645 (left) and 641 (right) 48th Ave [Photo: Google Maps]
Perched on the edge of Sutro Heights, two seemingly-vacant mansions on 48th Ave are causing a stir amongst neighbors. The two prime properties both belong to the same owner, and have long been a hotspot for homeless encampments and teen parties since they are backed by four vacant lots (also owned by the same guy) that in turn back up to the Sutro Heights part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The combo of major tree cover + tall fences + unoccupied buildings created the perfect storm of trouble, including a recent fire that could have caused some major damage.
Turns out one of the buildings isn't vacant after all, but actually owner-occupied by the confusingly indifferent landlord/tenant, who also happens to be a practicing physician in the city. Huh? His neighbors accuse him of letting the buildings and properties fall into disrepair, but any time the city fines him for it, he promptly pays the fees. The properties are in such bad shape that fire officials have deemed them an official hazard – mind boggling, considering their million dollar Ocean Beach views and architectural pedigree. The one at 645 48th Ave was built in 1924, while the adjacent one was constructed in 1915.
All the properties in question [Photo: Google Maps]
The latest drama occurred just this past January, when a rogue fire broke out in one of the vacant lots behind the buildings (people assume it was sparked from a homeless encampment, but the cause is still officially under investigation). Luckily weather conditions blew the flames away from neighboring houses, but nonetheless, people are pissed.
The vacant lots that act as a crash pad for homeless campsites and parties is in a weird no-man's land of jurisdiction – the land is private, so it's not patrolled by either city officials or NPS rangers. The four-lot block that includes the 1915 mansion at 645 48th Ave and three vacant lots behind it was briefly listed in 2006 for several million dollars, but no sale was made. Aside from the city's Vacant Building Ordinance, which imposes fees on owners of vacant or abandoned buildings, there's not much local legislative teeth to deal with issue. Neighbors are trying to figure out what they can do now that their houses are threatened by damage, and are considering a lawsuit.
· Dilapidated mansions in SF's Outer Richmond become breeding ground for illicit lodging, threatening fires [SF Examiner]
· 645 48th Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94121 [MLS]
· Vacant Building Ordinance [SF DBI]