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‘Deathtrap’ Excelsior landlord to pay $620K to city

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Dozens of tenants lived in “third world conditions” under laundromat according to now settled suit

Exterior of an Excelsior laundromat. Courtesy Loopnet

In August of 2017, the city sued San Francisco landlord Melissa Mendoza for renting out allegedly illegal and squalid subdivided apartments beneath her Excelsior laundromat. The conditions were in such poor conditions that the San Francisco Fire Department referred to the building as “a deathtrap.”

On Thursday, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced that Mendoza and City Hall had opted for a settlement that includes fees of $620,000 for the property owner and a series of concessions meant to protect future tenants from exploitation.

Last year, a fire inspection discovered dozens of people living underneath the Clean Wash Center at 4690 Mission (also known as 5 Persia), inhabiting cubicle spaces as small as 150 square feet, for which some paid more than $1,000/month according to Herrera’s suit.

Mendoza, a Hillsborough resident, bought the building (under the company name Lexamark Liability LLC) in 2008 for $2.35 million. Tenants at 4690 Mission lived in a space with no windows and with exposed wiring, leaky pipes, and only one working bathroom between more than 20 people.

Interior of the “living” space beneath the laundromat.
Courtesy City Attorney

Supervisor Ahsha Safai, in whose district the building sits, described the building as “third world conditions in a dungeon.”

Mendoza’s tenants were displaced when the city stepped in but received financial assistance (paid out of Mendoza’s initial fees) to find new residences. [Update: The city also says that Mendoza has settled a lawsuit with former tenants and agreed to pay out $2.6 million in damages.]

On top of the fine, this week’s agreement includes the following demands:

Bringing all of [the defendants’s] properties up to code, getting all required Planning, Building, Fire, or other City permits and approvals before renting, leasing or offering any property for human habitation,allowing city officials to inspect any of her properties, notifying the City Attorney’s Office, within 72 hours, of any commercial, charitable, or otherwise non-residential tenancy agreement and provide the office with a copy of the lease, providing any new tenant with a copy of the injunction.

The Clean Wash laundry remains open for business, and in February Mendoza listed office space on the second floor for rent.