UPDATED: Bernal Resident Stunned by 315% Rent Increase

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Neighbor Deborah Follingstadt is a tenant at 355 Bocana. This month, she says, she was given notice that her landlord plans to raise the monthly rent from $2145 to $8900a month— a jaw-dropping 315% increase. Posting about it on Facebook, Neighbor Deborah says:

I guess I should say 1st – I need a place to live if anyone knows of anything please let me know, even if it is a temporary roommate situation or temporary sublet.

I am not sure if I can stay in the Bay Area for the “long haul”, but in the short term I have a job that I won’t abandon and a community I love. I will give it my best shot but it looks kinda bleak from where I am standing currently.

A lot of you know about this and that for the last two weeks I have been trying to find anything that can make this illegal. Because it looks so absurd when you read it seems that it must be illegal.

However, this is loophole that landlords have found in San Francisco to evict their tenants without actually having to pay relocation, do an “owner move in” or Ellis act. All of which carries a penalty to them and is costly.

So here is the short version of the story, 1st they transferred the title of the house to one of the 6 siblings, stripped the apartment downstairs (the one that Wayne lived in for close to 25 years before they bullied him out) took out the bathroom, and kitchen, put down some crappy carpet and now call it a “storage” space. By doing this it changed the title of the building to a “single family dwelling” which is not protected by rent control and raised my rent to $8900 a month with a $12,500 damage deposit a month. Obviously above market rate and obviously more than anyone would pay.

The few of us who still remain in San Francisco have no choice but to live in sub-par conditions like mold, windows that don’t shut, rodents and countless other issues because there is no other choice, because the rents are so high you can’t move so you don’t. And you know that one day the ax will fall and you will be kicked out so it is not surprising when this happens, but this is just gross and greedy and wrong.

So here it is this is page 5 of the 23 page document that I was served on Monday March 2 (feel free to share and no the typos don’t matter)

Here is the scan of the letter Neighbor Deb claims to have received, outlining the terms of the rent increase proposed by property owner [and Bernal resident] Nadia Lama:

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Owner Nadia Lama is member of the Lama family, which has been a presence in Bernal Heights for decades. (CLARIFICATION: Bernalwood’s understanding, not yet fully confirmed, is that 355 Bocana is owned by Nadia Lama alone, and not the entire Lama family. A recent ownership transfer indicates that Nadia Lama acquired the property from a family trust.)

Bernalwood reached out to Nadia Lama and her lawyer over over the weekend to verify the content of the letter and provide an opportunity to respond. We also reached out to Neighbor Deb to do the same. Thus far, Bernalwood has not received a response from any of the parties involved.

UPDATES: Lots happening with this story as it sweeps through the local mediasphere. Much of this is technical, most of it is confusing, and some of it seems somewhat contradictory. Plus, math is hard. Let’s begin:

>> Jeremy Pollock, an aide to D11 Supervisor John Avalos, reached out to Bernalwood to say this:

I’m a legislative aide for Supervisor John Avalos. I just wanted to add my two cents on the 355 Bocana case: it seems pretty clear to me that if the landlord did remove the downstairs apartment, they didn’t get a permit for it, which makes it an illegal merger. There’s no record of any merger permits in the Planning’s system. We’ve asked Planning Department staff to look into this.

>>But Planning approval may not have been required for the single-family conversion, according to some terrific CurbedSF reporting. Curbed was able to reach both Neighbor Deb and Neighbor Nadia Lama’s lawyer to confirm the basic facts presented by Bernalwood above. Long story short: Through a complex series of moves, it appears the property owner effectively reclassified 355 Bocana in a way that made the gobsmacking rent increase legal:

For most of her 11-year tenancy, Follingstad, 46, was protected from large rent hikes under the Rent Ordinance of 1979, because she was living in a multi-unit building (single-family homes and condos are treated differently under the Rent Ordinance). But by 2014, a tenant who had been living in the downstairs apartment moved out, after which, recalls Follingstad, the Lama family ultimately removed the stove, sink, and toilet from the vacant ground-floor unit. “They put down some crappy carpet and now call it a ‘storage’ space,” she wrote in her Facebook post. That change turned her building into a single-family dwelling and effectively dissolved the protection against large rent hikes, or what is known as rent-ceiling-limitation protection.

Normally when landlords want to take a unit out of service, they need to go through discretionary review with the Planning Department, Tobener explains. But because the downstairs unit was not on the books—city documents reflect just one dwelling unit at the address—the landlord needed only building permits to do the work, no blessing from Planning required.

>> Legal notices suggest Nadia Lama became the sole owner of the property at 355 Bocana in December 2014, after ownership was transferred to her from a family trust. (H/T: Neighbor Arno)

>> Nadia Lama also lives in Bernal Heights, according to rather cranky commenter GoldenGateShark. Bernalwood has not been able to verify this independently. Nevertheless, Nadia Lama shall hereafter be Neighbor Nadia Lama.

>> Fallout from the incident took the form of a sign taped to the door of the Lama family’s former store on the corner of Bocana and Cortland this afternoon. Neighbor Jim shared a photo:

shame.Jim

>> Further muddying the waters, it would appear that Neighbor Deb was sub-renting the apartment at 355 Bocana via Airbnb. It is unknown if the terms of her lease would have allowed this:

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The description of the space posted on Airbnb reads as follows:

I am being kicked out of my home of 11 years. Come celebrate my final months hosting wonderful travelers from all around the world, sharing interesting places to see, eat and enjoy in this beautiful city I have called home for 26 years. I have truly enjoyed my hosting experience and made many friends. My greedy new landlord wants market value for my home, and is forcing me to leave with some very shocking and unsavory tactics. But, I guess that’s life in the San Francisco BOOM town. Sadly, this not only means I loose my home but also loose my city, because I can no longer afford to rent here as an acupuncturist.

My rent controlled apartment has allowed me to have a guest bedroom for my friends and family to stay with me, have a wonderful acupuncture clinic and spa, host travelers who wanted a real San Francisco experience, and also have a place for my patient’s families to stay when their loved ones were in crisis. It has been a wonderful journey. Help make the end of this era a special and memorable one!

>> It’s an Official Media Frenzy! Cue the TV reporters:

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UPDATE 18 March, 2015: via the SF Chronicle, Denise Ledbetter, the lawyer representing property owner Nadia Lama, has released a statement on the matter:

The rent increase that has generated this controversy is actually an offer by the owner to rent a substantially larger home than was originally rented. In addition to the upper level (in which tenant currently resides), Ms. Follingstad will have access to at least 60% more space which can be used by the tenant to offset the rent increase through her existing Air BnB business. As interested parties are now aware, there are many sides to a story. Rent Control Ordinances create unreasonable expectations upon which tenants rely. In this case, rent control simply does not apply to this tenancy.

When a small property owner finally has an opportunity to increase the rent – via State law – the City gives almost no choice to the owner but to take the opportunity to increase the rent. If owners were allowed modest increases over time, we would not see this kind of dramatic rent increase required.

San Francisco’s promotion of Airbnb-type hotel use further reduces available housing to middle income residents. A comprehensive housing policy is required for San Francisco County residents – landlords and tenants. Commercial profit making use of a tenants rent regulated rental unit should be disallowed.

San Francisco County unfairly burdens small property owners with a societal problem that should be shared by all residents – not just those whose owners’ whose properties were built prior to June 13, 1979. Small property owners are not being subsidized by the government for what is truly a problem for all of society. An economically sound housing policy – fair to all – is required to avoid further displacement of our middle income residents.

PHOTO: 355 Bocana on March 15, 2015, by Telstar Logistics

 

160 thoughts on “UPDATED: Bernal Resident Stunned by 315% Rent Increase

  1. Welp, $2,145 was nice while it lasted. Pretty obvious they want the renter out and plan on selling.
    Don’t get mad at the owner, get mad at City Hall for making it so hard to build new construction.

    • @nsfw – so hard to build construction? The endless sea of cranes littering the skyline building countless new luxury condos in the second densest city in the US would indicate otherwise. $2145 is not exactly chump change to rent an apartment

      • You obviously haven’t tried to build anything in the city. Try up to 18 months to get a permit for an addition. And that’s if no neighbor opposes your plans.

      • I like this idea the best. What people should get mad at is the system. The system currently leaves an owner and a renter at odds, with few realistic alternatives for either. In a good market, a renter would laugh at the owner’s proposed increase and go rent something similar, but this market is severely constrained and there is nothing similar. In a good market, the owner would not have incentives to suddenly increase the rent like that.

    • Important to clarify this: Bernalwood has not been able to confirm the ownership structure for the property at 355 Bocana. (I will insert a note to this effect above.) But the preliminary understanding (also suggested by the letter) is that this is Nadia Lama’s property, not her family’s or siblings’. I’m told the division of the family estate has been contentious since the elder generation passed on.

      • Exactly and this is why Chuck’s closed up. The family could not come to agreement amongst each other about the property. And so it sits empty with zero revenue coming in. And here is a building (admittedly a dump they’ve clearly done nothing with. I walk by it 2-3x daily) and a chance to sell for likely over $1M. Nadia lives in the 2-story rusty-brown shingle on the next block of Bocana. It’s clean and well kept. I see the family all over Bernal, each telling their own tale of woe about the other family members.

        Sad.

        Lesson: don’t rent from a Lama! Good luck landing on your feet somewhere, Deb!

  2. It’s an all-out war. Renters in this town are being shown the door. Hope you all love it when we’re gone.

    • I was kicked out of Manhattan and the nice parts of Brooklyn from rising rents. I don’t think anyone was crying when a 2 bedroom started going for $5000+ there.
      Last I checked, the sun is still rising in the East and setting in the West over there.

      • Understood, NSFW. And there probably won’t be a lot of tears shed here, either. It’s hardly news by now that SF’s funky essence will die without its renters. Just like in NY. But it’s still scary. And sad. And infuriating.

      • Yeah, it’s truly weird. I signed a contract to lease my apartment for a year or two, and I have no delusions that my landlord owes me a lifetime of below market rent for as long as I want to stay. The local law has introduced some bizarre populist distortions that people have gotten used to, but they really warped the landscape of the whole city, creating a two tier “I was here first, F U” system of apportioning apartments, completely without any means testing or other checks and balances. And leading to the current setup where landlords earn paltry rents from some units, and have to jack up other units to compensate. (Doesn’t sound like that is what’s going on here, more like the lama property cartel wants to get out of the landlord business on that property, which again the law stupidly prevents by normal means)

  3. I don’t hear the best things about that family! I’m so bummed for Deb. I hope the press helps her find a new place.

    • Parents move into the neighborhood, open a business, buy a number of buildings, and raise their kids there.

      Kids have no appreciation for the struggles of the average working person after having a financially secure life handed to them by their parents and the rise in SF property values.

      A few days ago I saw one of the younger members of the family double parked on Bocana in her new BMW. This kid has never worked.

      As for Nadia, I spotted city equipment in her garage, and when I called her out on it, she admitted her brother worked for the city.

      This family is a subset of the people preservationists get all teary eyed about.

      • That kid has worked in the neighborhood for years now. She worked at the store when her mom was running it and got a job at the local pizza place immediately after the store closed. And new BMW? It’s at least 10 years old, yet you judge her because of her last name and her choice in cars. You know nothing about this family, yet you consistently degrade them in the comments of this blog.

      • You’re making quite a few assumptions about these people. Granted, I think they’re complete scum for doing what they’re doing to Deb, but I would never assume that they have no concept of what it’s like to work simply because they own a BMW. I also don’t really get what you’re saying about the city equipment. Is that a dig on City employees?

      • Multiple generations of the family have worked at Reliable Grocery and business around the neighborhood. And “This kid” you mentioned has worked at one of the local business (not owned by the family) in the neighborhood.
        Byrd, you are quick to throw judgements to a larger group, when you admitted you have only interacted with one member of the family.

      • Hal, you’re right, the BMW was not brand new, and I’m sorry that I implied that.

        I do know something about this family. I know Nadia well enough to know she’s always been a drama queen. I know her brother works for (and steals from) the city. I know that the kids in the family don’t have to be bothered by realities of the working world, since their folks provided their housing in our favorite neighborhood. I know that the building in the photo looks like a dump, and I know Nadia’s morality leaves a lot to be desired, based on how she has dealt with the tenant in her building. This is all reality, not an assumption.

        That the family is unable to manage their newfound wealth among themselves demonstrates a lack of financial sophistication or respect among the members, which requires an education apparently no one in the family needed to be bothered with, since they had a comfortable life handed to them. If you want to call what the family did at Reliable Grocery “work,” then you’re welcome to your self-deception. If they knew how to run the place, it would likely still be open. The father kept it open clearly to keep his family occupied, not employed.

        As for b, don’t get me started about city employees. Yes her brother steals from the city, Nadia admitted as much. The city worker around the corner from my home hauls his father around in his work van (which he can only use while “at work”), the city worker near Holly Park has a “back injury” that he is very insecure about, likely because it’s questionable whether he’s really injured.

        An “bernal neighbor,” how long have you lived in the nabe? It’s pretty easy to see through the facade of a family that rides the back of their parent’s efforts. I would gladly accept it if I was proven wrong. This is my perception from more than a dozen years of living in the nabe and going to Reliable grocery.

      • How does Prop 13 come into this? I hear the anti-Prop 13 complaints more and more often. They are almost always the result of misunderstanding the central intent and effect of the law: to prevent homeowners from being forced out of their primary residence by rising property tax assessments.

        Businesses are a different story. Go nuts on that part of the law.

        Full disclosure: I am absolutely biased on this issue, having lived in my closet-free Bernal houselet for 19 years.

  4. Out and out greed! Time to picket the Lama’s multiple properties– this extended family owns MANY properties in our neighborhood!

    • Greed? Maybe they just want the renter out to sell. They could have made the rent $1,000,000 a month if they wanted to through this loophole but $8,500 or $10,000 proves the point.
      If they kick out the renter, slap some paint on the place and then put it back on the market as a rental for $4,500 a month then I might be willing to join you but it also seems the renter was paying below market rate.

      • Yes greed. This is a multi-unit building, covered by rent control, that they converted to a single family home in order to get rid of the tenant.

        If that’s not greed, I don’t know what is.

      • @Byrd, it’s actually a single family home that was illegally converted to a multi-family home, which they then illegally converted BACK to a single family home. That’s what makes this legal…the home was always on the books with the City as a single family home and thus free from rent control. It doesn’t make it ethical or absent of greed, but from everything I’ve read it is legal.

        My hope is that the Planning and Building departments slap them with some crazy fines for doing all the work without permits and for modifying a home’s status without input from planning. I’m not sure if that will help Deb, but at least they won’t get away with this without some pain of their own

      • From what I read, b, the house had a single legal rental unit. it is not a single family home.

    • They do own property throughout the neighborhood. However only one of them owns the house facing the rate increase. She acted on her own behalf, the rest of the family was not involved. Multiple story show that after their father passed on, this house was turned over to just her, not the rest of the siblings.
      If you are calling on side greedy, just look at one the tenant is doing:
      http://www.thebolditalic.com/articles/7084-bernal-heights-woman-with-the-huge-rent-increase-does-airbnb-and-the-internet-freaks-out
      She has lived there below market value, has been renting it out on AirBnB for months and has been taking patients there as well. And now she is using her new fame to keep her place on AirBnB until she leaves. That sounds a little greedy to me.

      • Bernal Neighbor, she rented it out on air b’n’b because there was nothing in her lease that disallowed her doing so. If it wasn’t prohibited in the lease, she’s allowed to do it.

      • byrd, lease or not, there is city statute that says you cannot make a profit on your own rental.. so if you sublet a room, it can’t be for a larger share of the cost than you pay. so what she was doing is technically illegal. if not enforced.

      • Point taken, R, but is it based on per diem, or per month? If the latter, she was not profiting.

      • As renting a room per night was illegal until February, and remains illegal unless registered with the city (which involves notification to the landlord), the rent board doesn’t spell out details.. Other than the say the “master tenant…cannot charge any subtenant more than a proportional share”.

  5. This story was all over the internet yesterday and is rightfully causing mass outrage. There are some facts missing from Neighbor Deb’s account, but I’m assuming no tenant has been there from before January, 1996, or this “single family house” would be covered by both SF rent and eviction control. So what Nadia Lama has apparently done is convert a 2 unit building to one (doesn’t matter if the removed unit was legal or illegal, house still counted as 2 units), to try and take the house out of rent control, then issued a massive rent increase which looks like nothing more than a disguised eviction.

    But… “whether the project removes rental units subject to the Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance” is a disfavored factor under the Planning Code, so it may be possible to challenge not only the eviction but the removal of the other unit (or its legal effects) as well. In other words, once Neighbor Deb lawyers up, there may be plenty of ways to keep her in possession of the apartment. In the long run, the 355 Bocana affair may end up having the Lama family being finally remembered as Bernal Heights’ own version of Angelo Sangiacomo, the unwitting “father of rent control.”

  6. My crook of a real estate agent at Zephyr once recommended I talk to Denise Leadbetter over a tenant situation on a potential property I was considering. So not surprised to see her name here!

  7. Yes, I can confirm that the property is owned by the Lama Family – Chuck’s market and Dad is dead and the kids got his estate and the rest is history. Wayne Moore is the Wayne mentioned in the story. I have spend many hours in that building with Wayne. Wayne and Bobby and I go back to the 1970’s. There is a story there and Wayne would have a story or two to tell about that family…I agree, the Lama family is the new Angelo Sangiacomo of Bernal Heights! Welcome to the new San Francisco…

  8. yes the Lamas OLD time bernal family- take note all you hand-wringers. they probably own a badly maintained property next to you! long of this parish-they’ve been a blight on the commercial strip for decades.

  9. In general, you are not allowed to combine rental units in SF. Therefore, this is almost certainly an illegal eviction. The rent board looks very poorly on malicious or aggravated evictions, and landlords who do so will find their life made quite hard by the city.
    I had something very similar happen to me. You need a lawyer! I ued Tobener Law – http://www.tobenerlaw.com/ – and they were efficient and scared my LL straight.

  10. The whole situation sucks for Deb. I assume the owner removed an illegal second unit in what is otherwise a single family house, and since single family houses are not subject to rent control, they can raise the rent to whatever they want.

    If you put an illegal unit into a SFH, the rent board is very clear that they will treat it as a 2 unit building and both units are subject to rent control. Now if you remove the second unit, does it go back to being a SFH, not subject to rent control? My assumption is you could find plenty of lawyers who would say yes and plenty who would say no. Any lawyers care to comment?

    • There was a DBI inspection of this property in 2001 and they stated the building was a two unit building. There’s the proof the tenant needs. This owner screwed up royally. You cannot simply demolish a unit without permission from the Planning Commission which they did not seek beforehand. And nowadays, with the housing shortage, Planning is loathe to allow anyone to remove a unit. Even if the tenant does not get to stay, she has a nice wrongful eviction case on her hands. And the owner can expect fines from the planning dept given the press this letter has received.

      • Yes, you are correct, that is the most interesting fact in this whole discussion. In May 2001 DBI inspector clearly states “2 unit building”. I also see that a DBI case was opened today 3/18 concerning a “removal of unit w/o permit” inspector was stopped by but was unable to enter. I think attorney Ledbetter and Ms. Lama have a little more work on their hands than they anticipated. Ms. Ledbetter’s new argument that $8900. is for a 60% larger apartment, and her public call to sympathy for landlords is as flawed as her original intent.

  11. Two weeks ago while working from Progressive Grounds on Cortland, I overheard an agent boasting about how he sold a house for $1,000,000 OVER ASKING price.

    While all of the million dollar move ins install cameras and alarms to protect themselves from the “outsiders” bungling their cars and homes, it seems to be a natural response. You want to pay millions to live in what was once a diverse working class neighborhood which all of the sudden has become the hottest hood in the city or nation, you’re going to end of with a homogenous, overinflated sense of entitlement and gated community of clones all worried about the attack of those “outsiders.” You’ve made your bed, now live behind your iron gates.

    As a renter that got in off cortland during an “approachable” period, I have no illusions that my own landlord is going to eventually try a similar tactic. I can’t blame him, in his 60s or older he probably doesn’t want to manage that for the rest of his life, and I’m sure he’s going to try to retire off of whatever he’ll get from it. Isn’t that why they call it investment property?
    As cute and artisanal as this neighborhood becomes, it’s loosing the character that made it so attractive in the first place.

    • Ah, of course! This article concerns a de facto eviction performed by a family that’s been here for decades, and yet the comments still have to be about what’s wrong with all these new transplants. Figures.

      • BP – Yup.

        In my corner of Bernal there’s the woman a few doors down who inherited her house and is batshit crazy. She dates a little runt of a man who owns several loud motorcycles, and thinks nothing of starting his loud bike up at 3-4am and warming it up before he leaves for work, waking the entire neighborhood.

        Can you say “revenge fantasy?”

        It would please me no end to see their house sold for $2-million dollars, just so they’d be gone for good. With any luck they’d blow the money on drugs that they eventually o/d from.

        Even wealthy neighbors are better than asshole winners of the birth lottery.

      • Actual the character of this neighborhood is doing just fine. Been here a while, liking the changes.

        Increased market pressure and some selling out would be good given how bad the lama crew seem to manage their run down, slovenly businesses and properties.

  12. My absentee landlords did this to me and my daughter recently, too. Raised rent from $2024 to 5000 monthly. They removed kitchen in the downstairs apartment they’d been renting since I moved in ten years ago. I took my case to the Rent Board. Obviously still a “unit” downstairs, even without the kitchen (kitchen easily re-installed surreptitiously, many places rent with only a minimal kitchen — hot plate, mini-fridge, sink, etc.). Rent Board ALJ said nope, one unit. Over ten years, landlords earned almost $200,000 in rental from that unit; somehow now there’s only one unit, mine, in the building. I appealed the decision of the ALJ to the Rent Board Commissioners. Three pro-landlord commissioners; two pro-tenant commissioners. Guess how they ruled? (One commissioner is supposedly, neutral — a homeOWNER.)

    Now my daughter is with her mom full-time, and I am homeless, couch surfing in the East Bay with friends until the end of March. Don’t know where I’ll be after that.

    My landlords probably consider themselves decent folk (and, truth be told, were decent landlords for most of the ten years my daughter and I were there). But one must ask oneself how decent are people whose moral compass is, apparently, whatever one can get away with.

  13. I know everyone loved the family that owned Chuck’s Grocery store, but the only person I ever met from the family is Nadia, and I always found her unlikeable – she’s loud, she’s had persistent emotional issues, and she most likely hasn’t worked a day in her life thanks to the birth lottery.

    I could have seen this coming from 10 miles away.

    A bit of comeuppance for her nastiness would be extremely pleasurable to witness.

  14. Update via http://www.thebolditalic.com/articles/7074-why-its-legal-for-a-bernal-heights-landlord-to-quadruple-this-womans-rent:
    Update: Jeremy Pollock, a legislative aide for supervisor John Avalos, sent The Bold Italic the following email: “It seems pretty clear to me that if the landlord did remove the downstairs apartment, they didn’t get a permit for it, which makes it an illegal merger. There’s no record of any merger permits in Planning’s system. We’ve asked Planning Department staff to look into this.”

  15. http://www.thebolditalic.com/articles/7074-why-its-legal-for-a-bernal-heights-landlord-to-quadruple-this-womans-rent

    Update: Jeremy Pollock, a legislative aide for supervisor John Avalos, sent The Bold Italic the following email: “It seems pretty clear to me that if the landlord did remove the downstairs apartment, they didn’t get a permit for it, which makes it an illegal merger. There’s no record of any merger permits in Planning’s system. We’ve asked Planning Department staff to look into this.”

  16. It just amazes me how no one here knows the facts for sure, but certainly blows out a lot of opinions. I would worry about getting sued for libel and character defamation with some of these remarks. This touches a nerve as always, but unless you know the people involved personally and are involved in this “transaction” you really don’t know much. Reading posts that trash people suck. Can we stick to the facts.

    • People have been sued for defamation for posts on blogs. Don’t expect WordPress to fight for your anonimity, posters. Yeah, stick to facts.

    • The facts of the case as they relate to the direct quotes from the lawyer’s correspondence to the tenant seem pretty clear. While I agree that there are always two sides to every story, I’m sure that I — and everyone else riveted by this issue — are very eager to hear the landlord’s side of the story. The fact that the landlord has been so withholding with hers doesn’t speak well to the anticipated veracity of what we’re about to hear from her, but I’m willing to keep an open mind and ear.

    • unless she’s violating the lease by doing so, she has the right to rent rooms, so ..while interesting.. I don’t think it changes anything vis a vis the rent increase.

    • Ah. Judging by the number of reviews, she’s been AirBNBing it for a while – and if so, that could certainly change things.

      • I totally despise AirBnB and the way it’s encroaching on our housing, but, they’d have to EVICT her, not raise her rent. And they’re not doing that.

        Time to repeal Costa Hawkins. I lost my housing this winter under the same law.

        Repeal Costa Hawkins and Ellis Act!

      • Here’s where I disagree with you.
        If the tenant was subletting a room in a rent controlled unit, the landlord could proceed with an eviction, and I think the landlord would be totally justified in evicting that tenant if the governing lease document explicitly forbade subletting without prior permission. If the landlord was aware of the illegal subletting and simply elected to proceed with a constructive eviction by raising the rent — as she was legally entitled to — it’s actually a pretty smart strategy, and certainly much, much easier than an eviction proceeding. With an eviction, I believe the tenant is entitled to a 72-hour “remedy or quit” period, during which she could cease listing the unit on AirBnB, and after which she would no longer be subject to eviction. If the tenant’s relationship with the landlord is sketchy, then the landlord has successfully washed her hands of the situation, and is now free to sell or rent the property at market rates.
        Where this story will turn, however, is on the illegal rental unit on the ground level, which the city should investigate and prosecute to its fullest extent. The landlord was taking money for a rental unit when times weren’t so hot, and engaged in a regulated business that turned a profit for her. She can’t just use the rules to her benefit now that it suits her after flouting the law for more than a decade.

    • The airbnb link states in its house rules ‘ There are other occupants in the building, including the landlord’. This seemingly clarifies two points: 1-the landlord knows about the house being an airbnb and 2- the landlord is a Bernal ‘neighbor’.

      • In other posts, Deb’s pretty clear that she knew the downstairs neighbor and that that person was “harassed” out, and we know this was a two-unit property, so that sounds like maybe a little fibby along the lines of “the landlord lives two blocks over, so play it cool.” Unless she’s shacking up with Nadia, which I assume to not be the case.

        Really interesting story and lots going on… and all of it really relevant to both sides of the property disputes going on in this city right now. Will be interesting to see it all play out and hope Deb lands safely. Bet Nadia is wishing she’d just paid up the $5,0000 or whatever it is to move her out without the legal circus.

  17. She’s a friend of a friend and the rent increase letter is legit. Apparently she has consulted a high-powered attorney specializing in rent issues and she says that there is a loophole allowing this to happen. Also, because it’s a rent increase and not an eviction, the landlord isn’t obligated to cover any moving expenses, either.

    But one wonders what’s really going on here. Even in Bernal, nobody’s going to pay $9000 a month to rent a 1500 square foot home. I suspect that either of two things are going on here: (1) the owner wants to turn it into a bed & breakfast or rent it out via Airbnb — see what you folks get by endorsing Airbnb? But I don’t give it that much possibility given that Airbnb is getting so much scrutiny right now that it would be terrible publicity all around.

    The other scenario is that the owner REALLY wants to take the house out of the rental market and use it for a family member. Given that the ownership was transferred recently to the next generation, this might be a more likely scenario: They wanted a place for the head of the family to live in their old age.

    I’m just supposin’ but I think this scenario fits the situation best of all.

    • she’s been renting it out herself on airbnb, per another post here, for the last 15 months. It was a 23 page letter, and she showed us just one page of it, but from what she’s disclosed, I think she should get a second legal opinion.

      • Sure, but if there’s an OMI in the place, that restricts use of the property (and its value) in certain ways for the next few years. This would presumably be a way around that.

    • “… in Bernal, nobody’s going to pay $9000 a month to rent a 1500 square foot home.”

      *Cough. Yeah. Ahmm..Hmm..

    • … or that she wants to put it on the real estate market, and it’s worth more empty than with a tenant.
      … or that it’s easier and cheaper to get a tenant out of the home this way than via OMI or Ellis or for violating the terms of her lease.
      Whatever the reason, there’s at least $25,000/year in rental revenue just sitting on the ground, waiting to be picked up, if the landlord can legally get the tenant out of the unit.

  18. I’m pretty sure my landlord is currently doing work sans permits. (what contractor has workers banging away on a Sunday at 8am?) He’s completely gutted a vacated unit to be rented at some point. Also says he’s “looking into” having sewer work done and asked my unit and upstairs unit to “vacate” for a few days and did’t offer to house us or pay for anything except waive the rent for the days we were asked to depart. Then when I asked for compensation for a hotel, pet care, and transportation/parking he refused saying he would only cover the rent per day. When I cited ordinances he said he cancelled the “work” and our vacate request was “voluntary.”

    He is a piece of work. There are three units and two PGE meters. At one point early in our tenancy over 5 years ago, he was behind on his mortgage and tried to claim our rent was stolen from his mailbox and asked us to pay it – but all the checks cleared and it was very suspicious. He never reported his mail being stolen (a federal crime), and refused to file a police report trying to tell us it was our responsibility. After he was nearly caught because one of our banks was the same as his, and they said it was on him to file the claim since the checks cleared – he backed off because I am sure he would have been nailed.

    I simply don’t trust him after he pulled that crap, and anything he tries to ask or tell us I get it in writing.

    Fun times

  19. Sub-renting while living in a “rent controlled” unit whose purpose is to help one stay?

    As in earning “income” for personal gain through another families private property?

    Well, I know a little about that. And I have one word for this act of selfishness and greed.

    CRIMINAL.

  20. The bimodalization of SF class structure continues apace. The only residents left will either be on full assistance or make $250K+.

    And I wonder how long they will keep the subsidized around…our poor have become encased museum pieces, used as symbols of our supposed tolerance and good karma. But they can be unruly and filfy and blight these trophy properties. SF will convert the SRO’s into artist co-ops and kill two birds with one stone.

    Meanwhile, what about this subdivision of the grassy patch between Bernal Heights, Carver, Nevada, and Powhattan there is complaining about? Are we for home building or are we for rustic neighborhood character? Hopin for anuva erfquake yet?

  21. I yearn for the days when all we heard on Bocana were the flip flops of the primitive sandals on bikini woman as she ran on by.

    • totally!! me, my husband and dog all ran to the window when we heard the unmistakable “slap slap” of the flip flops!

  22. According to the Rent Board “A single-family dwelling with a legal in-law unit constitutes a two-unit building and is not exempt from the Ordinance. A single-family dwelling with an illegal in-law unit also constitutes a two-unit building and is not exempt, unless both units are rented together as a single tenancy.”
    Unless they’re trying to argue that by offering her the storage space that was the illegal unit, the building reverts to a single-family dwelling. I think that’s something a tenant could challenge in this situation. Does the owner really want to put that interpretation/strategy in front of a San Francisco jury?
    Lama’s lawyer says we don’t know the whole story, but the part we do know is an outrage.

  23. Like the part that is being left out of her “sub-renting” for her personal gains taking full advantage of the housing market with property she does not own herself.

    Yeah-those mean landlords are just an outrage for wanting to pass the house onto next generational family members–family that probably cannot buy “anything” anywhere around here anymore– here, in the same neighborhood they have lived in for generations:

    Yeah–poor, poor Deb. Outrage. Just outrage.

    • of course it depends on the lease agreement, but if you are renting an apartment don’t you essentially ‘own the right to use it’ (within the bounds of the signed contract). The owner may own the building, but that doesn’t mean that they can come in and sleep in your bed.

      folks sell and trade rights to things that they do not ‘own’ outright all the time.

  24. I feel for Neighbor Deb. I was once forced out of a single family home in Bocana by rising rents. I never faced a 300% increase at once, but eventually it became too expensive for me to manage and I had to move out.
    I went somewhere more affordable for a while, but I managed to move back to Bernal as a homeowner.
    I’m not saying that Neighbor Deb will have the same trajectory; but the experience taught me not to get too attached to any one place as a renter. Since she’s lived there for 10 years there’s no way she can see it as anything other than her home, and I sympathize with that truth.
    But as her former neighbor on Bocana, I want to let her know that there is a world beyond Bernal and that she can still be the same unique and redemptive individual elsewhere. In fact, she may find that she is more valued and enriched in a place she never thought of moving to before.
    Oh, and in my opinion raising someone’s rent by over 300% at once officially makes one heartless.

  25. SF is no longer the same, move to Oakland, you’ll be surprise how much you will like it. More diversity and alot of inde clubs, etc (like the old SF). And this is from a SF/Bernal Heights native.

    • If you look at the numbers the only diversity difference between SF and Oakland is you flip the percentages of Asian and Black/African American.
      http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/06/06075.html
      And what San Francisco club scene are you comparing? The one that died before 2000 when the I-beam, Nightbreak, Kennel Club, The Stone, Chameleon, The Mab, The Farm? These clubs were all dead before tech took over the city.

      • It’s a flip of one race for another. How does that make SF less diverse?
        I think? we all know SF is more diverse than OAK but there are lots of people who need to tell themselves that OAK is better. Some aspects are for sure, but I think overall SF still wins.

      • I’m agnostic about whether SF or OAK is “better”. People seem to lead perfectly lovely lives on both sides of the bay.

        The expression of the relatively equal diversity—meaning non-white?—is pretty different, though.

      • The Kennel Club is now the Independent, enjoyed many a show at Slim’s, DNA lounge, Du Nord, Swedish Hall, Bottom Of The Hill, post Y2K.

      • In Oakland, there’s more of a mix of cultures, and I find that more appealing than SF, where the various ethnicities tend to keep to themselves.

  26. What has continually been mis-reported not just by Channel 7 but other media outlets covering this story is that the security deposit is being increased to $12,500. Wrong. If anyone took the time to carefully read the wording of the Notice it says the security deposit amount required shall increase to $12,500 per month! That isn’t even allowed under California law! The attorney most likely signed a document that was mis-typed by staff without reading it carefully.

  27. I say everyone who has a child at the LAMA karate school should stop taking their child this family has so many homes in bernal that have roaches mold rodents they wont fix and if they do they patch it up but if you are late 1 day on rent they will be down your throat with late fees the are money hungry humans Nadia lives on cortland i believe in the brown building across the street from avedano’s LAMA family should be ashamed

      • Too late we already purchased our small batch artisan pitchforks. Please don’t let facts like this get in the way

      • -Nadia does not live on Cortland. The residence across from Avendano’s is currently occupied by one of the Lama siblings, perhaps “Big Tony”. The former resident, also named Tony, moved out in the fall of 2013 after receiving a notice that they were raising his rent to over $6k which was almost triple what he had been paying. He had lived there for close to 20 years I belive.

        -The house next door to that one, which has since been sold, was also owned by the Lama’s and had two tenants – a couple in the upstairs unit and Neighbor Lance who had lived in the basement apartment for 20+ years. The Lama’s did the same thing to them – bullied Lance out, ripped out the bathroom and kitchen and then claimed it was a single family home and tripled the rent for the other tenants.

        -Neighbor Deb has been a tenant long enough that she probably originally rented from Chuck. Since his rental agreements never prohibited subletting, offering her spare room on airbnb did not violate the terms of her residency and she was perfectly within her rights to do so. It’s not that much different from running any other type of home based business. As for how much she earned from it, $90 x 365 nights a year sounds good but, odds are pretty good she wasn’t booked even half of that.

        -Those of you talking about how horrible it was of her to make money off someone else’s property should take a moment to learn more about the legal aspects of renting a residence. The tenant is not a guest. They are not there out of the goodness of the property owners heart. They do not owe the owner anything other than the agreed upon rent, which may not even be cash. In return, the tenant gets, without title, the right to possession and quiet enjoyment of the property. That means they can airbnb their spare room, or use it as a massage room, or most anything else that’s legal and doesn’t violate the rental agreement.

        -San Francisco rent protection ordinances are in place specifically to keep landlords from doing things like this to long term tenants. This is not about whether rent control is right or wrong. It’s about whether landlords have the right to remove tenants from properties just because they want to. Unlike most other parts of the country, in San Francisco, they do not have that right. Again, whether you think it’s right or wrong, tenants here have the right to stay in their rental as long as they want as long as they follow the terms of their rental agreement. If the landlord wants to recover the property, there are legal ways to do so. The Lama’s have repeatedly chose to employ other methods, the legalities of which are questionable.

        -Chuck Lama was a long time resident of, and landlord in, Bernal Heights. He seemed to be well liked by some of the community but his tenants knew him as a typical San Francisco slumlord who did as little as possible. He raised everyone’s rent $30 a year, rarely fixed anything, liked to yell and scream sometimes but, for the most part, left everyone alone. The one thing he didn’t do was throw people out. Chuck knew that his tenants were the key to his successful cash flow and finding a good one that paid their rent on time, kept the place up and left him alone was the best thing for his business.

        -Unfortunately, he did not pass this belief on to his children and, since his death, they have used these same tactics to effectively evict at least five of our Neighbors. If you currently rent from the Lama’s, prepare yourself because it could happen to you, too.

    • The Lama family has been apart of Bernal for years. Recently it sounds like their property situations have changed. The store and karate studio are not affiliated with the landlord of the house we are all talking about. So just because you are rude and don’t gather all the facts before throwing stones, should I make that my impression of your whole family?

  28. Be ashamed for owning property that their families worked hard for? Get serious as a landlord you have very little rights in SF and get stuck not even being able to sell the building due to protected tenants. Rent control sucks!!!

  29. This has been the most HOT Bernalwood I can recall. What I would love is if we could all get out from behind our posting names and meet together in person and stand behind our words. So much has flown around. I would be most excited to meet “Byrd Bodega” myself. Whomever he/she is – this person seems to know the nabe and all the ins and outs way better than anyone! Wouldn’t that be a fun get together. Just sayin’! Kristen Schwartz

      • Is that you Ben??!! I hope so!! If it’s you, you know I’ll never get my ass up that early! xoxo

    • I don’t claim to know the neighborhood better than anyone, but I’ve had my fill of Nadia over the years and learned to avoid her. I quite often have a low tolerance for some things other people seem to find easier to ignore, if they ever noticed in the first place. It’s the curse of hyper-awareness.

  30. If the conversion back to SFH is undoing an illegal subdivision, then fine the owner should be able to evict the tenant, but there should also be a retroactive fine or taxes levied against the homeowner for all the years the illegal unit was rented out. I’m sure the tenant being evicted would be only too happy to provide proof to the city of rent paid as a final FU. Then that leaves the Airbnb issue, are sublet revenues on an illegal apartment also illegal?

  31. Bums me out to read all this drama…. I’m a Bay Area native who recently relocated to Atlanta for a new job (former 15 year SF resident w/ the last 7 of those in Bernal living on Cortland). I use to go to Chuck’s all the time and thought Nadia seemed so nice. Such drama….Sounds like a soap opera….

  32. Adding this update here, as well as in the main body text above, for the benefit of those who have subscribed to comments.

    via the SF Chronicle, Denise Ledbetter, the lawyer representing property owner Nadia Lama, has released a statement on the matter:

    The rent increase that has generated this controversy is actually an offer by the owner to rent a substantially larger home than was originally rented. In addition to the upper level (in which tenant currently resides), Ms. Follingstad will have access to at least 60% more space which can be used by the tenant to offset the rent increase through her existing Air BnB business. As interested parties are now aware, there are many sides to a story. Rent Control Ordinances create unreasonable expectations upon which tenants rely. In this case, rent control simply does not apply to this tenancy.

    When a small property owner finally has an opportunity to increase the rent – via State law – the City gives almost no choice to the owner but to take the opportunity to increase the rent. If owners were allowed modest increases over time, we would not see this kind of dramatic rent increase required.

    San Francisco’s promotion of Airbnb-type hotel use further reduces available housing to middle income residents. A comprehensive housing policy is required for San Francisco County residents – landlords and tenants. Commercial profit making use of a tenants rent regulated rental unit should be disallowed.

    San Francisco County unfairly burdens small property owners with a societal problem that should be shared by all residents – not just those whose owners’ whose properties were built prior to June 13, 1979. Small property owners are not being subsidized by the government for what is truly a problem for all of society. An economically sound housing policy – fair to all – is required to avoid further displacement of our middle income residents.

    • In the Neighborhood Dysfunctional Family these comments represent a small mob
      of sibling/peer hoods who have found themselves a scapegoat —Nadia Lama.
      Jump! Jump on Nadia Lama! Joyous malice ! The new Bernal social code! And The Law backs you up– as a misinformed renter, as a should-be homeowner who missed the boat (Maybe if you had not been squatting on your rights in your rent controlled abode you would have bought a home in the seventies or eighties or nineties and you would not be so p.o.‘d now.)
      Agatha Christie remarked that gross displays of wealth bring out the baser instincts in all of us. Look around and comprehend. Skol, Bernal! And our hood was once so the opposite!
      I came to live in Bernal Heights in 1986. A much different BernalTown. When my jaguar broke down on Virginia St., cars roared past me contemptuously (did somebody flip me a bird?) but when the same thing happened in my VW Bug I was assailed with help. At some point around the mid or late eighties Nadia threw herself into creating a flourishing florist shop in the spot where State Farm is now on the corner of Bocana and Cortland. I didn’t know her but I bought flowers from her. We were similar in age and we each had husbands so I remember the sad day when she remarked that she had to close her beloved store because her husband “didn’t like it”.
      The Lamas were always around. They were NOT around as money grabbing shyster landlords as somehow this blog manages to demonize them, despite so few facts. They were red headed neighborhood business owners of a kid’s karate studio, a corner store and for a short time, that florist shop. (This is not a literal recount of all they may have owned since Chuck it seems was an enviably hardworking and savvy investor –this is the image they presented to me as a resident over the years here in Bernal Heights).
      All of us who own in Bernal are reaping rewards from the Lucky Location of our investment. Anybody in rent control saves thousands upon thousands over the years. Yet, old Mr. Lama and his silent, ever present wife who stood behind him at the cash register year after year, are now heinous and evil because they did so successfully what everybody , renter and homeowner wants to do now, they profited.
      And FYI the role of scapegoat in this drama is not hypothetical. (See the SFChron story.) The Lama sisters apparently ARE scapegoating Nadia according to this story. And look at what we are doing as neighbors here in this blog. She must be scared to walk down the street!
      Again, Nadia is not my personal friend, but I sincerely do hope she is somebody’s. She needs one now. Talk about public pillorying 2015! IMO Nadia Lama is a woman in the background of a changing neighborhood over thirty years, a person who lives here and who has helped shape the neighborhood by being a part of it.
      For heaven’s sake let her live here like we do!

  33. A lot of the usual in any real estate related thread, though this one has a much more personal angle of renter vs. landlord.

    There’s a legal matter (that’s up to the courts) and there’s an ethical one.

    I’m less concerned about the legal issues: they are what they are, and for the most part, why they are that way is bass-ackwards. If a landlord can raise tent like that, well… that’s pretty messed up.

    On the moral side. Well, if a landlord chooses to raise rent like that, that’s pretty messed up. If it truly is for some other purpose, well… It is awful that something be would have to do something pretty messed up in order to exercise some right of ownership.

    So I guess I’m not siding with the landlord here.

  34. TIL why there is a profession called “Lawyer” and a profession called “Public Relations Something-or-other.”

    I (rhetorically) hope that Ms. Leadbetter is more persuasive in court than she is in print. Because her letter was a weird, tone-deaf attempt at deflection.

    Leave the PR to the pros.

  35. Pingback: KQED: Lama Family Feud Lies at Heart of Big Bocana Rent Increase | Bernalwood

  36. Pingback: Dispute Unsettled, but Bocana Neighbor Departs Home After Huge Rent Increase | Bernalwood

  37. Pingback: Former Tenant Sues Over Eye-Popping Rent Increase at 355 Bocana | Bernalwood

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