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Chinatown tenants sue landlord for alleged harassment

Rent-controlled Stockton Street tenants say property managers want to oust them for richer renters

1350 Stockton, via Google Street View.
1350 Stockton.
Screen grab via Google Street View

A longstanding conflict over a Chinatown SRO, where tenants allege landlords want to push them out in a quest to gentrify the building, boiled over into the courts on Tuesday, as the Asian Law Caucus [ALC]—an SF-based civil rights law group—sued on behalf of the residents.

According to the ALC allegations, SF-based property company Valstock Management tried to force out low-income and immigrant families at 1350 Stockton (a circa 1907 SRO building at Stockton and Vallejo) by way of intimidation and harassment:

More than 100 tenants live in the SRO, most of them low-income, limited English proficient Chinese immigrants. [...] In Fall 2016, when Valstock also took over management of the building and began a campaign to drive plaintiffs and other rent-controlled tenants out of the building in order to attract newer more lucrative clientele.

The harassment has included threatening and imposing exorbitant fines against tenants for long-established past practices of hanging laundry outside and keeping personal items in shared spaces.

The suit by seven of the building renters alleges, among other things, that the company also insisted on communicating via “40-page-long English-only” leases and denied all requests for translation for non-English speakers.

Clothes drying from windows—a classic Chinatown sight.
Clothes drying from windows—a classic Chinatown sight.
Photo by Patricia Chang

Last year, tenants complained that management tried to impose $200 fines for hanging laundry to dry on lines from their windows, a practice that has characterized Chinatown for over 150 years.

“Valstock has advertised vacancies for ‘students’ or ‘professionals’ online” in an apparent effort to lure more upscale renters to the building, according to the ALC.

Valstock’s current ad for the building listed on its site reads, “This newly renovated room is the perfect size for a student or professional who wants to experience the hustle and bustle of real San Francisco.”

The advertised studio is a single 80-square-foot room for $1,050/month.

A Valstock rep told Curbed SF over the phone that the company is not offering any comment—before being told what the query was. No one was immediately available by email either.

In late 2017, renters staged street demonstrations to protest Valstock policies. San Francisco Examiner notes that Valstock bought 1350 Stockton in 2000—city records indicate a $4.68 million sale, the equivalent of $6.92 million today—but didn’t start managing the property until 2016.