This month marked an historic moment in San Francisco. The Department of Building Inspection (DBI) has initiated another landlord into the top ranks of most-fined building owners in city history. Atique Rehman, owner of the 20-unit apartment building at 308 Turk Street now owes the people of San Francisco a hefty $38,000. Frustrated tenants, families and other community leaders in the Tenderloin set the gears in motion on January 18, 2013, when their protest
descended on Rehman’s restaurant, Naan “N” Curry, decrying 308 Turk’s deplorable conditions.
It worked. A mere four months later, DBI has slapped Rehman with a fine so large that the sum could pay for a year at the University of California, with enough money left over to pay for a tropical vacation.
The Tenderloin Housing Clinic fought alongside tenants, the Central City SRO Collaborative, and tireless DBI inspectors to hold Rehman accountable for repairs—or to make him pay up. In fact, as the SF Chronicle noted
, an astounding $28,000 of the $38,000 was assessed since January--in no small part because of these groups’ combined efforts to bring to light all of the building’s defects. For years, tenants of 308 Turk battled black mold, broken heat, leaking pipes, pest-infested rooms. Infants slept in rooms where mold compromised even adults’ health, dope was sold and smoked in the halls late at night, and some tenants even rigged up tarps in a patchwork canopy to catch the water pouring from their ceiling.
In all, Rehman accumulated 200 Housing Code violations, 38 Notices of Violation, and has been the subject of a whopping 19 hearings before the directors at the Department of Building Inspection. The case is also under review by the City Attorney, so Rehman may yet face even greater monetary pain.
Rehman has also been also known to retaliate against tenants. For instance, as Beyond Chron reported
, shortly after the January protest Rehman went to 308 Turk and verbally demanded that some residents leave immediately. Despite such actions, many tenants report religiously paying their monthly rent of the more than $1,000.
As of this month, although Rehman has made considerable improvements, the building remains structurally flawed and many outstanding “Notices of Violation,” i.e. citations from DBI related to specific housing code violations, remain unresolved. According to DBI, fines continue to accrue due to non-payment.
Ben Ng, Program Coordinator for the Code Enforcement Outreach Program at Tenderloin Housing Clinic, worked with tenants intensively to build the evidence of Rehman’s negligence. “It is really a slap in the face to me to know that in the 21st century there are tenants who are still living in such deplorable conditions. It’s also rewarding to see tenants coming together to tackle the issue head on; it was really a grassroots effort.”
The Tenderloin's housing stock has greatly improved over the past decade, and Rehman’s is one of a minority that fail to maintain livable conditions for tenants. A partner to Ng in organizing tenants’ direct action, the Central City SRO Collaborative (CCSROC) works with residents of the Tenderloin and South of Market to improve living conditions in SRO hotels. CCSROC keeps close partnerships with many city agencies and departments in order to help tenants improve their homes in effective and empowering ways.
San Francisco has been making strides on code enforcement in the Tenderloin. According to DBI, in recent months, the City successfully compelled the correction of 400 Housing Code violations at 245 Leavenworth, also in the Tenderloin. Stay tuned--we are still waiting to hear from the City Attorney about how much more Rehman owes.
Other media coverage of the protest can be found at http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/video/8203020-frustrated-sf-tenants-protests-outside-landlords-restaurant/