbor Bianca

Former Tenant Sues Over Eye-Popping Rent Increase at 355 Bocana

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The dust has settled in the messy matter of 355 Bocana, the house where renter Deb Follingstad was hit with a shocking 315% rent increase by property owner and lifelong Bernal resident Nadia Lama last March. Since then, Neighbor Nadia has moved into the house, and Neighbor Deb has been stringing together temporary arrangements while she looks for a more stable place to live.

Yet the incident still stings, apparently, and last week Neighbor Deb filed a wrongful eviction lawsuit. Lamar Anderson from San Francisco Magazine broke the story:

The complaint, filed on August 18 in San Francisco Superior Court, characterizes the rent increase as an effective eviction and a violation of the city’s Rent Ordinance. According to the suit, which also names Lama’s sisters, ontime property managers Claudia and Antoinette Lama, Nadia Lama moved into the unit after Follingstad left. Instead of going through the no-fault eviciton procedure allowed under the Rent Ordinance for owner move-ins, the suit alleges, Lama attempted to go around the law by forcing Follingstad out with a drastic rent increase. In a normal no-fault eviction, Follingstad would have been entitled to a relocation payment of $9,258.67, according to the suit. Instead, she got no relocation money, and Lama even kept her $1,500 security deposit, Follingstad says.

Her attorney, Joseph Tobener, says, “I think it’s unfortunate that it’s come to this.” When Nadia Lama gave notice of the rent increase, he says, “We sent a letter saying, Let’s resolve this. This client’s willing to work with you.”

Follingstad’s story, which swept local media last spring and provoked neighborhood backlash against the Lama family, gave San Franciscans a crash course in the intricacies of tenant law. Through a loophole in the law, Follingstad’s sudden $6,755 rent hike appeared to be legal. In San Francisco, rent control covers most rentals with a certificate of occupancy predating June 1979, if they are in multiunit buildings. Follingstad lived in a two-unit building and was covered by rent control. But the lower-level unit was illegal, which made it easy to demolish—that is, remove the plumbing that made it a habitable dwelling unit—without permission from the Planning Department. When Lama pulled the toilet out of the lower-level unit, in February, it became de-facto “storage space” for Follingstad’s apartment, and voila, she was suddenly living in a single-family home, and no longer protected by rent control. (Lama had only taken over the property in January, after resolving a legal dispute with her sisters, Claudia Lama and Antoinette Lama, who had been acting as landlords ever since the original landlord, their father Chuck Lama, died in 2012.)

This is a complicated, two-sided tale, so it’s time well-spent to read the whole thing.

PHOTO: Telstar Logistics

Bids Due, Tensions High as Trustee Says Precita Eyes Seeks to “Force Family to Sell to Them”

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It’s been a big week for 348 Precita Avenue, the multi-unit building on Precita Park that’s long been home to the Precita Eyes mural studio. 348 Precita is for sale, and Precita Eyes hopes to avoid possible eviction by deterring would-be buyers from bidding on the property. (For more backstory, read Bernalwood’s item about this from  Monday.)

Here at week’s end, let’s catch up on where thing stand.

Neighbor Ledia dropped by Precita Eyes during a Protest Art Class for kids on Tuesday, where she learned more about Precta Eyes, their history in Precita Park, their other property holdings, and their (at times confusing) arrangement with the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA). Neighbor Ledia tells Bernalwood:

Went to the free art class and talked to Precita Eyes today: Now I understand.

So Precita Eyes wants the owners [of 348 Precita] to accept MEDAs offer to buy the building, which has 3 residential units plus the commercial Precita Eyes space, for $1 million.

It’s obviously “worth” more. MEDA would then be the owner/landlord, with the possibly of current tenants being able to buy their spaces in some way.

348 is the original Precita Eyes space. Precita Eyes has been around since 1977, and in this space since 1982. In 1998, [Precita Eyes founder Susan Cervantes] bought the Precita Eyes space on 24th St., so the organization also has that.

The goal of the free art class/gathering is to discourage offers on the building, other than MEDA’s lowball offer.

This provides helpful context. Precita Eyes uses 348 Precita as a satellite facility, and in the comments to Monday’s post, several Bernal neighbors noted that the studio at 348 is rarely occupied. (As a neighbor, Bernalwood can confirm this.) The Precita Eyes branch at 2981 24th Street is the organization’s main office, but we did not know (and Mission Local confirms) that Precita Eyes actually owns the 24th Street building. That means the future of Precita Eyes on 24th Street is secure.

Of course, there are two sides to every transaction, and in the comments to Bernalwood’s Monday post, a member of the family that’s selling 348 Precita shared some details (which are merged here for clarity):

My name is Michael Silva. I am not the owner of 348 Precita (certainly not the only owner), but only the trustee of my late mom’s estate.

I am a member of the family that owns this property. Our presence in SF dates back to before the 1906 earthquake (they camped out in the park during the repairs). It has been in our family for a hundred years. Look up August &Minnie Schmidt in the 1915 online directory.

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1915 San Francisco Directory, via Bernalwood

One of the owners is the 83 year old granddaughter of August and Minnie. Another is a great-grandson who worked all his life in SF until he had to retire under medical disability, and who has had multiple surgeries to help the back injuries he suffered while working as a printer. His entire life savings consists of $11,000.

These are the owners to whom Precita Eyes is trying to dictate sale terms. This is the one and only commercial property the family owns, in SF or anywhere else. We are not “big investors” by any stretch of the imagination.

I am actually just the Trustee of my mom’s estate (born in SF in 1932). She and her twin sister co-owned the property until she passed away a few years ago. Now my mom’s estate, along with her twin sister, are trying to sell the property. And Precita Eyes is trying to make sure we do not receive fair market value for a property that has been in our family for at least 100 years.

What Precita Eyes is trying to do is to force the family to sell to them, on their terms and on their terms alone, and obviously below market value (or else they would just submit their bid along with any other potential buyers). Who thinks this is moral behavior on their part?

This sets up a curious dynamic. In a town where one’s standing on questions of housing policy and social entitlement often correlates to how long you’ve lived here, the story of 348 Precita now contrasts a nonprofit arts organization that’s been in Bernal for 30+ years with a multigenerational family that’s been in Bernal for 100.

Last Tuesday, there was a open house at at 348 Precita for potential buyers to view the property. Precita Eyes put signs in the windows, brought in some local kids for an ad hoc protest art class, invited a few journalists from around town to drop by, and launched their campaign to ward off potential bidders.

Sarah Hotchkiss from KQED Arts was there:

As toddlers covered in tempera paint plastered their hand prints all over sheets of paper, community members surrounded the building holding their own pieces of paper, printed with the message, “Please do not BUY this building!! This is a community space!”

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Photo: KQED

The organization staged the protest after landlords posted a brand-new For Sale sign on the studio center’s exterior the week before. Though Precita Eyes owns its arts and visitors center at 2981 24th St, they have rented the 348 Precita Ave space since 1977.

While impending doom lingers in the air, the building’s residents are not without hope. The Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), with advice from the San Francisco Community Land Trust (SFCLT), plans to make a bid on the property, which, if successful, will safeguard Precita Eyes and the residential tenants against eviction by forming a cooperative.

The dispatch from Mission Local’s reporter captured the kabuki-like flavor of the scene, as the participants performed familiar roles:

“We’re hoping to dissuade other prospective buyers from outbidding MEDA,” explained Nancy Pili Hernández, a Precita Eyes muralist.

Several prospective buyers came and went without comment. Some stopped to talk with the activists and neighbors standing outside. In some cases, the exchanges became heated.  Pili Hernández said one potential buyer became incensed when a woman approached him asking his intentions for the building. Pili Hernández said the man told the woman he would put in an offer for $2 million and evict her.

That’s the kind of possibility that makes Randy Odell, an upstairs resident of 30 years, uneasy.

“It’s no fun having your home threatened.” Odell said. “When you have no right to keep people from coming in and looking at your home, and sussing out the value, it’s very hard to keep my dignity.”

Other potential buyers took a more diplomatic approach.

Micheal Zook, a San Francisco native and former building manager who was once evicted from a building he lived and worked in for 20 years, now works as a realtor but was considering the building as a potential home for himself, his wife and his children. He talked at length with community organizers about the property and how displacement could be avoided.

So what happens next?

Although the drama of 348 Precita is playing out in 2015, this story is really a flashback to the proto-gentrification tensions of 1970s Bernal Heights, when a young generation of activist Baby Boomers arrived and set out to transform Bernal in their own image, sometimes to the dismay of the older, blue-collar families who already lived here.

Back then, however, San Francisco’s population was in decline, and Bernal Heights was considered a faded part of town.  Homes were cheap,  rents were cheaper, Precita Park was rough, and Bernal was a funky bohemian backwater. Today, San Francisco’s population has grown by almost 200,000 since 1980, Bernal is a prime location, Precita Park is a four-star destination, countercultural lifestyles are difficult to afford, and the median home price in the neighborhood hovers around $1.4 million. A big property like 348 Precita could obviously fetch more.

But should it? Will it? We’ll find out soon; Mike Silva tells Bernalwood the last bids for the property are coming in today.

PHOTOS: Top, Precita Eyes studio by Telstar Logistics

Venerable Navarro’s Martial Arts Academy Faces Eviction on Mission Street

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The beloved Navarro’s Marital Arts Academy on Mission near Cortland is being evicted, thanks to the gentrifying effects of… Christian book stores???

San Francisco Magazine reports:

For 43 years, Carlos Navarro has run a small martial arts gym in Bernal Heights whose community involvement and affordable classes have kept local lower-income youths from the temptations of drugs and guns. But decades of community goodwill have earned Navarro little credit with his new landlord, who asked him to vacate the gym by September 20 after he refused a rent hike from $1,800 to $6,500.

As the latest addition to a long line of small businesses being displaced in San Francisco, Navarro’s Martial Arts Academy had its lease terminated, despite pleas from the Navarro family and supervisor David Campos. Their request to at least extend the gym’s tenancy for a few more months was denied by the owner, Alice Tse of Innovistech Realty. Once the gym is gone, Steve’s Bookstore—a Christian bookstore based in North Carolina and owned by Olivet University, a SoMa-based for-profit university—is in line to take its place at the Mission Street storefront, near 30th Street.

IMAGE: via Google Maps

Activists Rally as Precita Eyes Studio Building on Precita Park Is Listed For Sale

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Brace yourself: 348 Precita Avenue, the building on the south side of Precita Park that houses the small Precita Eyes mural studio, is for sale. Now Precita Eyes is organizing to discourage potential market-rate buyers:

Dear Friends of Precita Eyes,

Some of you may already know Precita Eyes Muralists’ studio on 348 Precita ave. is on the market for sale. We need your support to protest the sale to shake off competing bidders, BECAUSE A LOCAL HOUSING NON PROFITS ARE PLACING A BID TO BUY OUR BUILDING.

We ask you to talk about our 38 year old organization and our involvement in our community to potential bidders. Mention that the tenants above have lived there 30 plus years and they have no means to move.

Open house dates:
This Tuesday, August 25th (2:30-4pm) & Wednesday, August 26th (4-5pm)

We plan to have a FREE TODDLER ART CLASS & URBAN YOUTH ARTS during that time. It will be volunteered by our Toddler Art teacher Priya!!

Our Urban Youth Art Teacher Max will be present to create protest posters with the youth simultaneously.

IN SOLIDARITY!!!

MEDA is the Mission-based organization that has been active in the effort to block construction of new mixed-rate housing near the 16th St. BART station. In addition, MEDA also played a hands-on role in putting the Mission Housing Moratorium on the November ballot.

Prediction: This will be heated. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: In the comments, there’s some confusion about the Precita Eyes action plan. which appears to involve press outreach and an effort to “shake off competing bidders.”

If the recent sale of the Pigeon Palace property in the Mission is any guide, Prectia Eyes likely seeks to generate publicity about their organization, and the pending sale of 314 Precita, as part of an effort to discourage would-be market-rate purchasers from making offers for the building.  Eliminating other potential bidders would make MEDA’s effort to purchase 314 Precita more competitive. Precita Eyes is apparently working with MEDA to help purchase the building.

PHOTO: Precita Eyes on Facebook

What Do You Call a Home Seller Who Accepts the Highest Offer?

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A few weeks ago, in the context of an update about bonkers Bernal Heights real estate trends, Neighbor Sarah posed a question about the behavior of home sellers, and the role they play in pushing prices upward.

Neighbor Sarah asked:

There are two parties involved in any sale, and there’s no rule that says you have to sell to the highest, all-cash buyer, but it seems that even many idealists become hard-core capitalists in that moment. Idea for Bernalwood: get data from real-estate agents in the area about how often the seller chooses a buyer who is offering materially less than the highest bidder (which, mind you, would still likely be a high price by normal standards). Sales to relatives would not count.

Put another way (and in the way we often hear this question posed), if a seller accepts the highest offer, is that greed? Or, if a Bernal seller declines an offer from an existing Bernal neighbor whose bid for a home was not the highest, is that greed too? What if the existing Bernal neighbor is going through a hard time, or is an artist? Or a teacher? What is it when the seller nevertheless takes a higher offer?

Bernalwood turned to Neighbor Danielle Lazier and Neighbor Michael Minson, both of whom are realtors, to provide some perspective. Neighbor Danielle writes:

In my experience, it’s quite rare for the seller NOT to take the highest-priced offer. For most of our seller-clients, their home is their retirement, their nest egg, their ability to go and pursue the next chapter of their lives, and they want to make every dollar possible. Occasionally, if offers are very close in price and terms (contingencies, length of closing, etc), they may then choose the buyer whose “story” they feel more akin to, but it’s just as likely that they’ll ask us about issuing a multiple counter offer to drive the price higher. This is the nature of the sale. The seller typically wants the most money for their home.

Prices (sales and rentals) have gone up in Bernal Heights because more people want to live here than we have housing for. I don’t think the buyers want to drive up prices and pay more than they have to. They just want to live here and are trying to figure out what it’ll take to make that happen.

Neighbor Michael adds some particulars:

The largest amount I’ve seen a seller leave on the table because of goodwill was $15,000 and that was mostly because the accepted offer had better terms (the buyer was more likely to close than their competitors). A little bit had to do with the fact that both the buyer and seller were “cat people”.

IMAGE: Bernal home sales price trend, by Neighbors Danielle Lazier and Michael Minson

Infographic Reveals Bonkers First-Half 2015 Bernal Heights Microhood Real Estate Trends

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Love it or hate it, San Francisco’s red-hot real estate market is a reality, and in the spirit of looking reality square in the eye, let us now take a moment to consider the new map of Bernal Heights Microhood Sales Trends for the first half of 2015, as compiled by Bernal neighbors and realtors Michael Minson and Danielle Lazier.

Just as they did for 2014 (and once again with Bernalwood’s permission) Neighbors Michael and Danielle tracked recent home sales data according to the boundaries of the official Bernal Heights microhoods map.

The basic story here should be morbidly familiar to all of us by now: Lots of people want houses in Bernal, but there are precious few houses here to buy. The result is a home sales price chart that keeps going up and to the right at double black-diamond angles.

Here’s another infographic to digest:

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Finally, here are a few extra-credit observations from the Bernalwood News Team:

  • The high. $1356 average price-per-square-foot in Precitaville may be skewed by the record-setting $3.15M sale price of 3407 Folsom, aka The Helipad. Bernalwood has learned that the buyers are also current Bernal residents, and that they may also be inclined to retain the lady-shark mural. (Personally, I hope they do.)
  • Frustrated neighbors report that the Abandoned Million Dollar Party Shack on Mullen is still abandoned, with problems of vagrancy and graffiti continuing. Sad.
  • Another silly episode of Mission Dollar Listing: San Francisco aired last night, and if you want to catch up on all the fake drama about the fake sale of that real home at 535 Gates in fake-crappy Bernal Heights, we heartily recommend this boozy recap of last night’s misadventures. Preview: It seems that Andrew, the incompetent realtor trying to sell the Bernal property, may be sort of fake gay. Or, at least, hetero-curious. How awkward.

IMAGES: Courtesy of Michael Minson and Danielle Lazier