1286-1298 Treat Avenue (www.SocketSite.com)
The Ellis Act eviction notices were served in December 2006, the evictions carried out a year later, and three units at 1286-1298 Treat Avenue returned to the market as TICs not too long ago. And according to a plugged-in tipster, they’ve gone up in flames.

“[1286-1298 Treat Avenue] was torched the night of 1/21 and then mysteriously rekindled itself Tuesday morning. All that seems salvageable is the realtor’s sign, untouched by the blaze.”

Borrowing a line from our story about a suspicious fire at 2626 Sutter: “Our first thought? We hope nobody got hurt. Our second thought? Well, let’s just say it was probably the same as yours.”
Attempt to evict Treat Ave. residents [El Tecolote]
∙ Listing: 1286-1298 Treat Avenue [Vanguard]
2626 Sutter: Little Did We Know (Or Perhaps We Did) [SocketSite]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Tweety

    That’s sad from every angle.

  2. Posted by Jimmy (Bitter Renter)

    Is this property also owned by Ed Jew? :-)

  3. Posted by brian

    Excuse my ignorance, but what does the property owner have to gain by the fire? Seems from the linked article that some people in the community weren’t very happy about the Ellis Act evictions. I think I’d be more suspicious of that than the owner. Insurance money maybe?

  4. Posted by capital

    Bitter ex-Renter criminals. That was my first thought.

  5. Posted by ex SF-er

    5 possibilities. none good
    -bitter ex-renter criminals
    -bitter criminal neighborhood association
    -underwater owner looking for insurance
    -REALLY bad wiring :)
    -God has cursed this place.

  6. Posted by 001

    ‘Owner under water’ argument makes no sense:
    A) Insurance companies only make partial payouts upfront but would require the owner to do the work to collect the remainder;
    B) Why not burn all of the buildings on the lot instead of the one that had just been finished;
    C) One unit in contract and current mini-rebound in SF real estate market.
    It’s counterintuitive and illogical to look at the owner on this one. Additionally, the Firestarter knew that specific building was the vacant one and that the owner had just finished the work on that one and therefore wanted to inflict damage on the owner. My vote is with:
    -bitter ex-renter criminals
    -bitter family member criminals of ex-renters (or soon-to-be ex-renters)
    -wack-job associates of the Tenants Union
    The second fire I’m sure was not re-lit but actually a residual of the first fire (that perhaps hadn’t been put out completely).

  7. Posted by kathleen

    Suspicious fire. Anyone who would torch a property puts the whole neighborhood, and by extension, our fair city at risk.
    People who start fires should go to jail for a very very long time.

  8. Posted by arlo

    001 – What is this “current mini-rebound in SF real estate market”?

  9. Posted by Mystery Realtor

    -bitter ex-renter criminals
    -bitter family member criminals of ex-renters (or soon-to-be ex-renters)
    -wack-job associates of the Tenants Union.
    Or could it be all three? It’s one thing to peacefully picket a building during an open house and quite another to risk people’s lives.
    M.R.

  10. Posted by Satchel

    Well, whoever the true culprit, this is almost certainly an unintended consequence of rent controls! And one that brings back (not so) fond memories.
    When I was a kid in the 1970s in NYC, landlords were faced with rapidly escalating prices for fuel and building maintenance, but because of rent controls they could not raise rents nor sell (because the buildings cost more to maintain than what they brought in, they had zero economic value – even in NYC!). So, they burnt the buildings down. Hundreds of them. Maybe thousands. Buildings with 50-100 apartments – large well-built brick structures, steel reinforced with very large apartments (typically 1200 – 1800 square feet). I used to walk by burnt out ones on my way to school, and even by a few that were burning. Sometimes on the elevated subway near Yankee Stadium, you could see multiple fires – it literally looked like a war zone (this was 1979 or so).
    In SF today, the TIC conversion process seems to be the way landlords are getting around the rules. So, it’s sort of ironic (regardless of who’s setting the fires today) to see here some small echo of what went on 30 years ago on the other side of the country.

  11. Posted by 001

    kathleen:
    yep. people are buying property this month. probably a result of low interest rates and the slow Q4 but whatever the reason property is starting to move. who knows if it will continue though. talk to a lender, a realtor or someone who works at a title company – they’ll all verify it.

  12. Posted by eddy

    I’m surprised that you can convert an Ellis’d building to TIC’s. Nice loophole.

  13. Posted by eddy

    001 — OT, but I suspect that if the stock market keeps going in this direction that there are going to be several ‘in contract’ listing back on the market within the next 45 days. This will be an interesting trend to watch!

  14. Posted by FSBO

    Sales volume for SFH & condos for Jan 1 – 21 period (listed sales):
    2008: 139 (reported as of Jan 23)
    2007: 215
    2006: 209
    2005: 275
    So the sales counts look pretty light for the first 3 weeks of Jan 08. Of course, the counts will rise as late reportings are made. (For the 1st to 21st of Dec 07, the count was 264.)
    I’m not sure I can see a mini-rebound in there?

  15. Posted by sb

    001, are you a realtor? It’s a serious question — I actually would like to know.

  16. Posted by resp

    ex-tenant related, no doubt.
    the good: hopefully (s)he’ll be locked up for arson and unable to get in the way of the next ellis eviction.
    the bad: they poor guy a few doors down treat ave. that just ellised the old brick victorian must be nervous – he may be the next target of the unhappy arsonist.

  17. Posted by Adam

    Satchel, great insight, thanks.
    I lived in NYC in the mid-80s and saw a lot of the “burnt” buildings, especially in my memory in Alphabet City. I always wondered what the hell happened to all of them, now I have at least a clue to the dramas of that time.
    Incidently, I own a home two blocks from this particular place. It’s a bit of a battlefield down here, but it somehow always feels ok.

  18. Posted by Dave

    Eddy: When you Ellis a building, you take it off the rental market, as you undoubtedly know. There’s no such thing as “converting” to TIC; TIC is just a form of ownership in which multiple owners own defined shares of the property. Any property can be owned as a TIC and there are no city regulations that affect that.
    What you can’t do (in SF) is convert an Ellis’d building to condominiums (or enter the condo conversion lottery), except in specific cases (where all units have been owner-occupied and no protected tenants were evicted after May of 2005, if I recall correctly.)
    Anyway, my point was that there’s no loophole; selling a property to multiple owners who hold it as tenants in common isn’t any kind of conversion that requires anyone’s approval.
    [Editor's Note: Very close, but not exactly correct. This building would never qualify for condo conversion (because a senior with 10+ years of residency was involved), but even non-owner occupied buildings in which multiple evictions occurred on or after May 1, 2005 but did not result in the eviction of a "senior, disabled, or catastrophically ill tenant shall be eligible for conversion ten (10) years following the date of the last eviction from the building." (See Prohibition On Condominium Conversion Passes for a more detailed overview.)]

  19. Posted by Jimmy (Bitter Renter)

    It would’ve been more profitable for the owner if this building had burned to the point where the structure had to be torn down. A vacant building lot in SF is much more valuable!
    I bet the Ellis act restrictions wouldn’t carry over to the new building, either.
    [Editor's Note: While not 100% certain, we're pretty sure it's a deed restriction which would/will carry over to a new building.]

  20. Posted by David

    Well, unless the BOS changes the condo conversion laws the chances of winning the state lotto are not much worse. I just converted my home to a condo but our attorney said a builing entering the lottery in 08′ will take an average of 18 years to win the lottery. That will fall to 24 years in 2010. TIC’s are growing at 20% a year and the condo pool is stuck at 200 eligible conversions a year.
    Forget about the lottery and look closely at the growing fractional TIC loans.

  21. Posted by Jeffrey W. Baker

    They Ellised some elderly person out of the home in which they lived for decades? They should have been watching for instant karma around the next corner…

  22. Posted by zzzzzzzz

    What’s up with the proposed anti-Kelo, anti-eminent domain state ballot initiative which would effectively dismantle rent control? If this goes forward and passes, the Ellis Act will become irrelevant. Of course, that wouldn’t stop Tenant’s Union wackos from torching their buildings when their rents go up.

  23. Posted by Trip

    I think it’s on the June 3 ballot.

  24. Posted by dg

    mini rebound? hilarious… I suspect a realtor. But ya never know!

  25. Posted by citydwell4me

    Why is that, dg? Are you out looking and trying to buy a place right now?

  26. Posted by rish

    Delusion
    Psychiatry. a fixed false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact: a paranoid delusion

  27. Posted by michael

    I would agree with 001 jan 23 4:28 pm.I know the owner and the situation.The tenants believe that if they stop the sale they can stay in their units.Their has been nothing peaceful about their open house protests.They have been spreading many lies about the owner.The owner tried to subdivide the property,which the planning dept approved if no one protested the hearing,but the tenants protested.Since the owner wasn’t able to subdivide and sell the three properties indivually and still occupied he was forced to ellis the property to not lose money.The tenants expect someone else to subsidise their rent for life and the annual rent increases will never keep up with the cost of the increasing costs of maintaining the property.RENT CONTROL is BROKEN.

  28. Posted by dg

    citydwell4me, i am always looking and keeping my pulse on the market. I just sold my flat in Potrero Hill 2 months ago (luckily) and am happily renting for awhile.
    There is no mini-rebound going on in SF. That sounds like something a realtor would say right now. No evidence to support that as FSBO referenced above with some relevant sale #s.
    Are you saying you see a “mini-rebound”?

  29. Posted by al

    I’m curious. Has there ever been a single documented case of “tenants union wackos” “torching” anything?
    And yes, there is a nominally anti-eminent domain proposition on the June ballot that would invalidate rent control and other communistic plots like zoning and environmental protections.

  30. Posted by g

    glad i saw the post (sfgate gets punk’d again!).
    i heard the sirens in the wee hours tuesday;
    and then walked right by the 2nd act at 9am thinking somebody didn’t finish the job. oh wait- that was my second thought.
    my first thought: incompetent staging.

  31. Posted by AMinSF

    I had this posted 2 days ago on the blog
    thefrontsteps.com
    Two weekends ago I visited an open house tic unit at 1298 Treat Street in the Mission. It’s a very contentious situation. The developer is trying to Ellis Act several elderly tenants, and some family members and tenant groups were peacefully protesting outside the open house.
    I drove by the building this morning on my way to a meeting, and I saw that the building was scorched! It certainly looked suspiciously like arson, and the report [here] suggests the same.
    I think that this is an unfortunate situation that we sometimes have in SF. On one hand the developer wants to maximize his property’s value by converting to tic’s. But on the other hand, evicting seniors in their 80’s or 90’s is morally reprehensible. I’m totally for property rights, as I own several buildings in the city, and am actively involved in their development, but i must say that I had sympathy for the tenants in this situation, and spent time talking to them and the tenant activists who were there that day.
    I just don’t know what led to this case of possible arson. I highly doubt any of the people I met that day were involved. Could it be some silent angry activist, who wants to use destruction as a way to get back at ‘the system?’ I remember a similar case last year on 23rd street, between Treat and Folsom (across the park), where there was some violence. These immature and illegal acts certainly do not help the people adversely affected by the evictions. It is so asinine to act as a spoiler with these types of destruction. And it certainly fans the flame (no pun intended) of animosity between property owners/developers and tenants.
    It’s too bad this city cannot collectively get it’s act together and find ways to mitigate the housing problems that we have. What’s next, drive by shootings at open houses?
    UPDATE: the owner has handpainted signs on the plywood blocked windows: $5000 reward for info on the arsonist.
    indeed, it’s getting ugly out there.

  32. Posted by zzzzzzzzz

    Clarification here – doesn’t the fire mean that the tenants fighting the Ellis eviction have lost their homes now, rather than the 1 year grace period required for elderly tenants under Ellis? Such a pyrrhic “victory” for the arsonist…

  33. Posted by Michael

    If the original post is correct the one grace period expired December 2007 and the tenants had already been evicted:
    “The Ellis Act eviction notices were served in December 2006, the evictions carried out a year later”

  34. Posted by A Concerned Son

    I’m glad so many are talking about this.
    I am the son of one of the tenants and know first hand that all the tenants want is to stay! Stay where they call home despite the crime and drug infestation. Stay despite the possibility that someone may be trying to hurt them intentionally. Stay so that they can continue to be the hub of communication or the central meeting place for their extended families. Stay in the only place they know as home for over 35 years. Stay where they have spent their hard earned monies through out the years to maintain their homes regardless of the good for nothing landlords that have come and gone.
    These seniors and disabled tenants are on fixed incomes so I ask you all where do they go if evicted? Would you want your grandparents or your disabled brother or sister evicted from the only place they know as home?
    If, and no official report has come out yet, this is the act of an arsonist we want the person or persons caught and prosecuted. My family’s life was endangered and they could have been killed that night. It is their intention as well as mine to help the investigation so that the truth can be revealed.

  35. Posted by anono

    while I certainly have sympathy for elderly and disabled tennants evicted in such a high cost city, I think the City is wrong to place the burden of housing these individuals onto small time landlords.
    There are too many small, owner occupied buildings where the live-in owners are faced with the incredibly difficult decision to sell because they are not making enough income off the protected, rent-controlled tennants in their building. It makes no sense to me that a 2 or 3 unit owner occupied building should be subject to rent control and eviction control. As S.F. ages, we are going to see more and more Ellis Act evictions because it is the only way many owners can realize the full value of their property.
    The City needs to ensure that sufficient senior housing is build- and it is now starting to do so. However, much of this housing is still too expensive for those on fixed incomes. I think everyone needs to bear the burden of housing elderly and disabled residents on fixed incomes, and until we do that and stop forcing small landlords to bear this burden we’ll continue to see troubling incidents like this one.

  36. Posted by cy

    I agree with the comment above re: small landlords paying the cost of housing the elderly, and that the costs should be more global.
    Another side effect of the eviction restrictions — it will be virtually impossible for these seniors to find new housing, bc no one will want to rent to them. Of course it’s illegal to discriminate against a renter for age or disability, but that’s not going to stop a potential landlord from finding other reasons not to rent to a person who, once in, cannot be removed even if the landlord wants to live in his own property!

  37. Posted by A Concerned Son

    This is a seven unit building not three.
    The owner knew what he was buying into. Estoppels were filled out before the purchase.
    The owner bought the building at below market value 1.5M is my understanding and know wants 3.5M
    He’s known exactly what he was intending to do since day one. And is doing the same to another building on the same block

  38. Posted by resp

    one question to the son – how did your family get to stay living there past the 12 month deadline for the ellis eviction? if what you say is true.
    cy – i think you’re wrong. rent control could make a landlord want to rent MORE to elderly people. First, their rent at a new apartment would be at market price anyway, and second their life expectancy under rent control is far less than a 30 year old slacker who decides to milk the system for the rest of his life (even thought the elderly person becomes “protected” sooner).
    Those in favor of the current SF laws have to realize that they encourage the removal of protected tenants from their homes. It’s very profitable as you can see from this example. It’s a much more certain way for an investor to make money than just buying a simple property and hoping it appreciates. Especially with the direction the market is going (down by the way). Investors will be looking even harder for projects with a “catalyst” (i.e. bringing rents up to market no matter what has to happen).
    Better to have grandma paying a fair rent than become a sitting target for an investor’s highest rate of return. In the meantime as long as the Ellis act is legal, the market will self-stabilize as it should but just at a slower rate. Elminating rent control would just allow stabilization to happen at a more normal rate.

  39. Posted by Dave

    Tenants can stay beyond the 12 month Ellis if they decide they want to challenge the Ellis. I am selling a building that was Ellised at 2124 Hyde Street. The landlord Ellised it to get a tenant out that he had been battling for over 20 years. The tenant had filed over 50 lawsuits and was a vexatious litigant.
    Anyway, he stayed 6 months after the year Ellis by contesting the Ellis itself. You can appeal an Ellis and ask for trial in SF. The renter often wins in SF but loses on appeal at the state level.

  40. Posted by bigwhiteshark

    I say increase the taxes on landlords or those who owns more than one property. They are the reasons why the SF properties are so expensive! Yes, pay up please.

  41. Posted by kurt7

    The 3 unit building 1294,1296, 1298 are part of 7 unit parcel 1286-8 and 1290-92….ALL purchased
    for $1,380,000 6/20/05. It would appear the owner
    rehabited 1294-1298 as it is on the corner with 2 exposures. Then the other units would follow.
    Mr. McDowell is hardly a small time landowner!!!!
    The present taxes on all 7 units $15,976.
    I must say…that area is scary at HIGH NOON.

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