Presidio Terrace is a block-long, oval street dotted with 35 megamillion-dollar mansions known for famous residents including Sen. Dianne Feinstein and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.
It’s a street known for its exclusivity — a guard is always on duty at the stone-gate entrance, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
But due to a low-profile auction, a South Bay couple now own the street after a payout of just $90,000.
And now residents might have to pay up just to park on the road, which had been managed by the homeowners since at least 1905.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
Tina Lam and Michael Cheng own the street, the sidewalks and all other “common ground,” including garden islands and palm trees.
So how did they snag the wealthy, private road for relative chump change?
It turns out the homeowners association for Presidio Terrace failed to pay a $14-a-year property tax, something that owners of all 181 private streets in San Francisco must do.
So the city’s tax office put the property up for sale at the cost of $994 in an online auction to regain unpaid back taxes, penalties and interest. The couple eventually won the street with a $90,100 bid, outlasting several other bidders.
Scott Emblidge, the attorney for the Presidio Homeowners Association, said in a letter to the city that the owners failed to pay because the tax bill was being sent to the address of an accountant who hadn’t worked for the homeowners association since the 1980s.
Now the couple, who purchased the road in April 2015, are aiming to cash in.
“We could charge a reasonable rent on it,” Cheng said, adding he and his wife could stand to profit from the 120 parking spaces on the street.
But residents were left in the dark — they didn’t know their street and sidewalks had been purchased until May 30, when a title search company reached out to ask if any of the residents had interest in buying back the property.
“I was shocked to learn this could happen, and am deeply troubled that anyone would choose to take advantage of the situation and buy our street and sidewalks,” said one unnamed homeowner.
Residents are now angry that the city did not notify residents of Presidio Terrace about the sale — but Treasurer-Tax Collector Jose Cisneros’ office says everything was done lawfully.
“Ninety-nine percent of property owners in San Francisco know what they need to do, and they pay their taxes on time — and they keep their mailing address up to date,” spokeswoman Amanda Fried said.
The homeowners have petitioned the Board of Supervisors for a hearing to undo the tax sale, which it has scheduled for October. They also sued the couple and the city, in an attempt to stop the couple from selling the road while the city appeal is still being reviewed.
Residents told the San Francisco Chronicle that they believe Lam and Cheng suggested charging rent for parking to push the homeowners association to buy the road back at a high price.
But Lam, an engineer in Silicon Valley who was born in Hong Kong, said she wanted to buy the property because she’s “a first-generation immigrant, and the first time I came to San Francisco I fell in love with the city.”
“I really just wanted to own something in San Francisco,” she added, “because of my affinity for the city.”