California real estate is at a premium, and San Francisco has become one of the Golden State's most sought-after areas.
So when one couple had the opportunity to snatch up a prime location for only $90,000, they jumped at the chance. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Tina Lam and Michael Cheng purchased Presidio Terrace, a wealthy, private neighborhood, in 2015 at an auction after residents failed to pay taxes on it, albeit allegedly unknowingly.
Scott Emblidge, the attorney for the Presidio Homeowners Association, claimed in a letter to the city that the three-decades-old property taxes weren't paid because the bills were still being mailed to the address of an accountant who hadn't worked for the neighborhood since the 1980s.
Former residents of the multimillion-dollar neighborhood include Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and its current residents weren't amused when they found out about the 2-year-old sale on May 30.
“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,” one homeowner told the San Francisco Chronicle.
San Francisco's wealthy residents claimed the city should have informed Presidio Terrace homeowners before the auction took place, but the tax collector's office refuted the claim on the basis that the city did what the law required and noted there's nothing they can do now.
“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 wealthy residents are so upset by the sale that they've asked the Board of Supervisors to rescind the sale and have sued both the couple and the city to try to prevent the sale of the street until the appeal is finalized. However, Cheng told ABC News 13 that they “bought the street fair and square.”
So why did the couple purchase a street in a private neighborhood in the first place? The ability to charge a “reasonable rent” for the 120 parking spots, which, in San Francisco, are hard to come by.
Residents believe the real reason the couple is claiming it will charge for parking is to pressure residents into purchasing the street back for a much higher price than the couple paid— although Lam and Cheng noted to the San Francisco Chronicle that they aren't looking to sell right now.
“I'm a first-generation immigrant, and the first time I came to San Francisco, I fell in love with the city,” said Lam, who was born in Hong Kong and came to America for college. “I really just wanted to own something in San Francisco because of my affinity for the city.”
The Board of Supervisors has scheduled a hearing for October, but Fried claimed the homeowners may have difficulty getting the board to rescind the sale given that it's 2 years old.