City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed separate lawsuits against two rapacious landlords today, each a perfect allegory of tech despoiling the city.
In both cases, the defendants evicted long-term residents from their property under the Ellis Act, a controversial state law that allows landlords to push out tenants in order to withdraw their property from the rental market. Herrera accuses these property owners of using the law as a ruse; rather than go out of business, they converted the property into commercial rentals for tourists, which they advertised on such platforms as Airbnb, Homeway.com, and VRBO.com
To make matters worse, two of the tenants are disabled.
While it's not actually illegal for landlords to use the Ellis Act to commandeer residential housing for commercial use -- even if it means displacing long-term tenants -- Herrera says it's long been San Francisco's policy to closely monitor such conversions. The city suffers from a perennial paucity of housing resources, and now we're in a crisis of historic proportions, he says. And it's only been exacerbated by sharing economy services like Airbnb.
If Herrera prevails, defendants Darren and Valerie Lee -- who own property at 3073-3075 Clay St. -- and Lev, Tamara and Tatyana Yurovsky -- who own property at 734 and 790 Bay St. -- could be on the hook for Planning Code violation penalties of up to $200 per day, up to $2,500 in fines for each unlawful business act, attorneys fees, and disgorgement of all illegally obtained profits.
That might be admonishment to other landlords who are up to the same tricks, says Deputy City Attorney Gabriel Zitrin. "Go on Airbnb," he advises. "You'll see a pattern."
Here's the complaint, filed in SF Superior Court: