Tag Archives: SRO

Roaches And Raw Sewage: SF Suing Family That Owns Residential Hotels In Tenderloin, SoMa, Mission

The San Francisco city attorney filed a lawsuit today against a family that owns and operates at least 15 San Francisco single-room occupancy hotels for violating health, safety and tenancy rights regulations.

Residents of the more than 880 single-room occupancy rooms, or SROs, owned and operated by members of the Thakor family have been forced to tolerate bedbugs, roach and rodent infestations, mold and mildew, raw sewage leaks, defective wiring and other unsafe conditions, according to the complaint filed in San Francisco Superior Court by City Attorney Dennis Herrera.

Residents of the city-contracted SRO hotels have allegedly been forced to vacate rooms before they could accumulate 30 days of residency to prevent them from attaining tenancy rights such as rent control and eviction protection, Herrera said.

“The Thakor family has exploited low-income residents by denying them tenancy rights,” Herrera said. “They’ve defiantly thumbed their noses at city inspectors over pervasive code violations, which endanger residents and neighbors alike. And they’ve billed taxpayers for providing clients of city programs with ‘clean, safe, habitable’ housing, when it was anything but clean, safe, or habitable.”

Herrera said the family has defrauded taxpayers under the California False Claims Act and are in violation of the California Unfair Competition Law. The suit names Balvantsinh “Bill” Thakor, Kiransinh Thakor, Bahavasinh Thakor and Lataben B. Thakor and their business entities.

Members of the Thakor family could not be immediately reached for comment on the lawsuit or the condition of their hotels, which include the Civic Center Hotel on Market Street and the Warfield Hotel on Taylor Street.

Most of the Thakor family’s SRO hotels are located in the Tenderloin, South of Market, mid-Market and Mission District neighborhoods, according to the city attorney.

Hannah Albarazi/Drew Himmelstein, Bay City News

SF Men Arrested For Shooting Across Sixth Street, Holing Out In SRO

Three men were arrested after allegedly firing a gun across a street in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood and then barricading themselves in a nearby building for hours Saturday night, according to a police spokesman.

Around 10:45 p.m. Saturday, three men were seen with a gun on Sixth Street at Mission Street, San Francisco police Officer Albie Esparza said.

Apparently one of the men had fired several shots across Sixth Street. No one was injured, Esparza said.

As officers approached, the three suspects fled into a residential hotel building and refused to come out of a room there, police said.

Crisis and hostage negotiators were called to the scene as the men stayed holed up in the room for about two hours, police said.

Eventually the three surrendered and were taken into custody. Esparza said the men are San Francisco residents Maurice Brown, 34; Julius Johnson, 25; and Devonta Butler, 21.

Brown was arrested on suspicion of a weapons violation and shooting into an inhabited building along with other offenses. The other two suspects were arrested on suspicion of weapons violations and resisting arrest.

Police allegedly recovered two guns from the men, Esparza said.

Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

Appeals Court: Postal Service Still Doesn’t Have to Deliver Mail To SRO Residents

A federal appeals court earlier this week upheld the right of the U.S. Postal Service to deliver mail to a single central point, such as a desk clerk, instead of individual mailboxes in single-room-occupancy hotels in San Francisco.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Wednesday unanimously rejected a bid by the city and three tenants’ groups to require deliveries to individual boxes, as is done in apartment buildings.

The court said the postal service had a rational basis for treating SRO hotel tenants differently from apartment tenants, because they tend to be more transient.

“The USPS could rationally predict that if SROs were treated like apartment houses, the effect would be detrimental to the efficiency and economics of postal operations,” the court said.

SRO hotel units, which generally serve low-income tenants, are usually a single room of 350 square feet or less. Tenants share hallway kitchens and bathrooms. About two-thirds of the city’s approximately 500 SROs receive single-point deliveries, according to court filings.

The Postal Service argued that SRO occupants are generally more transient than lease-holding apartment dwellers, thus making mailbox rosters unstable and individual deliveries more complicated and expensive for the financially beleaguered agency.

A government lawyer told the court during appeal arguments earlier this month that individual delivery in SRO hotels nationwide would impose an “onerous, unsustainable” cost of $300 million per year.

The appeals panel also rejected the tenants’ argument that centralized mail delivery impaired their free-speech right. It said the postal plan was not based on the mail’s content or viewpoint.

The city and tenant groups argued the policy “created a host of terrible consequences” for low-income SRO residents because it led to lost and stolen mail, including Social Security and welfare checks and medical appointment notices.

The groups that joined the city in filing the federal civil rights lawsuit in 2009 were the San Francisco Tenants Union, Central City SRO Collaborative and Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco.

The appeals court affirmed a similar ruling in which U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg of San Francisco dismissed the case without a trial in 2011.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

In Foodie Capital Of SF, One In Four Residents Is At Risk Of Food Insecurity

San Francisco supervisors held a hearing today on the problem of hunger among city residents who do not have access to nutritious and affordable meals.

The hearing of the Board of Supervisors’ neighborhood services and safety committee followed the release of reports by two city task forces on the issue of food security.

Among the findings by the San Francisco Food Security Task Force and the Tenderloin Hunger Task Force was that one of every four San Franciscans is at risk of being “food insecure,” meaning they have limited access to food to sustain basic physical and mental health.

The task forces found that since September 2008, there has been an 83 percent increase in caseloads involving San Francisco residents using CalFresh, the state’s food stamp program.

They also found that a growing number of at-risk residents in recent years has affected the city’s nonprofits, which increased the number of free meals provided from 27.1 million in 2007 to 34.3 million in 2011.

Today’s hearing was called by Supervisor Eric Mar, who said he is seeking ways to increase access to food and improve public health in the city.

Mar said he wants to “bring to light the profound irony of how in San Francisco, the supposed ‘foodie’ capital of the world and arguably one of the world’s richest cities … thousands of our residents walk around hungry and worry about whether they’ll be able to feed themselves and their family.”

Paula Jones, director of food systems for the San Francisco Food Security Task Force, said residents need sufficient financial resources to pay for food, and need access in their neighborhoods to affordable, nutritious food, and the means to prepare healthy meals at home.

Jones said her task force found that at least 19,000 residential units in San Francisco, mainly in SROs, do not have full kitchens with a sink, stove and refrigerator.

Robert Jones, a cook who says he has lived in residential hotels, said “most SROs have, at most, a microwave.”

He encouraged builders of affordable housing to include more amenities for cooking and storing food in the units.

“The old adage ‘If you build it, they will come’ will work here,” he said.

Paula Jones from the task force called on the city to work with residents on nutrition programs and to make better use of the CalFresh program.

Among the group’s findings are that, while 26,000 San Francisco Unified School District students are eligible for free school meals, only 13,079 school-age students are enrolled in CalFresh.

Jones said getting more eligible people enrolled in the program will “generate more economic activity and support local food retail stores” while reducing demand at the free dining rooms.

Mar said he plans to hold another hearing in March to get an update on what the city is doing to address the hunger issue.

“We have to ease the suffering of people and end hunger and food insecurity in our city,” he said.

The reports by the two city task forces can be found online at www.sfdph.org/foodsecurity.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

USPS Tells Appeals Court It Can’t Afford To Deliver Mail To San Francisco SRO Tenants

A federal appeals court is mulling a plea by the city of San Francisco and several tenants’ groups for a trial on a lawsuit that seeks to force the U.S. Postal Service to deliver letters to individual mailboxes in single-room-occupancy hotels.

“These are places where people live a long time, even though they pay the same way you would pay for a hotel,” tenants’ attorney Steffen Johnson argued before a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco Tuesday.

The city and groups including the San Francisco Tenants Union are appealing a 2011 decision in which U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg dismissed their 2009 discrimination lawsuit without a trial.

The lawsuit claims the Postal Service treats single-room-occupancy, or SRO, hotel residents unfairly by delivering their mail to a single point, such as a desk clerk, instead of placing letters in individual mailboxes as it does in apartment buildings.

Units in SRO hotels are usually a single room of 350 square feet or less. The tenants are typically low-income. They usually share hallway kitchens and bathrooms and do not have leases.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera has estimated that San Francisco has about 30,000 SRO hotel residents and about two-thirds of them receive their mail through bulk delivery to a single point in their hotels.

The city and tenant groups say that procedure results in lost and stolen mail and “has created a host of terrible consequences,” such as loss of Social Security and welfare checks, missed notices of medical appointments and loss of contact with relatives.

The Postal Service contends it has a legitimate government objective in maintaining single-point deliveries in SFO hotels for reasons of efficiency and cost control.

“If these buildings were to be classified as apartments, it would impose onerous, unsustainable costs on the Postal Service,” Department of Justice attorney Lowell Sturgill argued Tuesday.

“The records show the Postal Service is in a dire (financial) crisis,” said Sturgill, who said abolishing single-point delivery in all SRO hotels nationwide would cost $300 million per year.

The government attorney argued delivering mail to individual boxes is more expensive in an SRO hotel than in an apartment building, because SRO tenants are allegedly more transient and thereby create instability and unpredictability in mailbox rosters.

Circuit Sandra Ikuta, Judges Jerome Farris and Fernando Fernandez took the case under submission after hearing 40 minutes of arguments and will issue a ruling at a later day.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

Tenant Troubles: Does My Unusual Lease Mean My Landlord Can Hang Out In My Apartment?

I have an interesting one for you.

I recently moved into a classic Victorian house with 4 other roommates in SF. We all have separate rental leases with the landlord, which I considered to be a plus until recently.

After a month of living there, I realized the landlord shows up about once or twice a week, without any real notice in the middle of day to do “upkeep” around the property. None of us feel comfortable with this, and I gently mentioned this to him the last time he did one such drop-by. He responded that since we rent each our rooms separately from him (ie: my actual room is unit #3), he does not need to give the necessary 24-hour advance notice. The kitchen, hallway and living room fall within a public domain that he can access without any prior heads-up.

Is this a loophole that he’s found? Or is does the 24 hour notice clause still apply to this unique situation?

Tenant Troubles Archives

Dave’s here to answer your questions every Wednesday, so send them to him at tenant@sfappeal.com. Here’s what to make sure to include in your letter.

Believe it or not, this is a relatively common issue. I just don’t get it. Doesn’t the landlord have anything better to do? Why isn’t he simply satisfied with collecting your rent? Why does he need to putter around your place instead of, say, going to a Giants game or taking a vacation?

There I go again, thinking like a tenant. Landlords don’t think like us. Some landlords become obsessed with their properties, and the inherent control and power bestowed upon them by their position. When the greed gets psychotic, the psychotics torment their tenants.

Your landlord is running a boarding house, a small residential hotel. He admitted as much when he described the nature of your tenancy. He thinks he can, as the proprietor, the jolly innkeeper, come and go as he pleases.

But, as is usual with these penurious pinheads, he’s wrong.

The landlord does not live in the premises. He does not have a license to run a hotel. He isn’t paying the hotel tax. As a group of roommates, because that’s what you are, you have the right to exclusive possession of the house.

The landlord must provide the requisite 24-hour, written notice to enter pursuant to California Civil Code §1954. Read the law.

As you can see there are only specific instances when the landlord can enter. All of them, except for emergencies, require a 24-hour notice.

Reread my post, “Even Dracula Had to Have an Invite Before He Could Enter” and J. Wallace Oman’s piece, “The Unnecessary Conflict in Landlord Entries.”

In my article, I recommend calling the police when the landlord persists with illegal entries. In your case, the roommates should band together and write the landlord a letter emphatically asserting your rights to proper notice. Tell the landlord you will file a petition at the Rent Board alleging a substantial decrease in services. The right to “quiet enjoyment” is a housing service. File the petition if he refuses to comply.

Unfortunately, San Francisco Housing Code §401 defines lodging house “as any building or portion thereof, containing not more than five guest rooms where rent is paid in money, goods, labor or otherwise.” The San Francisco Building Inspection Department will not violate a boarding house that comprises 5 rooms or less. I think you should call a housing inspector to file a complaint anyway. Because the landlord’s puttering is more about snooping than fixing anything, I’m guessing that you may have some violations of the warranty of habitability.

Mention the boarding house issue to the housing inspector, just to see if he or she will do anything about it. Then point out all of the areas where the landlord used bubble gum and duct tape to fix leaky pipes, holes in the walls, etc.

You’re right, this is interesting. I’m assuming that you live in a house, a single family dwelling. If the landlord rented the house as a whole, in this market, he could likely rent it for about the same amount as get gets from all of the tenants. He could also increase the rent more or less as he pleases, whereas renting individual rooms (rent controlled) doesn’t allow him that luxury. Thus my conclusion that your landlord’s hobby is tormenting his tenants.

Even if you prevail at the Rent Board or force the landlord to repair defective conditions in the building, you should move. Get out! This guy ain’t gonna change.