Owner agrees to pay $135K in civil penalties and sell building after litigation results from serious code violations, security issues
SAN FRANCISCO (Oct. 2, 2012) -- City Attorney Dennis Herrera today announced a settlement agreement in his lawsuit against the property owner of 245 Leavenworth Street, an apartment building whose residents had been forced to endure a pattern of serious housing and health and safety code violations for more than two years. Apart from egregious habitability issues plaguing tenants, police reports had long identified the property as a base for criminal and nuisance activity throughout the Tenderloin neighborhood by the "Cambodian Crips" criminal street gang. Since Herrera filed the litigation nearly a year ago, the defendant had addressed code violations that led to more than a dozen Notices of Violation and Orders of Abatement from the San Francisco Building Inspection Department over the prior two years.
Another significant improvement the property owner undertook after Herrera filed his litigation was to enhance the building's security. That step was instrumental in disrupting the unwelcome activities of a criminal street gang that had long used the property as a base for its criminal operations throughout the neighborhood. The gang, variously known as the "Cambodian Crips," "TL," "Thug Lords," and "245," had used the property as a locus for its drug trafficking and violent intimidation tactics, forcing neighbors to feel like prisoners in their own homes.
The settlement filed in San Francisco Superior court today requires the building owner to pay $135,000 in civil penalties to the City, and to sell the property to a new owner by October 31, 2012.
"This is a case in which an errant property owner did the right thing in the midst of litigation to resolve the serious problems plaguing tenants and the surrounding Tenderloin neighborhood," said Herrera. "While it's unfortunate that a lawsuit was required to achieve this positive outcome, I'm grateful for the defendant's cooperation to address serious code and safety violations, and to help halt the activities of a lawless criminal street gang. The defendant's cooperative approach helped to avoid a contentious legal battle, and wisely minimized civil penalties that could otherwise have been much larger."
Named as defendant in Herrera's lawsuit was John E. Wai, as an individual and as trustee of the John E. Wai 1981 Living Trust. The City Attorney's complaint, filed in October 2011, detailed numerous housing code violations that created a public nuisance, including: 1) lack of continuously operating elevator; 2) bedbugs and other pest infestations; 3) lack of heat in multiple units; 4) plumbing leaks; 5) excess garbage piled in rear yard; 6) sewage leaks; 7) insufficient bathroom ventilation; 8) mold and mildew; 9) lack of hot and cold running water; 10) damaged/defective apartment entry doors; and 11) deteriorated rear fire escape.
The case is: City and County of San Francisco and the People of California v. John e. Wai, et al
., San Francisco Superior Court, filed October 24, 2011.