Back in August news broke that homeowners on ultra-tony Presidio Terrace, an O-shaped private street in the neighborhood of the same name, had somehow managed to lose ownership of their gated byway.
Angry members of the exclusive cul-de-sac’s homeowners association promised they would appeal the city auction of Presidio Terrace, which the city tax collector carried out after a minuscule annual tax on the privately owned and maintained sidewalks, asphalt, and parking spaces went unpaid for decades.
And sure enough, the Board of Supervisors responded to complaints on Tuesday by scheduling a November hearing to decide whether or not the sale was appropriate.
The ordinance passed reads in part:
Sale of property by the tax collector may be rescinded by the Board of Supervisors if a hearing is scheduled and notification is provided to the purchaser. [...] There is no codified process or current policy for how this hearing and consideration of the rescission should occur.
[...] In order for the Board to ascertain all the facts and consider whether the property should not have been sold, the Board wishes to hold a Committee of the Whole hearing to consider testimony and documentation related to this matter.
Supervisor Mark Farrell, whose district includes Presidio Terrace, told the San Francisco Examiner he simply wants to “get to the bottom” of the dispute.
Farrell spokesperson Jess Montejano told Curbed SF that the hearing was only “set up to get the facts of the matter.”
In short, although the board has the power to undo the sale, right now they only plan on giving interested parties a chance to plead their case.
The hearing comes in response to a letter from the Presidio Terrace Association’s (PTA) lawyer Scott Emblidge complaining that:
While the Tax Collector will undoubtedly claim. that he was following the letter of the [law], even if that claim were true (a point of contention) it would not make this fiasco lawful.
Courts have addressed similar situations and held that it is unconstitutional for the government to sell someone's property without make reasonable efforts to notify the property owner.
The tax collector’s office did try to contact the PTA for years, but it seems the messages always went to the wrong address.
Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle in August, a spokesperson for the tax collector’s office said that it was the association’s responsibility to make sure its taxes got paid on time, one way or another.
A South Bay couple bought the ritzy terrace common areas for $90,000 in 2015. Bizarrely, this is the second time Presidio Terrace neighbors have lost ownership of their street.